The Purpose of Bail, and the Bail Process for those Charged with Arson/Riot Offenses
We present this information to clarify and correct some of the statements/comments being circulated regarding bail amounts set for those charged with arson and riot offenses this week in Lancaster city.
First, we find it crucial to inform the public of the bail process:
- Bail is set at a preliminary arraignment by a magisterial district judge, as was the practice for these defendants.
- Our office does NOT have the authority to set bail.
By statute, bail is not a means of punishment, but rather is a mechanism to ensure a defendant’s appearance at future court proceedings.
There are several factors a magisterial district judge may consider when deciding bail for those charged with a criminal offense(s). The full list is attached in a PDF document.
In addition to the enumerated factors, the magisterial district judge has authority to consider other relevant factors, including input from police or prosecutors involved in a case. While our office did not provide input in these cases, we understand the Lancaster city police did because – according to their input to the judge – they have concerns for public safety and safety of their officers.
Magisterial district judges can weigh other factors (as the attached document outlines), to include:
- The nature and severity of the charged offenses
- A person’s criminal history
- A person’s background and ties to the community
As part of the process, a defendant (via their attorney) has the option of filing a petition for modification of bail.
We are in the process of gathering all applicable information for evaluation of all relevant factors should petitions be filed.
Arson and riot are violent acts, and offenses this office takes very seriously. Those charged were not engaged in peaceful protest.
All individuals charged are presumed innocent and will receive fair process.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; email@example.com; Twitter: @BrettHambright