How does bail work? Is it easy to get a pre-trial release from custody?

An offender’s first thought after reaching behind the bars would be how to get out of it – and fast? The proper and legal way to do this is through bail. But what is bail and how does bail work? Keep reading to know the rest.

What is bail and how does it work?

If you are convicted of a crime, then it’s likely possible that you can get out of jail without recognizance and unless the authorities believe that you will show up upon court calling. If you satisfy the court that you won’t run away and you have contacts in your community that will make sure that you will remain in the jurisdiction, then the court may grant you release on the basis of your recognizance.

But the defendants who do not have significant contacts that may provide the recognizance to the authorities will generally end up providing an amount called bail.

In simpler words, Bail is used for release as a guarantee to ensure that you will show up to the court whenever there’s a court proceeding. You can get out of custody by paying your bail in cash to the court. For whatever reason, if you fail to show up to the court on the required date, the court forfeits the bail and releases your arrest warrants.

Depending on the severity of the case, or if the charges involved federal drug crimes, manslaughter, or felony crimes, your bail amount may be set greater to make sure that the defendant will show up on the required date.

On the other hand, if you don’t have enough cash at the time of your bail, then the court will likely accept bail bonds. 

How does the court determine bail?

You may need to submit a motion to the court for your bail through your lawyer if you don’t have any subsequent contact who can guarantee your return. Once the court receives the motion, your bail can be posted in one of these three types of bail

Cash bail – In which the defendant is obligated to provide the required amount in cash to the court.

Bail Bond – In which a bondsman posts bail on the defendant’s behalf and pays a fee

Property bond – where the defendant’s property is put under a lien by the court.

How does bail bond work?

Since criminal arrests can be done at any time, this is why typical bail bond agencies remain open twenty-four seven. Many times to expedite the process, the paperwork and the transactions are done electronically to get the defendant out of custody. This paperwork translates the details about the person or company posting the bail bond on behalf of the defendant to ensure that he would show up to the court on further case proceedings.

The documented paperwork will also mention the amount put up in line for the guarantee of the defendant’s appearance. 

Once the paperwork is done, the person needs to contact the bail agent. This agent will require the full name of the person in custody, the fee involved, and the booking number. Additionally, the bail agent will require some data to know the jail location and the offense and charges imposed. Once the information is completed, he will grant a bail bond for the defendant to be released from custody.

Once the bail bondsman gets the defendant out of jail, he will be given a court date and receipts of the paperwork involved showing what documents were received so the bondsman can follow up regarding the case. Besides, depending on the process and how much the jail staff is occupied, the entire process can take several hours.

Now when the date of the court proceeding arrives and the defendant did not appear, it will be the bail bond agent’s responsibility to pay the remaining amount of the bail bond. The bail agent will employ a bounty hunter with the arrest warrant from the court to track down and bring back the defendant to jail. According to the bail bond agreement, the nonappearance of the defendant will cause the bail bond agent to lose the money. Moreover, it is upon the court’s discernment that it can impose some other penalties as well.

The bail bond agreement or contract by which the court decides the bail amount is decided through a bail hearing.

Bail Hearing

Once the bail motion is submitted, the court will analyze the case, review the prior criminal history and the nature of the recent offense to set the bail amount. This happens in a bail hearing.

Bail hearing schedules and amounts are variable across states and jurisdictions. Mostly these schedules are posted at the jails with the standard bail amounts based on the severity of the crimes and offenses. These bails can be paid to the jail without a bail hearing most of the time. Bail schedules are standardly set in stone and are non-negotiable.

At bail hearings typically, the court imposes uniform bail bonds according to the crime. This is said to be the first appearance of the defendant in the court after being detained. The verdict would change if the defendant has prior criminal convictions and the court discerns that if the defendant gets bail he could be a threat to society while awaiting the court date.

If the defendant is having a criminal defense lawyer at his side, then he does not need another bail agent to pose a bail. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have the right to ask for bail during bail hearings in court.

In most cases, criminal defense attorneys have the chance to discuss bail factors such as looking after children, a continuation of the employment, or a family member that requires their presence at home, etc. He can also ask the court to lower the bail amount (if applicable) at the bail hearings.

How much does a bail bond cost?

The bail bond cost largely depends on the criminal offense and the charge that you have received for the offense. Generally, the cost of the bail amount is larger for felonies as compared to the cost of the bail amount for misdemeanors.

Similarly, it also depends on the criminal history, if there’s a minor first-time offense then the court may release the defendant without any bail or deny any bail.

As mentioned earlier, it’s at the court’s discretion to set the bail lower or higher. Every jurisdiction and court have their own standards to set the bail amount. The court can impose higher or lower than the scheduled bail amount. It’s totally based upon their discrete and the pertaining circumstances.

Some factors that may influence the standard bail amount include:

  • The severity of the offense
  • Prior criminal convictions
  • The defendant committed the offense if he was already on probation
  • The defendant already had the restraining orders
  • The defendant is a threat to society
  • The defendant retains the risk to flee

Courts can deny the bail in severe circumstances which often involve the offenses like murder, drug trafficking, and other felony offenses. The defendant will then have to wait in custody behind the bars for the court trial date. If the court releases someone on their own recognizance, then the defendant may not have to pay a bail bond. But for this, the release conditions maybe even stricter for a pretrial release.

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