Or maybe not — it depends on the seriousness of the charges. So, what exactly happens when a person gets arrested and has a bail hearing? After a person is picked up after being charged with a crime (in Philadelphia County), they are either held at a police district or the “Roundhouse” (at 8th and Race Street). They are then processed where they are fingerprinted and interviewed for personal information (name, date of birth, home address, work information, and close relatives). These facts are gathered so that can be used at the bail hearing. After that, the defendant’s name is put on the general bail arraignment list and eventually they come up for a hearing. Normally, all of this takes around 8-15 hours, but on the weekend it can around 24 hours because more people are arrested and they still have only one Commissioner.
At the bail hearing there is a Bail Commissioner (who is not a judge), a District Attorney representative (not an attorney), and an attorney representing the defendant (either the Public Defender or a private attorney if they have been hired already). This is done in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center although the defendant is not present, but instead is on camera at the police district or the Roundhouse. The DA’s representative reads in the criminal accusations and their request for bail — ranging from ROR (released on recognizance and no requirement to post any bail) to “no bail” in murder cases. There are bail guidelines (based on the severity of the charges) for the Commissioner to consider and two main factors: danger to the community and the likelihood that the defendant will show up for court (i.e., is he or she a flight risk?). The defendant’s attorney then argues for what they consider to be the appropriate bail for them.
The Commissioner then makes a ruling for the defendant’s bail amount. Either side can appeal the Commissioner’s ruling. If this happens, a Judge hears the facts and arguments (an Assistant District Attorney, or ADA, now represents the Commonwealth) over the phone and makes a final ruling on the bail amount. After the bail is set, the information is sent over (usually 30-60 minutes later) to the where the bail is posted (also in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center) and the defendant’s friends and relatives can now post the bail.