UNDERSTANDING BAIL AND CRIMINAL CHARGES
Bail works by releasing a person who has been arrested in exchange for money in which the court holds until all proceedings surrounding the accused person are complete. Bail is intended to serve as a guarantee that the defendant will appear in court as required in order to recover the bail once all proceedings have been finalized.
In many cases, trials can take months or even years after the initial arrest to begin, and if not for bail, many people, many of whom are innocent, would be forced to sit in jail until this time. At the very least, obtaining bail can prevent an extreme financial hardship, as the person would be unable to work during this time. In addition, while waiting for a court date, a person would miss the basic enjoyment of living his or her life if bail were unavailable.
Below, we discuss the process of posting bail, the different types of bail available, and certian circumstances in which bail may not be allowed.
How Does The Bail Process Work?
When a person is arrested, he or she is first taken to a police station and booked. When a suspect is booked, or processed, a police officer records information about the suspect (name, address, birthday and appearance) and the alleged crime. The officer will then conduct a criminal background check and take the suspect’s fingerprints and mug shot. The suspect is usually allowed to make a phone call at this time. Finally, the officer puts the suspect in a jail cell, usually with other recently booked suspects. The person will generally see a judge the next morning, where, in most circumstances, a bond amount will be set.
For less serious crimes, a suspect may be allowed to post bail immediately after being booked. Otherwise, the suspect will have to wait (usually less than 24 hours) for a bail hearing where a judge will determine if the accused is eligible for bail and at what cost. The amount of bail depends on the severity of the crime, but is ultimately at the judge’s discretion.
In determining bail, a judge may take into account standard bail bond guidelines, the defendant’s criminal history (if any), the defendant’s history of showing up for past court appearances, ties to the community, whether the suspect is a danger to others and any other concerns the judge may have.
Types Of Bail
There are five primary types of bail, although some are used much less frequently than others.
Cash Bond means that the accused person pays the full amount of the bail bond in cash. Sometimes the court will accept checks and credit cards as well. As long as the person appears for all required court dates and settings, this cash bond will be returned to him or her at the end of the case. This is a great advantage of a Cash Bond, as it does not require a person to pay a non-refundable percentage of the bond to a Bail Bond Company. Of course, in order to post this type of bond, a person must actually have the money to post the bond in full.
Also called a bail bond, a surety bond can be used for any amount of bail, but is especially useful when the accused cannot afford to pay the bail amount in full. This type of bail often involves a friend or relative of the accused contacting a bail bond agent, also known as a bail bondsman. A bail bond agent is backed by a special type of insurance company called a surety company and pledges to pay the full value of the bond if the accused doesn’t appear in court. In return, the bail bond agent charges his client a service fee or percentage (usually around 10 percent) that is kept by the bondsman. The bail bondsman may also sometimes require a co-signer or collect some sort of collateral (i.e., title to a house, car or boat, jewelry or electronics).
Release On Citation (Cite-Out)
In some cases, an officer will not book a suspect at all, but will instead issue a citation saying that the accused must appear in court. While this process is less thorough than taking a suspect to a police station and performing the formal booking procedure, it allows the arresting officer to focus on catching more serious offenders.
Release On Personal Recognizance
A judge may also choose to release a suspect on his or her own recognizance, meaning that the suspect is responsible for showing up for court dates and does not have to pay any monetary bail bond. Personal recognizance bonds are usually only allowed when the charge involves a relatively minor, nonviolent crime and the defendant is not considered dangerous or thought to be a possible flight risk — meaning that it’s likely the person will not flee and will appear for his or her court date.
Sometimes a defendant can provide some property to act as a bond. In these cases, the court gets a lien (a legal claim) on the property in the amount of the bail. If the defendant doesn’t show up for his or her court appearances, the court can foreclose on the property to recover the forfeited bail.
Working With Bail Bond Agents
Most agents charge a premium of 10 percent, but there may be other fees and additional charges. If you have questions about these charges, ask the agent to explain them to you and present an itemized list. Keep all receipts and copies of anything you sign.
Also, understand that the agent has a vested interest in making sure clients show up for their court dates, so it is likely you will be required to report in with the bonding company (usually once per week), and he or she will generally contact you before scheduled court appearances.
Still Have Questions About Bail?
At Ross Law Offices, P.C., we are here to help you with this process. Please contact us to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you have any questions that have not been answered above. Please email us now or call our Denton office at (940) 230-2400.