An Overlook of Bail Bonds Throughout History


Contrary to what some might assume, bail bonds were never something that was discovered in America. Instead, the system was developed in a time long before there was even thought of crossing the ocean in search of new land. Back in the 13th century, England created bail bonds in order to deal with traitors, poachers, and more that were charged with various crimes. It was a simple idea that was originally supposed to settle disputes peacefully. However, as time will tell, it was not always so simple back in the medieval times. Bail bonds, like other aspects of the era, was not a polished idea that worked perfectly in the beginning. Like all things, it took time.

The Beginning of Bail Bonds

The idea of bail bonds could be dated back to the Anglo-Saxon period when all the accused had to do was find a family or friend surety who agreed to pay the settled amount to the victim if the defendant fled. Although it had its own faults, the idea continued for several years until the 13th century rolled around.

In that era, punishment could be provided to any crime and was usually either water torture or burning at the stake. Because of this, many fled from their trial in fear of facing the consequences. It was no surprise, really, especially because their fate lied within the sheriff. As a loyal servant to the King, the sheriffs normally did not hold pity for the poor and instead felt punishment for their crimes, capital or noncapital, was more appropriate.

This, however, was faced with several drawbacks including the major fact that with England being so populous, not many criminals could fit in the jail. Instead they had to release the excess and threaten them with the possibility of punishment if they did not return to their trial.

1275 Statute of Westminster

In 1275, the way of bail bonds shifted when Parliament passed what was known as the Statute of Westminster. With this act, sheriffs were no longer given all the power to decide who received bail bonds. Although this was considered to be a step forward in bail bonds, Kings could still have a say in who should be held without bail. Unfortunately, this was abused time and time again.

1628 Petition of Rights and 1689 English Bill of Rights

It wasn’t until 1628 that the Petition of Rights clarified that both sheriffs and Kings should impose reasonable amounts of bail on the accused. Sixty-one years after that the English Bill of Rights declared that “excessive bail” should not be required and was then officially coded into the bail system in England. This was the bill that notably inspired part of the United States Constitution many years later.

The Judiciary Act of 1789

This Judiciary Act was the first to really be beneficial to the accused when it stated that noncapital crimes could be granted bail. This imposed more rights for the defendant and eliminated judges from using excessive bail.

The Sixth Amendment

When America finally broke away from England and the Bill of Rights was passed, the Sixth Amendment in the Constitution declared that any accused person is guaranteed the right to a “speedy and public” trial. The amendment also states that if the accused person so chooses, they can find witnesses in their favor as well as have the chance to hire an attorney. When combined with the Judiciary Act, this allowed for defendants to post bail since they are now presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The Eighth Amendment

As noted before, the bail system could be abused by officials such as sheriffs and Kings who might set bail at an unreasonable amount to prevent the accused from escaping custody before their trial began. Because of this, the Supreme Court clarified the terms “excessive bail” and “excessive fines” as any fine that is much bigger than what would typically be expected for the accused crime.

The Bail Reform Act of 1966

Although the Eighth Amendment was a step ahead in the system by ensuring that no one was charged with an excessive amount of bail, the Constitution did not say that there was right to bail. The Bail Reform Act of 1966 changed this by providing the accused person with a statutory right to bail; however, there were still some issues with how the law permitted those accused of capital crimes to post bail and temporarily go free.

1984 Bail Law

A major issue that was left unattended in the 1966 Bail Reform Act for many years was that it did not make provisions to detain people who were accused of violent crimes. Instead, the only possibility of bail being denied was if the accused was seen as a flight risk. Because of this, the 1984 allowed for the pre-trial detention of some defendants based on how much of a threat to the public they were.

Bail Bonds Today

Although bail bonds have changed throughout the years, the principle behind the system is still very much in tact. Bail bonds are different in each state, so if you are in a situation where you need a bail bond, be sure to check with your local bondsman, such as Titan Bail Bonds, about how to obtain one.

If you have any further questions be sure to contact us at (615)796-4955. We are here for you 24/7.