Why are bail amounts so inconsistent? Legal experts weigh in

Why are bail amounts so inconsistent? Legal experts weigh in
Published: Jun. 11, 2015 at 4:56 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 11, 2015 at 11:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Bail amounts seem to have no rhyme or reason:  A woman accused of multiple counts of theft and ID theft, has a 500-thousand dollar bail, while a second degree murder suspect gets half that, a 250-thousand bail. Another murder suspect, a million dollar bail.

But University of Hawaii Law Professor Ken Lawson says there is a system and, for the most part, it works.

"We look at the nature of the offense, how serious is the crime? Is it a serious felony? Has somebody been hurt?" says Lawson.

Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle says the defendant's circumstances also plays an important role.

"Is this a one time (thing)?  Criminal history?" says Carlisle, "There are so many factors."

"The judge has discretion and can tailor the bail amount, within reason, to the circumstances of the case," says Attorney Brook Hart, "So if it's a person in the community who has extensive roots, a job, property, a family, usually the bail is lower."

There are conditions of bail that defendants have to abide by including limited travel and sometimes they have monitoring devices.

Bail is not supposed to be a form of punishment, but a way to ensure that the defendant will return to court. The amount set is a key motivator.

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