California Law on Bail

If you follow crime news, you may be aware of the criminal case against Dalia Dippolito, who was arrested in 2009 after arranging a plot to kill her husband. She hired a hit man to handle the task, not realizing he was an undercover police officer. More recently, Dippolito was in the news because prosecutors wanted her bail revoked due to a violation of her house arrest conditions: She left her home to tape an interview for ABC’s “20/20” news program in December 2015. ­­­

The Dippolito case raises some questions about the legal concept of bail and how it works in California.

How does bail work?

Posting bail is an arrangement where a criminal defendant chooses to deposit money instead of serving jail time while charges are pending, as required by California criminal courts. The funds are a type of guarantee that you will appear in court for scheduled appearances, because you will get your money back as long as you attend hearings.

Bail amounts are typically high, so you may use a bail bond company rather than actually depositing cash. You will be dealing with an insurance company that takes on responsibility for paying the bail amount if you skip out on court. The charges are around 8-10 percent of the total bond amount. Note that the amount you pay for a bail bond is a fee and not refundable, unlike posting bail in cash.

Who determines the bail amount?

  • The judge considers a number of factors, including:
  • The severity of the charges;
  • Prior criminal history
  • Ties to your community and family; and
  • Public safety.


All of these considerations center on the main issue for a bail arrangement: whether you are a flight risk and may not show up for court appearances. In Dippolito’s case, she left her home in violation of her house arrest conditions, which raised concerns for prosecutors.

Do I qualify for bail?

If you’ve been charged with a serious or violent felony, a judge cannot allow you to post a bail amount unless he or she finds a change in circumstances supported by new evidence in your case. This might refer to previously unknown facts or circumstances involved with the court proceedings. Also, you should bear in mind that a judge can still order you to serve jail time for certain conduct once your trial begins.

Can I be penalized for violating bail conditions?

You risk significant penalties for failing to show up for court appearances or otherwise violating the conditions of your bail. In most cases, getting arrested again is a violation of your bail terms; Dippolito’s breach occurred when she left her home for the “20/20” interview without the court’s permission.

If you do violate bail conditions, you can be taken into custody and remain in jail until your trial ends. Plus, you lose the bail money you’ve posted with the court.

In California, criminal defendants must abide by the conditions of their bail and serious penalties can result from violation of these terms. Ultimately, Dippolito’s bond was not revoked and she won’t face jail time, because she hired attorneys experienced in criminal law cases. To protect your rights, please contact a knowledgeable criminal bond attorney in San Diego who can help you work through bond proceedings in California.