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Q&A: How are bail amounts determined?

Music producer Phil Spector is accused of fatally shooting former actor Lana Clarkson.

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Music producer Phil Spector is accused of fatally shooting former actor Lana Clarkson.

How are bail amounts set?

I was reading the paper the other day and two stories caught my eye. The first was about a fatal hit-and-run. The person driving the car had bail set at $15,500. The other story was about a man who threatened someone with a chain saw. This person had bail set at $100,000. It got me to wondering, just how is bail determined? Is there a "little bail book" the judges use as a guideline to set bail?

Bail is almost always allowed, except in capital crimes. Judges generally have guidelines on setting bail amounts, but they also have wide discretion in deciding whether or not to follow the guidelines or how much to deviate.

Factors judges take into consideration when arriving at a bail amount include severity of the crime, strength of the evidence, whether the accused could be considered a danger to the public, past criminal history, current cases, whether the accused has a history of not appearing in court when ordered to and job status, among other things.

Here's one very elaborate set of guidelines that the judges in the Los Angeles Superior Court must follow:

Spector trial status

What's the status of the murder trial of Phil Spector?

Legendary music producer Phil Spector was charged with the fatal shooting of former actor Lana Clarkson at his Los Angeles mansion on Feb. 3, 2003. Prosecutors claim Spector shot Clarkson after she resisted his sexual advances.

Spector's first trial ended with a hung jury and a mistrial when the jury deadlocked 10-2. A second trial began in October and is expected to end early this year. Spector faces at least 18 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

Questions about Caylee's family

I have not seen anything about Caylee Anthony's father or paternal grandparents. Is there any information on them?

When Caylee Marie Anthony was born on Aug. 9, 2005, her 19-year-old mother, Casey, did not name a father on the birth certificate. The woman later claimed it was Jesus Ortiz, who died in a 2006 car crash. Ortiz's parents said they were unaware he had a child and found it unlikely. There has been speculation the mother may not know who fathered Caylee, telling everyone it was Ortiz because he was dead.

Last month, Caylee's skeletal remains were found near where she lived in Orange County. Her mother had already been indicted in October on first-degree murder and other charges and is in jail. Casey Anthony has insisted she left her little girl with a babysitter in June, but she did not report her missing until July.

Q&A: How are bail amounts determined? 01/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 4:27pm]
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