Suge Knight $25 Million Bail: Too Much?

Suge Knight $25 Million Bail: Too Much?

Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight collapsed in a Los Angeles court Friday, March 20 shortly after a judge set his bail at $25 million in a murder case, an amount Knight’s attorney said was excessively high, according to CNN news. While the bail amount is high enough to give anyone fainting spells, Knight has diabetes and is prone to blood clots, so the fainting can’t be attributed to the sticker shock of the bail amount alone.Before Knight collapsed, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coe stated that Knight “has a great potential to flee and apparently has so in the past.” “In this court’s opinion, $25 million is reasonable, and it is so set,” Coe said.Knight is charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder and two counts of hit-and-run, with an allegation that he committed a serious and violent felony while out on bail, prosecutors said. Knight has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Knight’s attorney said that the bail was “laughable”, stating that bail in other prominent murder cases at most is $5 million. But just how “laughable” is Knight’s bail?

How does Knight’s bail amount compare to the set bails in Fresno County?

Bail amounts can vary depending on the crime involved and the county court involved, since all counties are authorized to set their own bail schedules.

For example, Fresno County’s 2015 Bail Schedule sets a bail as low as $25 for Penal Code sections 416 PC (refusing to disperse upon lawful command), 555 PC (trespassing), 647 (e) PC (loitering upon the streets), and 647(j) PC (lodging in building without consent).  For certain misdemeanors, the bail can be as high as $50,000. These include violations of Penal Code sections 166 PC (contempt of court), and 273.6 PC (violation of domestic protective order). For misdemeanors not otherwise listed in the bail schedule, the bail is set at $1,000. For felonies in Fresno, the bail schedule sets the bail for as high as $1 million for Penal Code sections 12310 PC (exploding destructive device causing death) and 187 PC (murder). The default bail for crime not otherwise listed in the bail schedule is:

  • $5,000 for crimes punishable by three years or less
  • $10,000 for crimes punishable by four years or less
  • $15,000 for crimes punishable by five years or less
  • $25,000 for crimes punishable by eight years or less

In contrast, the Los Angeles County 2015 felony bail schedule states that bail could range anywhere from $20,000 for the least serious offenses, which include (but are not limited to) violations of Penal Code sections 280 PC (child concealment), or 261.5 PC (statutory rape). For Penal Code section 187 PC, the amount can go up to $1 million; Special circumstance murders are not bailable. However, this bail schedule sets only a bail base amount, which can be increased based on certain factors. These factors, which can add additional bail amounts for gang involvement and weapons use, can be found on the LA County Bail Computation Worksheet.

Can judges set bail higher than the amounts listed in the bail schedule?

“In most cases a $25 million dollar bail is the equivalent of no bail, which is constitutionally impermissible except in certain murder cases involving special circumstances.”Mark Coleman, Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney

Judges have a huge amount of discretion when it comes to setting bail because of the purpose of bail amounts. “The purpose of bail is to assure the defendants appearance at trial and to protect the community,” says Mark Coleman, a criminal lawyer at the Law Offices of Nuttall & Coleman.

“The court will follow the bail schedule unless there are factors that persuade the court that bail is to high or to low,” Coleman says.

“Since there is an allegation of a serious and violent felony, the defense has to file a motion to reduce the bail. The court has to review all the factors surrounding the case and factors related to the defendant and determine the appropriate bail amount. The fact that he was out on bail for a serious offense will be counted against him, as will his prior record,” Coleman added.

“In most cases a $25 million dollar bail is the equivalent of no bail, which is constitutionally impermissible except in certain murder cases involving special circumstances,” Coleman says.

Sources:  Fresno County Criminal Bail Schedule 2015 | LA County Misdemeanor and Infraction Bail Schedule 2015 | LA County Felony Bail Schedule 2015 | ‘Suge’ Knight collapses after judge sets bail at $25 million (CNN) | Image: TMZ.com

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