In Puerto Rico, anyone who is arrested for the alleged commission of a felony, or a misdemeanor with the right to a trial by jury, has the constitutional right to post bail to be released from custody until the trial is held and judgment is rendered. This right exists because, in our justice system, every person is considered innocent until proven guilty. Bail cannot be used as a punishment because its sole purpose is to ensure that the person who has been arrested appears in court each time their attendance is required.
In addition to bail, or in the place of bail, the court may impose a series of conditions that the person must comply with. The amount and conditions will depend on the circumstances of each case. If the person does not meet the conditions, the court may order their arrest. After the bail amount is set, the person arrested must pay said amount. Otherwise, they may be remanded to a correctional institution.
Right to Post Bail
How is the bail posted?
Bail can be posted in several ways:
- Cash payment
- Cash payment of a percent of the bail amount, plus a personal guarantee of payment for the unpaid portion
- Mortgage bond (offer any real estate property, such as a home, a building, or land, as collateral to secure payment)
- Bonding company (in this case, the person arrested or a third party hires a company authorized to issue bonds in Puerto Rico; said company is in charge of paying the bond)
Once bail is set, can it be increased or reduced?
The person arrested may review the amount of the bail set by the court. When a bail reduction is requested, the court must hold a hearing to examine the person’s reasons and hear the prosecution’s position.
In the same way that the person arrested can request a reduction, the prosecutor can request an increase if they consider that the circumstances of the case justify it. The prosecution may also request that the court impose conditions in addition to bail or modify any conditions previously imposed.
What happens if the person does not appear in court? What if they do appear?
As bail is a guarantee that the person arrested will appear in court, the court may keep the bond if the person fails to appear on any date when their attendance has been required. This is known as the forfeiture of bail.
If the person arrested appears on all dates when their attendance has been required, the person who posted bail (surety) may request that it be returned.
If a convicted person appeals their conviction, can they request bail?
If the person arrested is convicted and wishes to appeal the conviction with the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, they may request that the court that issued the judgment impose a bond so they can remain free during the appeals process. In such case, however, bail is not a constitutional right since the presumption of innocence no longer exists. Therefore, the court that issued the judgment has discretion to set bond.
Revised: February 2023