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You’ve been arrested. Now what? (The bail process)

Chad West Sept. 27, 2018

Most of us probably gloss right over the terminology of arrests and bonds when we read about them in the news. Until someone you know actually runs into trouble, it’s easy to skim over these details with just a cursory level of understanding.

So what happens after an arrest? If you or a loved one has been arrested, the bail process (and terms) can be confusing. Unless a person poses a flight risk or it's an extreme case, they have the right to secure bail — that is, release from jail — provided they can put up collateral to secure that release via a bond.

Judges set the amount of the bond — basically the price of release — after the arrest itself. The amount of bond is determined by several factors including the severity of the crime, the likelihood the defendant will actually appear in court when they’ve been summoned, the defendant’s ties to the community and whether the defendant poses some inherent risk (especially in felony crimes, sex crimes, etc.). If the bail is set high, a defense attorney can request a bail reduction hearing and can present information to the court that may help reduce your bond.

If you’ve been arrested, you will likely need to have a friend or family member contact a bondsman for you or access your financial resources to secure your jail release. They may need to co-sign agreeing that you will appear in court.

There are two types of bonds: cash bonds and bail bonds. 

Cash bond: This one is pretty straightforward. The defendant pays the full amount of cash to secure their release from jail. This sum is held by the sheriff’s department until the conclusion of the case and then refunded.

Bail bond: This is where you pay a bonding company or bondsman to secure your release from jail. The bonding company or bondsman charges a fee (usually a percentage of the total bond). You pay the fee, and the bondsman bails you out of jail. The cash amount is held until the case is over and then refunded to the bondsman who makes money on the fees. For example: if your bond is set at $3,000, you might be charged $300 by the bondsman for the bail. If you don’t have cash for bail, you may need to put up another item of value to secure your bond (especially if you’ve been charged with a felony).

The time for release varies depending on the current jail population, time of day, the time it takes to process the book-in (mug shot, fingerprints and processing into the jail) and the number of people waiting to be processed. An attorney can sometimes help expedite this process and help an arrestee avoid a night in jail by requesting the judge set a bond and waive the arraignment process when a person is on the street with an active warrant for their arrest. This way, the defendant can show up at the jail and post their bond instead of being jailed overnight.

Most of our clients are completely lost when it comes to the bail process – it’s usually their first rodeo, so to speak. It’s OK to be confused! Save our number in your phone. If ever you’re faced with these circumstances, you’ll know who to call.


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