How Long Do You Stay in Jail If You Can’t Make Bail in Utah?

In most cases, people held in custody at Utah’s Salt Lake County Jail are released on bail. Often, it’s usually only people facing murder charges or with extensive criminal backgrounds whose bail is denied. Determining bail can be tricky because each defendant brings unique circumstances that will influence the bail determinations of the court.

But what happens if you can’t afford bail? How long do you stay in jail if you can’t make bail? The answers to these questions vary from case to case. However, defendants have a right to a speedy trial, and prosecutors cannot make defendants sit in a jail cell indefinitely.

Here, the Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys from Overson & Bugden will explain how long you can expect to stay in jail if you can’t make bail in Utah. If you or a loved one cannot afford bail, call our Utah bail attorneys at (801) 758-2287 for a free case review.

How Long Will I Wait in Jail If I Cannot Afford Bail in Utah?

How long you could wait in jail because you can’t afford bail depends on various factors. Some factors are connected to the facts of your case, while others concern the courts in your jurisdiction. In any case, you have a right to a speedy trial, and it may be a violation of your rights to hold you for too long.

If you cannot afford bail, you will wait in jail until your trial. Some cases take longer to come to a trial because of unique factors and circumstances surrounding your case. For example, if your case is held up because witnesses refuse to cooperate, you might wait in jail a bit longer until all necessary witnesses have been assembled.

Alternatively, factors on the court’s end could cause your trial to be held up or postponed, and you might wait in jail a bit longer if you cannot afford bail. For example, if your case is held in a particularly busy jurisdiction, a court might not be able to schedule your hearing for a few months. A defendant in a less busy jurisdiction might wait only a few weeks.

The amount of time you wait in jail is also influenced by your right to a speedy trial. Every criminal defendant has a right to a speedy trial. The state cannot force you to wait indefinitely. However, there is no clear deadline on how “speedy” your trial must be. Typically, a defendant can expect to wait up to a few months. While the state could make you wait longer, they usually have to provide good reasons, and the additional time you spend waiting needs to be reasonable under the circumstances. If you believe you have been waiting in jail for too long because you could not afford bail, talk to our Utah bail attorneys for advice.

The Right to Bail in Utah Criminal Case

All American citizens in any state, including Utah, have a right to reasonable bail under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, do not confuse this for an absolute right to bail. If the court grants you bail, that bail must be reasonable and fair under your unique circumstances. A court is free to deny you bail if certain conditions are met. In each circumstance, the court must find evidence to support holding you for trial before denying you bail. These conditions tend to be present in more serious cases involving violent offenses where the defendant poses a risk to the community. A court can only deny bail for felony charges, never misdemeanor charges. A court has the discretion to deny bail if the defendant allegedly committed any of the following:

  • A capital felony.
  • A felony while on probation or parole for a different felony.
  • A felony while already out on bail for a different felony.
  • A felony offense and the court, by clear and convincing evidence, finds them to be a danger to the community.
  • A felony offense and the court determines that they are a flight risk by clear and convincing evidence.
  • A felony offense, but the defendant was released on bail and then violated a material term of that bail.
  • A domestic violence offense where the court finds the defendant is a danger to the victim if released on bail.

Generally, a total denial of bail is reserved for more serious cases, like defendants who committed a violent offense and have lengthy criminal histories or may pose a danger to their communities. Most people are granted bail, and that bail must be reasonable. Reasonable bail means that the conditions or terms of your bail must be the least restrictive possible that ensure your appearance in court, the safety of victims and witnesses, the safety of the public, and that you will not obstruct the criminal justice process.

Why You Might be Denied Bail in Utah

One of the first steps in the criminal process is the bail hearing, which takes place after the defendant has been arrested but before their preliminary hearing. The bail hearing determines if the defendant should be released on bail and, if so, what the terms should be. Three possible outcomes can result from a bail hearing. The judge will either deny bail to the defendant, set bail, or grant a specific type of bail known as “release on own recognizance” (also known as ROR).

ROR bail can only be granted to defendants if they have not committed a violent crime, have established ties to their community, and are not classified as a flight risk. Defendants are usually granted ROR bail when the court determines that there is no need for additional conditions that would ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. The defendant is deemed trustworthy enough to appear for court on their own. ROR is mostly granted for defendants facing less serious charges who have little to no criminal history.

Most bail hearings result in the defendant being granted bail. To deny bail to a defendant, they must either be charged with aggravated murder or charged with a felony while other factors (such as being a flight risk) are present. For the most part, bail is denied in only the most extreme cases of violent offenders. Defendants charged with criminal homicide or another offense that carries a penalty of life in prison will be presumed to be denied bail unless the defendant can demonstrate they can meet conditions of release.

But even if a defendant is granted bail, it doesn’t always mean that they will always be able to afford it. Bail for severe felonies can be set at hundreds of thousands of dollars, which isn’t feasible for many people. Our Utah bail attorneys can help you argue for the least restrictive bail possible.

Alternatives to Cash Bail in Utah

Cash bail is the term used to describe a bail system under which defendants must pay certain sums of money to secure their release. Cash bail systems across the United States have come under fire for allowing wealthy defendants to go free while holding poor defendants in jail. Essentially, many lawmakers felt that people were being held because they were poor, not because of their alleged crimes.

In 2020, Utah passed legislation that did not completely eliminate cash bail but required judges to consider bail alternatives that did not require defendants to pay. Courts were allowed to set restrictions and conditions on defendants as part of their bail without attaching a price tag. However, judges could still impose cash bail under this law in certain circumstances. If they do, they have to consider the defendant’s ability to pay.

Early in 2021, the above legislation was repealed, and cash bail was back on the table. However, judges still retain the discretion to impose cashless bail if they want. As of now, it is possible that you could be granted cash bail or an alternative means of making bail. As this issue is under discussion, new legislation is always being considered. You should speak to our Utah bail lawyers as soon as possible about your case to make sure you have the most up-to-date information and legal advice.

Waiting in Jail on Remand Detention in Utah

If you are taken into custody in Utah and can’t afford bail, you will be held in jail until your trial date. This period of awaiting trial is known as “remand detention,” and it can last up to a few months. Luckily, there are limits to the length of time that you will have to wait in jail before going to court for trial. All Americans have the right to a speedy trial, which essentially means that the court must schedule a trial as quickly as possible after discussing the case with both the defense and the prosecution.

Generally, once a person is formally charged, prosecutors have a limited amount of time to bring them to trial. Otherwise, the defendant’s right to a speedy trial will be violated. If a defendant is detained because they could not afford to post bail, the courts will try to schedule their trial as soon as possible. Everybody would get a trial this quickly in a perfect world, but courts tend to have very busy schedules making waiting times longer.

There is no clear standard on how long a defendant may be made to wait for trial. Ideally, a defendant will receive a trial as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the courts do not always move as quickly as we want them to, and defendants may end up waiting in jail for a few months. However, the time you spend in jail waiting for trial will ultimately count as time served on your sentence if you are found guilty. If you end up being held in remand detention, you will need an attorney who can advocate for you on the outside. If your detention lasts too long, you will need a Utah criminal defense lawyer who can raise this issue with the court and hopefully get you released.

Can I Be Held Indefinitely If My Trial Is Held Up in Utah?

Although numerous factors may influence how long you wait in jail for your trial, you cannot be held indefinitely. As mentioned above, your right to a speedy trial has no clear deadline, and you could be made to wait in jail for longer if something holds up your trial. Most cases take a few months to come to trial. While it is possible to be held for longer, there must be a very good reason to do so.

If things are taking too long and you are being made to wait with no end in sight, we can challenge the bail that was set in your case. However, the nature of our arguments will depend on why your trial is taking longer. Sometimes, circumstances beyond anybody’s control cause the criminal justice system to slow down. For example, many trials were held up or delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In such circumstances, courts might allow cases to be delayed even longer, as no one is really to blame for the hold-up. However, dangerous circumstances like illness spreading through a jail could also be a good reason to release more people on bail.

Prosecutors cannot request that you continue to be held simply because they are not ready. In most trials, law enforcement and prosecutors work together to investigate crimes, assess charges, and gather evidence. A prosecutor cannot continually ask the court to hold you in jail because they have not gathered all the necessary evidence or finished their investigations. While trial continuances are normal occurrences, the prosecution needs good reasons and are often limited as to why they can delay the case.

If you have waited for too long, call our team for help. If prosecutors are not ready, we may be able to push them into reducing your charges or even dropping them altogether. Call our Utah bail lawyers for advice on what to do next.

How Bail Is Set in Utah

The most important factor determining the amount of bail a defendant will have to pay is Utah’s bail schedule. The bail schedule assists a sentencing judge while determining the appropriate fine or bail. According to the Utah Uniform Bail Schedule, bail for felonies ranges between $5,000 and $25,000, bail for misdemeanors ranges between $340 and $1,950, and bail for infractions that aren’t local ordinances is technically $100, but defendants are not usually held in jail for infractions. Bail will be set at a single amount, not at different amounts for individual charges. For example, if you face three charges, you will not have three different bail amounts. Instead, those amounts are combined into one bail amount.

When setting bail for a defendant, a judge will consider the defendant’s criminal history. Defendants with good criminal histories can expect much lower bail amounts than those with long criminal records. Judges may also consider numerous other factors when setting bail:

  • The nature and severity of the crime that the defendant is being charged with,
  • Whether there is a restraining order against the defendant,
  • Whether the defendant violated probation or violated parole,
  • Whether the defendant committed the crime while released on bail for another crime,
  • Whether the defendant has connections to their community (e.g., family, workplace, community involvement),
  • Whether the defendant has a history of substance abuse,
  • Whether the defendant has a record of prior offenses, and
  • The defendant’s character and reputation within their community.

Determining bail can feel like a balancing game by the courts. They weigh positive factors that favor a lower bail, such as a lack of a criminal history or strong ties to your community, against negative factors, such as the severity of the crime and any prior convictions. To best protect your right to bail, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who can argue for reduced bail or for you to be released on recognizance. Our Utah criminal defense attorneys are here to help you.

How to Get a Bail Bond if You Can’t Afford Bail Yourself

If you can’t afford to pay bail yourself, it may be possible to use a bail bond. Bail bonds work by asking the defendant to pay a percentage of their bail (or another type of suitable collateral, such as a car) while the bondsman pays the rest. The bail bondsman will have an agreement with the court that they will cover bail if the defendant fails to return to court for their court date. If the defendant doesn’t appear in court, the bondsman will do whatever they can to find the defendant and return them to the jurisdiction they fled from.

Failing to appear in court after being released on bail can also result in bail-jumping charges in Utah. If the original charge was a misdemeanor, the bail-jumping charge will also be a misdemeanor; if the original charge was a felony, the bail-jumping charge will be a felony, too. Penalties for bail-jumping charges include fines up to $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison. Speak with a Salt Lake City lawyer for a referral for a bail bondsman about these types of charges.

Terms of bail for most defendants involve a refund of any money used to pay for bail if the defendant shows up for their hearing. However, if a defendant jumps bail, they may end up forfeiting that money, and it will not be refunded. If a defendant has failed to appear for court after making bail arrangements with a bondsman, the bondsman must bring the defendant back to court, or else the bail is forfeited, and the bondsman must pay. The bondsman has 90 days to return the defendant to court before forfeiture proceedings begin. In many cases, the bondsman may ask the court for an additional 60 days to track you down, meaning a bondsman may be on your tail for the next 5 months if you jump bail.

What To Do If My Trial is Held Up and I’m Stuck in Jail in Utah?

If your trial is held up and you have been stuck in jail for some time, you can argue for your release. Being held for too long without cause is a violation of your rights. This kind of argument is sometimes called a writ of habeas corpus.

Our argument begins as a petition at the appellate court level. In our petition, we must include the location at which you are detained and the reason why you are detained. We must also include statements regarding why we believe your detention is unlawful.

If our reason for the petition is that you have been held too long in violation of your right to a speedy trial, we must say so in plain and concise language. This will include stating the facts surrounding your case that led to your detention and the facts that support our claims that your detention is unlawful. This should include the amount of time you have already spent behind bars and the reasons given by the court for making you wait longer.

The respondent in our petition, which is the person or entity responsible for holding you in jail, will be allowed to answer the petition and admit or deny the claims. If they cannot provide a good, lawful reason why your detention has gone on for so long, we can argue for your release. Contact our experienced bail attorneys to discuss this option and others.

Call Our Experienced Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

Whether you are granted bail and the time you spend in jail will depend on a few factors. An experienced attorney can help you determine those factors and how they apply to your case. Contact an experienced Murray criminal defense attorney from Overson & Bugden for a free case review. Call us today at (801) 758-2287.