If you've been charged with a crime, you may find yourself sitting in a jail until a judge holds a hearing on your case. A backlog of cases in the justice system can keep you there for weeks. This is why the bail process was created. By posting bail, you can be back home quickly while waiting for news of your hearing. Here is how this process works and why the bail bond concept developed out of it.
It Begins With a Judge Setting the Bail Amount
A judge looks at your case and first determines if it is bailable. Guidelines tell the judge whether a criminal charge allows bail or not. Serious crimes, such as manslaughter, do not have the bail option. Other crimes, such as shoplifting, are bailable and have a range of bail amounts that can be set.
The judge will use your past history with the justice system to help determine the bail amount. You should have a criminal lawyer working with you to represent your interests to the judge. Your lawyer will express your reputation in the community and overall trustworthiness to the judge. The judge will determine the likelihood that you'll return for your hearing, then set your bail amount.
If this is a first-time offense and you have a good reputation in the community, the bail will be set low. Anything that the judge determines might cause you to be a high risk of not coming back for your hearing can result in a higher bail. Your lawyer will try to get the lowest bail possible.
Your Next Steps
Once the judge has set the bail amount, you have two options:
- You can pay the bail amount in cash to the court. You'll get a receipt for the money and when you return for your hearing, you'll present the receipt and get the money back.
- You can decline to post the bail and remain in custody until the hearing.
If you don't have the cash to post bail, you can turn to a bail bond agency. These companies were established to help individuals who can't afford their bail.
The Bail Bond Process
A bail bond is like an unsecured loan for the amount you need to post your bail. The bail bond agency will post the bail for you and charge you a fee for the service. You get out of custody and go back home. When you show up for your hearing, the agency gets its money back from the court.
If you don't show up for the hearing, several actions are put into motion. The judge issues a warrant for your arrest. Local law enforcement will try to locate you. If they find you, you'll be taken into custody and back to jail.
The bail bond service also has people who will look for you. The service loses the money it posted for you if you don't show up for the hearing. If local law enforcement finds you first, the service also loses their money. Only if they find you first and bring you back in will they get their money back. This makes bail bond companies highly motivate to find you. That's why they often employ people trained in tracking and apprehending missing persons to protect their financial interests.