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Bail Questions- What’s the Highest Bail Ever Set?

Posted on: 11/01/2011

The criminal justice system can seem pretty arbitrary at times. You hear all sorts of figures on the news when it comes to bail…a million dollars here, ten thousand there. So who has the dubious honor of being hit with the largest bail amount? We hunted down the answer

On the hunt to find the largest bail amount ever handed out we pulled out a bail schedule. While bail seems like a random number some judge dreams up, it is actually based first off of a guideline called a bail schedule which you can learn more about here. Here are some pretty hefty looking suggested bails according to the Alameda County Bail schedule

Solicitation to Commit murder-1,000,000
Exploding a Bomb-1,000,000
Selling drugs to a minor-5,000,000 (over a certain amount)

So who did we find had the highest bail? Well, it wasn’t the unibomber or the head of a drug cartel. The top three highest bail amounts to date are all white collar crimes. In fact the record setting highest was for eco-crime. Kening Ma of Ontario was handed the highest bail amount ever recorded at $150 million. His wife Shirley Ji had her bail set at half that sum – just $75 million. They were charged with violating California Air Resources Board regulations, importing motorcycles and ATVs that don’t comply with CA emissions control laws and then selling them with false smog certificates. Don’t mess with California!

Close runners up are some of the financial world’s headliners like Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam, who was arrested and charged in an alleged $20 million insider-trading scheme. So why are the highest amounts for relatively tame crimes? For one thing, many types of violent crime are not eligible for bail. A number of crimes listed on the bail schedule are marked no bail. The history of the defendant also factors in to whether or nor bail is even offered. So non-violent crimes where large sums of money were involved plus defendants with no previous criminal history make the perfect storm for the judge to hand down huge bail amounts.

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