bail, in law, procurement of release from prison of a person awaiting trial or an appeal, by the deposit of security to insure his submission at the required time to legal authority. The monetary value of the security—known also as the bail, or, more accurately, the bail bond—is set by the court having jurisdiction over the prisoner. The security may be cash, the papers giving title to property, or the bond of private persons of means or of a professional bondsman or bonding company. Failure of the person released on bail to surrender himself at the appointed time results in forfeiture of the security. Bail is usually granted in a civil arrest. Courts have greater discretion to grant or deny bail in the case of persons under criminal arrest, e.g., it is usually refused when the accused is charged with homicide. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides that "excessive bail shall not be required," but it does not provide any absolute right to bail.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.