Monday, November 23, 2009

Bail System Can Be Confusing For Many

Bail Amounts Tied To Factors Other Than Severity Of Charge

It is the one of the first hurdles suspects face when they get arrested in New Hampshire -- posting bail to get out of lockup. But in many cases, bail varies from tens of thousands of dollars to no money at all.

And sometimes, lesser offenses end up with higher bail amounts. It can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the system, but legal experts said it usually makes sense if you understand what bail is intended to accomplish.

The issue came to a head in one Hooksett neighborhood recently. Registered sex offender Joel Dutton was arrested and charged with assaulting a child, but then allowed to go home on personal recognizance bail -- basically, a promise that he will return to court and follow the rules.

Neighbors expressed outrage that Dutton was released.

Legal experts say understanding the bail system can be difficult. Recent cases show wide differences in bail amounts that don't seem to be related to the severity of the charges.

A college student accused of phone threats was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail. A man accused of assaulting a 2-year-old in West Stewartstown was released on personal recognizance bail. He was later sent to jail -- his bail revoked -- after police said he violated the terms of release.

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