Excessive Bail Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Excessive Bail, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Excessive Bail?

n. an amount of bail ordered posted by an accused defendant which is much more than necessary or usual to assure he/she will make court appearances, particularly in relation to minor crimes. If excessive bail is claimed, the defendant can make a motion for reduction of bail, and if it is not granted, he/she can then apply directly to a court of appeal for reduction.

History and Meaning of Excessive Bail

Excessive bail is a legal term used in the US which refers to an unusually high amount of money charged as bail for a defendant. The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits the government from setting an excessive bail amount, which means a person cannot be required to pay an amount that is not reasonable to the offense committed. The framers of the Constitution added this clause to protect defendants from being held in jail simply because they could not afford to pay their bail.

Examples of Excessive Bail

  • In a case of a person being arrested for a minor traffic violation, if the judge sets bail for $500,000, it could be considered excessive.
  • If a homeless person is arrested for sleeping in a public place and the judge sets a bail of $5,000, it could be considered excessive.
  • If a young adult is arrested for drug possession and the judge sets a bail of $750,000, it could be considered excessive.

Legal Terms Similar to Excessive Bail

  • Bail: The temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial, sometimes with money or property to be deposited to guarantee attendance at court.
  • Unreasonable search and seizure: A provision of the Fourth Amendment that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. It is often closely linked with excessive bail as both are designed to protect individuals from arbitrary government action.
  • Due process: A legal requirement that individuals receive fair treatment from the government, including the right to notice and a hearing before any adverse decisions are made. This term is also closely linked to excessive bail as it addresses the need for a fair and reasonable criminal justice system.