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How long can bail be held by the government? I was under the assumption that bail money is used as an incentive to get a criminal defendant to appear in court.

However, I have recently been informed that bail money can be held for a longer period: that if a court decides on a probation term for a convict then it can hold bail money until after the probation period is completed. Is this correct? Is it normal?

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It is practically impossible to answer this without knowing your jurisdiction, but two points may help to clarify.

  • Bail is not an incentive: it is a condition placed on the temporary release of a defendant. "A Magistrate shall discharge prisoners from their Imprisonment taking their Recognizance, with one or more Surety or Sureties, in any Sum according to the Magistrate's discretion" (Habeas Corpus Act 1679). A prisoner on probation is still liable to imprisonment, but the sentence has been suspended; it is not against any principle of common law to require financial or other sureties.
  • In the Czech Republic, as recorded by Wikipedia, "The court holds bail as long as the reasons for custody remain (which includes pending of the charges), and in case of conviction until the convict starts serving prison sentence, reimburses the criminal proceedings and/or pays court ordered fine. In case that the court decided also on damages and the aggrieved party asks for it within three months, the bail or its part may be used also to reimburse the damages. Otherwise, the court returns the bail."
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