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What is Bail and What is a Surety?

At Aitken Robertson, we like to educate our readers through our blogs about frequent topics that are of interest to members of the public. Today’s discussion is going to provide an overview on the topic of bail.

What is bail?

Bail refers to the temporary release of an accused person from jail. If the court is not certain that the accused will appear in court or abide by all the conditions being released, then the presiding judge may hold the accused in custody, or be released with some type of supervision. A bail hearing is held to make the aforementioned determination. This is often referred to as a “show cause” hearing because the onus is generally on the Crown to show cause why the accused should not be released.

There are two ways for an accused person to be released. These are:

  1. On their own recognizance, where the accused supervises him or herself with a promise of money and conditions placed on their releases. Examples of conditions are the imposition of a curfew or restrictions on where the accused can go or who they can have contact with.
  2. Supervised by a surety (a family or friend approved by the court) with conditions and bail money required. If an accused person does not have a surety, he or she can apply for the Bail Program either with the help of a lawyer or a duty counsel. This is a form of supervision similar to a surety but is less supervisory in comparison.

What is a surety?

A surety is someone who knows the accused well and is approved by the court to supervise an accused on “bail,” in other words, during the temporary release of the accused from jail. The goal is to allow the surety to ensure they do not break any conditions of their release on bail until the case is finished.

The surety ensures that the accused does the following:

  • Attends all court appearances
  • Obeys all rules that the court orders – the rules and/or conditions are listed on the bail papers signed by the surety
  • Does not commit any further criminal offence(s)

Some examples of bail conditions include:

  • Obey a curfew (in other words, be home by a certain pre-determined time)
  • Live at a specific address (this could be the address of the surety)
  • Be subjected to boundary restrictions (i.e.: not be in a certain area or specific location)
  • Report to police
  • Be restricted to contact or communicate, if applicable, with the complainant or witnesses in the accused’s case (in such a case, the surety is not permitted to make contact on behalf of the accused either)
  • Receive treatment, counselling or other forms of assistance as mandated by the court
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol or drugs
  • Be prohibited from possessing weapons
  • Any other condition or restriction the judge deems appropriate and necessary

Changing Bail Conditions (also referred to as “Variance”)

Bail conditions can only be changed in court by a justice of the peace. No one can give permission to an accused to change or ignore a condition of bail. To change bail conditions, you must request the assistance of a criminal defence lawyer or duty counsel. The matter will have to go back into court and if the court agrees with the change, then new bail papers will be prepared and signed by the relevant parties, including the justice of the peace and the surety.

When do you have to pay bail?

The court will determine the specific bail amount at the Bail Hearing. In general, where there is a surety, the surety does not need to pay a ‘cash bail’ at the time bail is set. However, you may have to prove that you will be able to pay the bail. The bail amount helps motivate the surety to thoroughly supervise the accused and to contact the police if a condition is broken.

How long does bail last?

Bail lasts until the criminal prosecution is finished. Many clients mistakenly believe it lasts only until the first court appearance.

What if I have more questions?

Want to know more about bail? Not a problem. Call our office to make your inquiries. We also provide free 30-minute consultations and provide accommodating hours.

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Yasmine Al-Zaman

Yasmine’s patience, compassion and understanding allow her to work collaboratively and effectively with her clients. She appreciates the level of fear and confusion most people feel when confronted with the legal system. With that in mind, Yasmine puts her best foot forward to offer quality legal services.

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