What Happens at Bail Hearings in Pennsylvania? | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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What Happens at Bail Hearings in Pennsylvania?

What Happens After I’ve Been Arrested in Pittsburgh?

Not every criminal offense is an arrestable offense. Often, the police officer will serve you a citation with a court date on it. Many times, it’s for a traffic offense like not wearing your seatbelt, and it could also be for things such as breaking town code for not having a bear-proof trash can. These are minor infractions that do not justify an arrest. Make sure you either pay the ticket or are present for your court date because ignoring the citation will result in a bench warrant for your arrest. Instead, reaching out to a criminal defense attorney, like our firm, will give you the headstart you need to have the citation dismissed in court.

Other criminal offenses will end in an arrest. In cases such as DUI, the police officer will make an arrest at the scene. In cases that need investigating they will collect evidence, and then apply for a warrant for your arrest. This means you will be transported to the local jail, and put through the booking process where they will take your fingerprints, mug shot, and DNA.

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Table of Contents

What happens in a bail hearing?
What are the types of bail releases?
What factors determine which bail?
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What Happens in a Bail Hearing in Pittsburgh?

After you are arrested in the city of Pittsburgh, you will be brought in front of a judge within 72 hours of being arrested. This first meeting with the judge will be called a preliminary arraignment. It is also known as a bail hearing. The judge will determine if the charge(s) against you is serious enough to deny bail. Charges pertaining to first and second-degree murder will most likely be denied bail. If you have a record of not appearing for court dates, they might deny you bail to make sure you are present at your hearing. If they believe you are not a danger to society or yourself while awaiting your court date they will grant you the ability to post bail.

Depending on the charge, you will be released on a certain type of bail. The Pittsburgh judge will also determine the dollar amount of the bail depending on the severity of the charge, and your previous criminal record. Bail is set to ensure that the accused person is present at their next court date.

This process can be long, monotonous, and very confusing especially for someone who has never been arrested before. It is imperative that you have a lawyer present at this hearing, as they are much more knowledgeable about the pre-trial process in the city of Pittsburgh. Having your lawyer present throughout the preliminary and formal arraignments will provide a clear understanding of what is happening with your case.

What Are the Types of Bail Releases?

In the state of Pennsylvania, there are FIVE different types of release on bail. At your preliminary hearing, the judge will decide if you are eligible for bail. If they deem you are eligible, they will decide which type of bail to release you on, and how high the bail will be set if the type of bail requires it. It is important to have a criminal defense attorney present throughout the whole process.

The most common form of bail release is Release on Recognizance (ROR), and it is the most ideal form of bail. This type of bail is “free.” Meaning, you don’t have to post any collateral or money in order to be released. In order to be eligible for ROR you must:

  • Show you are not a danger to the public.
  • Have strong family or community ties to the area.
  • Show you are not a “flight risk”, and will show up to further court dates and hearings.

The second form of bail release is Release on Unsecured Bail. This is a form of “free” bail where you do not have to make a payment or deposit to be released from jail. In order to be eligible for release on an Unsecured Bond, you will have to sign a release form stating that you are liable to pay a certain amount of money if you do not show up to future court dates or violate the terms of your bail.

The third form of bail also has no monetary requirement. Release on Non-Monetary Conditions is a form of bail that is “free”. With this type of bail, the court can place stipulations for you to follow. For example, they can restrict where you can and cannot travel. They can also restrict who you can and cannot come into contact with. If you break any of the conditions set by the court while your case is pending you will be in violation of your bond conditions. This means you may be arrested and returned to jail until your case comes to a conclusion.

The fourth type of bond in Pennsylvania is a surety bond called Release on Nominal Bail. The bail authority will request a small “fee” that they have determined will be enough security to ensure you are present at your next hearing. The other portion of the bail will be paid for by a source of “surety” which could be a family member but is most often a bail bondsman. It’s always wise to keep in mind that using a bail bondsman does come with terms and liability such as:

  • A bail bondsman may require collateral. Ex. Lien on private or commercial property.
  • They may revoke their surety bond at any time if they feel you may not return to court
  • If you “skip bail” or are not present for your next court date, the bail bondsman will lose their money– unless they can find you. They will then hire a bail enforcement agent to track you down and force you to pay back the money.

In Pennsylvania, Release on Monetary Condition is the fifth form of bail with a monetary condition. The amount of bail cannot be set higher than necessary to “ensure the defendant’s appearance and compliance with the conditions of the bail bond,” as set by PA Code Rule 524. If you or your loved one believes that your bail has been set too high you may ask the court to lower it, and our criminal defense attorneys are ready to assist with returning your loved one home.

What are Factors That Determine Which Bail Will Be Set?

The main factors a Pennsylvania judge looks at when determining bail are set by Pennsylvania Code Rule 523. The main Criteria for Release are:

  • Defendant’s employment status and history.
  • Type of offense
  • Length and nature of the defendant’s history in the community, and past communities.
  • The defendant’s age, character references, mental health status, reputation, and whether you have a history of substance abuse.
  • If you have previously been on bail, and if you have complied with the conditions of that bail.
  • Defendant’s criminal record.


Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC is a Board Certified criminal defense firm focusing on DUI defense. We understand what it takes to get the best possible outcome for those criminal charges.

In some situations, this could mean successfully negotiating a plea to a lesser charge. Other times, our experienced trial lawyers fight in the courtroom to defend the allegations against you.

A Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer gives you open and honest information. We provide a realistic potential outcome of your case. Our legal team appreciates what is at stake for you if convicted, and we relentlessly pursue the best possible resolution.