By the time most people are thinking about bail, they are stressed out because either she or a loved one has been suddenly arrested. Having a few basic tips in mind may help with making these important and often expensive decisions.
First Things First: What is Bail?
Bail serves the purpose of collateral; it is a court’s assurance that a person released from custody will continue to come to court and not flee.
Who Sets the Bail?
The amount of bail is within a judge’s discretion, however, in California, each jurisdiction has its own bail schedule that serves as a baseline. The biggest considerations are public safety, the criminal record of a defendant, the probability that a defendant will fail to appear, and the seriousness of the alleged offense.
How Does Payment of Bail Work?
You can pay the bail directly to the court. If you do that and you comply with all of the conditions of bail, you will get the whole bail amount returned to you, regardless of the result of your case.
However, most people cannot afford to pay the full amount of bail as the amounts are often exorbitant. For example, bail for one charge of identity theft in San Francisco is scheduled at $40,000. If a defendant cannot pay the entire amount, in order to bail out, she must pay a bail bond agent a premium, or a percentage of the full amount. The Bail agency then pays the court the full amount of bail. Normally, the premium is 10%, but it is reduced 2-4%, depending on the bail bond agency, if the defendant retains a private attorney.
Are There Other Obstacles to Bail?
One of the most common obstacles to bailing out is the section 1275.1 hold–this hold would require a defendant posting bail to show that no part of the bail or the premium was feloniously obtained. This type of hold often happens in cases of alleged theft and drug sales. The hold is lifted once the defendant can show that the source of the bail money is from a legitimate source, such as a loved one’s job.
Tips for Navigating the Bail Process
When you are suddenly locked up behind bars facing criminal charges, the first thing you want to do is get out. However, sometimes it may make more sense to wait a few days in custody so that you can retain an attorney and have a hearing to reduce your bail. While finding an attorney you trust in custody is challenging, it is not impossible. If you can, you should have someone who is not in custody research attorneys and see if they can find some that would be a good fit. As stated above, retaining a private attorney can reduce the premium amount that you pay by 2-4%.
It is also important to line up a source or sources of bail. If you know that you are going to be going into custody, doing this in advance can make the process smoother. In certain cases, those who will be bailing you out will have to come to court and show documents proving the legitimacy of their income.
Alternatives to Bail
A Judge has discretion to release any person that is not charged with a capital offense (i.e. offense punishable by death) to his or her own recognizance or O.R. O.R. release does not require the payment of bail, and it is often the preferred and less burdensome than bail. However, some jurisdictions will only allow a defendant out on Supervised O.R., which can often be more onerous than bail and require regular check-in with the Office of Probation and even drug testing.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Having an attorney on your side during this stressful and confusing time can make all the difference. An experienced attorney can make arrangements with your bail bondsman and your family members regarding the payment of bail, and make the best representation of you to the court to increase your chances of reducing your bail.
Bailing out allows you to work, live your life, and take care of your family while the case is pending. It also takes away the leverage of your custody status from the prosecution by reducing your sense of urgency to resolve the case. If you or someone you know has recently been arrested or is facing potential charges, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Maria Belyi.
Please note that this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.