The Role of a County Sheriff’s Office in the Bail Process

One of the foundations of bail laws in the United States is set out in the Eighth Amendment, prohibiting excessive bail. Federal laws on bail are set out in the Bail Reform Act of 1984, wherein pre-trial detention was allowed in situations where the defendant is considered a danger to the community, in addition to the original factor of risk of flight.

Additional exceptions to the right of bail were added throughout the years, including those charged with capital offenses, certain drug offenses, repeat felony offenders or those who were facing charges of obstruction of justice or witness tampering.

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These are general principles set out in federal law, but the particulars for the actual imposition of bail laws varied between states. State law governed in specific cases, where some were considerably more strict than others, going so far as to provide a bail schedule which would govern judges in the bail amounts they imposed, depending on the crimes charged.

In the same vein, the types of bail are also governed by state law. Some states prohibit commercial bail bonds, for instance, although they allow other types such as cash bond, a release upon recognizance, property bond, or even an unsecured bail.

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When posting bond, a person can either do so at the court or the jail. In the latter instance, this can be done at the County Sheriff’s Office. Like police officers, sheriffs are law enforcement officers, albeit elected officials, who are responsible for keeping the peace and enforcing the law. A Sheriff’s office has the authority to make arrests, serve warrants or orders for arrest, among other investigative and regulatory functions. As part of their duties, they can detain arrested civilians in the county jail, which means that they are also responsible for the booking and processing of inmates. This also means that they have the responsibility for processing county jail inmates for bail, where applicable.

This means that a person interested in bailing out a detained person can go to the Sheriff’s office for guidelines and procedures on how to post bail. Depending on the office, they will usually prescribe specific rules and regulations such as what forms of bail are acceptable and how and where these are to be posted. Some county sheriff’s offices even carry a list of who are licensed, and therefore acceptable, bail bondsmen in the area.

In terms of the bail process, therefore, a county Sheriff’s office performs the administrative tasks before the release of a defendant from custody.