If you or someone you know has just been put behind bars, the foremost thought on your mind is likely getting out. This usually requires posting bail, which is typically cash or property that is given to the court as a promise to show up for your court date when they order you back. If you aren’t able to post bail, the court will keep you in jail until your court date. When you show up for your court date after having posted bail, you are typically given your bail back; if you don’t show up after posting bail, however, the court will keep your bail and issue another warrant for your arrest.
If you have been arrested for a very common crime, most jails will have a listing of standard bails for each crime. If this is the case, you just need to pay that standard bail and you can be out. However, in other situations, you might be required to see a judge before your bail amount can be set. In this case, you can expect to spend at least a couple of days in jail, many times over the weekend, since the judge only works weekdays. Once you see the judge, he or she will set a bail amount specific to your case. According to the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the judge is not allowed to set an unreasonable or excessive bail amount that is meant to raise money for the government or punish the arrested individual. Bail should not be used for any purpose other than ensuring that the person returns to court on their appointed date. Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon occurrence for judges to purposefully post an excessively high bail to prevent the arrested person from leaving jail.
This refers to paying the bail that has been set on your release. This can be done in a few ways:
- Paying in cash or check
- Signing ownership over on a piece of property that has a cash value equal to or greater than the value of the bail
- Buying a bond
- Getting released on one’s own recognizance (O.R.)
If that last option is available, it’s usually a good idea to take it, since that doesn’t cost any money up front. Basically, through O.R., you get the payment waived if you promise to show up on the court date. A bond is another promise that you’ll pay the full amount of the bail if you do not show up on your court date. While this may seem like a better option since it may cost less than the entire cash bail, if you can pay the cash bail, you should do so to avoid further jail time. The bond costs 10% of the bail upfront, which is not refunded even if you do show up when asked to. The cash bail is fully refunded (minus some small administrative fees) when you show up to court.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
You are not legally required to have a lawyer throughout this process. However, a lawyer can help speed up the process, make sure you get your bail set in a timely manner, ensure that the bail amount is reasonable, try to reduce the jail bail amount, and assist in possibly getting the defendant released on his or her own recognizance.
Blair Carroll is a criminal defense attorney in Austin, Texas. Mr. Carroll has helped hundreds of Texans respond to criminal charges.
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