Created By: Aristeia on March 9, 2011 Last Edited By: kjnoren on September 3, 2013
Troped

Bail Equals Freedom

Pledging bail is treated as a fine, leaving you free

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Trope

Notes

Taking over this abandoned YKTTW. No Launching Please. Added some examples. Note that I don't think aversions should be listed in general - only if the trope is discussed in some way or similar.

See The Courtroom Index, Hollywood Law, and Artistic License Law. The latter is probably a good place for how bail is supposed to work. Or perhaps under Common Law - most other legal systems don't use bail, I think.

Description

The quickest and best way to get out of any sticky legal trouble is to post bail. Once bail is decided and paid, then you don't need have any more worries about the police, the judge, the jury, or anything else. In extreme cases, you go right out and do the same thing again, only to get caught and post another bail, walking away.

Ie, this is when fiction treats bail as a fine, not as a guarantee of a later appearance before the police or the legal system. In real life, most courts take a very dim view of people abusing bail, or failing to appear later - if the legal system even has a system for paying bail. (Hint: most countries don't.)

A frequent example of Hollywood Law and Artistic License Law.

Examples

Comic books:

  • Subverted in Lucky Luke: in Belle Starr, the titular character goes around posting bail for various criminals in exchange for working for her. Since she's bought off the local judge, his brother (who runs the only long-distance communication service) and the priest, she can continue unhindered.

Film

  • Used a few times in the Midnight Run sequels, where Jack gets in trouble with local law enforcement and then posts bail. Egregious because the main character's job is to hunt down bail jumpers and bring them back to LA for prosecution, so thy really should know better.

Literature

  • Justified, averted, and lampshaded In A Civil Campaign. On Escobar, a bond is a guarantee of court appearance, but on Jackson's Whole bail means getting off into the clutches of the one who pays the bail.
    "Whatever. The Escobaran Cortes does not, as you seem to think, engage itself in the slave trade. However it's done on this benighted planet, on Escobar a bond is a guarantee of court appearance, not some kind of human meat market transaction."
    "It is where I come from," Mark muttered.

TV Series

  • More or less explicitly invoked in the original Knight Rider series, whenever Michael gets in trouble with the law the Foundation will bail him out. At one point a law enforcement officer who's trying to make trouble for Michael even explicitly invokes the idea that one day he'll get something to stick on him and no one will be able to bail him out (after already arresting him, Michael is currently out on bail for that charge).

Western Animation

  • On Futurama, Bender's arrest for serial graffiti is forgotten about after he's bailed out.
  • In the South Park episode "The Losing Edge," Randy is constantly getting in fights at his son's little league games. After he's been released, Gerald asks him how much bail was and Randy casually replies, "Like two hundred dollars, no big whoop." This is played for comedy as he keeps on assaulting people over and over and presumably keeps getting let back out for chump change. The inevitable trial for twelve counts of assault never happens.
  • In one episode of Around the World with Willy Fog, Rigadon gets an actual prison sentence, and Fog gets him completely freed by paying the bail. As in, Fog explicitly states they're going to leave the country and he can't spare his manservant to do time.
Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • March 9, 2011
    Pickly
    • My Name Is Earl: I forget the exact episode, but was shown to happen a few times, and have happened in the past a few times.
    • The Usual Suspects: Seems to be suggested that this will happen with Verbal, though it may just be that when Verbal posts bail, he will simply be hard to track, not that he's legally free.
  • March 9, 2011
    HonoreDB
    That's bugged me occasionally too, though you can usually just assume the court date occurred offscreen.

    • On Futurama, Bender's arrest for serial graffiti is forgotten about after he's bailed out.
  • March 9, 2011
    arromdee
    I could swear this came through YKTTW before.
  • March 9, 2011
    randomsurfer
    I could've sworn we had this as Bail Is A Fine or similar, but I'm not finding it either as a trope page or in an old ykttw.
  • March 9, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    Even when there is a trial, a big deal is made out of how simply getting bail is some kind of injustice.
  • March 9, 2011
    Kayube
    Law And Order shows often have scenes in which the prosecutor and defense attorney argue over the amount of bail to set for the defendant. Most of the time this scene doesn't really have any bearing on the plot, it just serves as a measure of how strong of a case the prosecution has at the moment.
  • March 10, 2011
    Arivne
    This has been on YKTTW before. I contributed the following examples to it.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Averted in the adventure "Old Fella That Bunyip" in the Call of Cthulhu supplement Terror Australis. After the four Aboriginals are arrested for the crimes they committed trying to stop the Bunyip, bail for each of them is set at 10 pounds. If the Investigators pay the bail, they're responsible for making sure the Aboriginals show up for trial. If they decide to let them go after defeating Bunyip, they could face legal retribution.

    Truth In Television
  • June 24, 2012
    Kelnius
    I like that. I see that all the time. Hat for you.
  • June 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Used a few times in the Action Pack Midnight Run film sequels, where Jack gets in trouble with local law enforcement and then posts bail. Egregious because the main character's job is to hunt down bail jumpers and bring them back to LA for prosecution, so thy really should know better.
  • June 24, 2012
    Tiiba
    There's a whole montage of this in Pumpkin Scissors. A criminal gets arrested, then his boss pays bail, and he's back on the street, pure as the driven snow - over and over. And the soldiers who arrest him can't ever just refuse the bail.

    Someone, please help me remember all the names and what the crime was. And if it was actually Pumpkin Scissors.
  • June 24, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    • In the South Park episode "The Losing Edge," Randy is constantly getting in fights at his son's little league games. After he's been released, Gerald asks him how much bail was and Randy casually replies, "Like two hundred dollars, no big whoop." This is played for comedy as he keeps on assaulting people over and over and presumably keeps getting let back out for chump change. The inevitable trial for twelve counts of assault never happens.
  • June 24, 2012
    Hertzyscowicz
    Western Animation:

    • In one episode of Around The World With Willy Fog, Rigadon gets an actual prison sentence, and Fog gets him completely freed by paying the bail. As in, Fog explicitly states they're going to leave the country and he can't spare his manservant to do time.
  • July 6, 2012
    Hertzyscowicz
    Come to think of it:

    Video Games:
  • July 6, 2012
    kjnoren
    Will probably need some description of how bails are supposed to work, and that they are a peculiarity of the Common law legal system.

    Literature:
    • Justified, averted, and lampshaded In A Civil Campaign. On Escobar, a bond is a guarantee of court appearance, but on Jackson's Whole bail means getting off into the clutches of the one who pays the bail.
      "Whatever. The Escobaran Cortes does not, as you seem to think, engage itself in the slave trade. However it's done on this benighted planet, on Escobar a bond is a guarantee of court appearance, not some kind of human meat market transaction."
      "It is where I come from," Mark muttered.
  • July 6, 2012
    wanderlustwarrior
    I really think you guys should roll in examples so one can be sure of what's in it and if it's actually ready to launch before you give it 5 hats saying it's ready to launch.
  • July 6, 2012
    kjnoren
    See The Courtroom Index, Hollywood Law, and Artistic License Law. The latter is probably a good place for how bail is supposed to work.

    Since bail often is treated more as a fine than as actual bail in fiction, perhaps using The Fine Bail or Bail Is Fine as the trope name?

    Alternative description

    The quickest and best way to get out of any sticky legal trouble is to post bail. Once bail is decided and paid, then you don't need have any more worries about the police, the judge, the jury, or anything else. In extreme cases, you go right out and do the same thing again, only to get caught and post another bail, walking away.

    Ie, this is when fiction treats bail as a fine, not as a guarantee of a later appearance before the police or the legal system. In real life, most courts take a very dim view of people abusing bail, or failing to appear later - if the legal system even has a system for paying bail. (Hint: most countries don't.)

    A frequent example of Hollywood Law and Artistic License Law.
  • July 6, 2012
    Anaxagoras
    It is such a peculiarly pervasive thing that it really should be its own trope. Also, besides simply typing into Artistic License Law, no discussion of bail is possibly complete without a tie in to the role of a Bounty Hunter.
    • More or less explicitly invoked in the original Knight Rider series, whenever Michael gets in trouble with the law the Foundation will bail him out. At one point a law enforcement officer who's trying to make trouble for Michael even explicitly invokes the idea that one day he'll get something to stick on him and no one will be able to bail him out (after already arresting him, Michael is currently out on bail for that charge).
  • July 6, 2012
    Goldfritha
    There is always the possibility that charges were dropped off-stage.
  • July 6, 2012
    nielas
    Another aspect of this is the presumption that the bail money is gone forever. Nobody seems to realize that when the trial is over or the charges are dropped, the bail money will be returned. Of course, if this trope is in effect, nobody shows up for their trial so within that framework it would make sense that the bail would be forfeit.
  • July 6, 2012
    Stratadrake
    How about "Bail Equals Pardoning"?
  • July 6, 2012
    NimmerStill
    The informal, idiomatic phrase "bail [someone] out" usually means that a person completely rescues another person from the consequences of some situation. So this suggests that the trope is active in the minds of Real Life legal laymen, to be used metaphorically.
  • August 28, 2013
    Antigone3
    Bail Is Fine sounds good to me -- a nice bit of wordplay, but not enough to trigger groans.
  • August 28, 2013
    Chabal2
    Lucky Luke: in Belle Starr, the titular character goes around posting bail for various criminals in exchange for working for her. Since she's bought off the local judge, his brother (who runs the only long-distance communication service) and the priest, she can continue unhindered.
  • August 28, 2013
    robinjohnson
    This could be generously seen as an example of Conservation Of Detail: somewhere between episodes, the character goes to court and gets a small fine or some other inconsequential outcome, but this isn't interesting enough to bother showing.

    Also, thirding Bail Is Fine: nice.
  • August 28, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ That makes it seem like dialog, or that bail is a nice thing. Get Out Of Jail Bail could work.
  • August 28, 2013
    kjnoren
    That Bail is nice to get is pretty much part and parcel of this trope. I like the rhyming of Get Out Of Jail Bail. But Bail Equals Freedom is still a good name, I think - not snazzy, but very clear and descriptive.
  • August 28, 2013
    dragonquestz
    "That Bail is nice to get is pretty much part and parcel of this trope."

    No, it's the getting out of any further prosecution that's the nice part.
  • August 28, 2013
    JoeG
    • Averted in the Stephanie Plum mysteries, where Stephanie works as a bounty hunter for a bail bondsman.
  • August 29, 2013
    nielas
    • In the Miniseries Bonanno: A Godfather's Story, a young Joe Bonanno is arrested in Florida for entering the country illegally. A New York mobster comes down to bail him out and afterwards remarks that Bonanno will have to return for trial in a few weeks. He then breaks out into laughter because he was joking and Bonanno actually believed him for a moment. It's the 1920s and as long as Bonanno stays out of Florida, no one will come looking for him when he fails to appear for trial. The judge should have never granted bail to an illegal immigrant but the mobster bribed him ahead of time.
  • August 31, 2013
    kjnoren
    Still thinking about possible names. I'm having serious doubts about the clarity of Bail Is Fine (and the lack of articles bugs me, for some reason), but I was thinking we could do something with the rhyming of Bail and Jail.

    Bail Means No Jail? Bail Equals No Jail? Bail Out Of Jail?

    Otherwise, I'm leaning towards Bail Equals Freedom. Not witty, but clear and concise.
  • August 31, 2013
    DracMonster
    A Bail Is Fine Too!

    (Yes, I'm joking. But I so wish...)

    Here's a few attempts:

    Bailure To Convict

    Innocent By Reason Of Bail

    Bail Out Of Jail Free

    I admit Bail Equals Freedom is probably the best choice, though.
  • September 1, 2013
    Arivne
  • September 3, 2013
    kjnoren
    Will likely launch tomorrow (in about 12 or so hours), under Bail Equals Freedom, unless we get further discussion.
  • September 3, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Get Out Of Bail Free? . . .

    Eh, no. That wasn't a serious suggestion.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=jz6ka5x731zl9058gbo55k7r&trope=BailEqualsFreedom