Bail (law Fr., bailler, to deliver), in law, the delivery of a person out of the hands of the sheriff or other officer after arrest into the custody of one or more sureties, who undertake to be responsible for such person. The same term was also used to designate the sureties themselves, and this came to be its most common signification. Bail in civil cases is either for appearance, called bail below, or to the action, called bail above. The sureties in the first give an undertaking to the arresting officer that the defendant shall appear in the cause in accordance with the practice of the court, and, if the case is one requiring special bail, that he shall cause such bail to be duly entered and perfected. For the sufficiency of this bail the officer is responsible, and when it is accepted by him the defendant is discharged from his custody. Sureties in bail to the action undertake for the appearance of the party when final judgment shall have been rendered and process shall have been issued thereon to take the body of the defendant in satisfaction.
The sureties may be excepted to by the plaintiff, in which case they must justify their responsibility on oath; but if not excepted to in due time, or if they justify after exception, the defendant's appearance is entered and the bail below is discharged. The bail piece is a certificate issued to the sureties attesting the taking of bail. Formerly the plaintiff was entitled to bail as of course in most cases, but now by the provisions of various statutes it is not generally de-mandable in civil suits, either in England or in the United States, except upon a showing that some tort has been committed to the damage of the plaintiff, or that his demand springs from the official or professional misconduct or default of the defendant, or, if the suit is upon contract, that there was fraud in contracting the debt, or in endeavoring to put property beyond the reach of process for its collection. The showing is by affidavit, and thereupon an order is made by a judge or commissioner that the defendant be held to bail in a specified sum.
Although on giving bail the defendant is set at liberty, he is supposed to be constantly in the custody of his sureties, who may, at any time before their liability has been fixed by forfeiture of the condition of their obligation, arrest and surrender him into custody in exoneration of themselves. "Common bail" is fictitious bail supposed to be entered by the defendant in cases where special bail is not required, or which the plaintiff enters for the defendant if he makes default. - In criminal cases it is provided by the statute 1 William and Mary, and also by the constitutions of the United States and of the several states, that excessive bail shall not be required; but what is excessive bail must be left to the judgment of the officer or court empowered to decide upon it. Formerly the accused party was not allowed to give bail in cases of felony, but now he is permitted to do so except in cases of the highest crimes, and even then unless the proof of guilt is apparent or the presumption great.
The undertaking of the sureties is for the appearance of the defendant to abide the order of the court, and is in the form of a recognizance. - The term bail is also sometimes applied in law to those who become sureties for a party for the payment of money or the performance of some other act, in cases where no arrest has been or could be made.
Bail!, Francis, an English astronomer, born in 1774, died in 1844. He was a London broker, and author of several works on annuities, assurances, and kindred subjects, but devoted the last years of his life almost wholly to the service of the astronomical society and the British association. He prepared the astronomical society's star catalogue, and contributed many important papers to its memoirs. Sir John Hersehel wrote his biography.