What Makes a Defendant a Flight Risk?

Ever wonder how a judge determines that a defendant in a criminal action is a flight risk? The significance of this is that an individual deemed to be a flight risk by a criminal court judge may be imposed a higher amount of bail for this very reason. The logic is that the greater the chances that a person is going to skip bail, the greater the chances that they will show up in court if the amount of bail they paid is higher.
It is a judge’s job to make assessments of individuals, whether it is to determine the veracity of their statements, the possibility of their guilt, or to adjudge whether or not a defendant is a flight risk. In the latter instance, some of the factors a judge may take into consideration include:
• Community Ties. A person with stronger community ties, whether to his family and home, his job, or his social circle can determine whether a person is more likely to be a flight risk. A person with no ties to his community, with no strong ties to his family, or having no family in the community, and holding no permanent job, is obviously more likely to skip bail simply because he will not be leaving anything of value behind if he does skip bail.
• Financial resources. A person who can afford to book a flight and take an immediate trip out of the country is, of course, more likely to do so than someone who cannot even afford a plane ticket to get to another state. A person might be considered an even higher flight risk if he has a proven history of taking long trips abroad.
• The gravity of the charges and severity of the potential punishment. If all that a person is looking at is a misdemeanor charge punishable by fines and or several months of jail time, that person may be less inclined to skip bail than one who is facing a capital offense punishable by several years in prison.
• The defendant’s character. Finally, a judge can determine whether or not a defendant is a flight risk based on that person’s character. Do they have a history of avoiding responsibilities, a history of criminal conduct, and a seeming lack of appreciation of the gravity of the crime with which they are charged? Such a person may be more likely to be a flight risk.