Your friend or family member has been arrested and is sitting in jail, hoping someone will come get them out. What do you do? What is a bail bond?

Trials often take place months after the initial arrest. The following offers a quick overview of the basics of bail bonds, so that you will know what to do if the need ever arises.

What is a bail bond?

“Bail” refers to the procedure by which courts allow someone accused of a crime to get out of jail while the case progresses, a trial is scheduled, and the case is resolved. Essentially, it is a payment made to the court that temporarily allows someone out of jail, pending the status of the investigation and case. (See Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 17.01).

Before going any further, it is important to understand the different types of bail. To make bail, an accused needs a “Bail Bond.” A bail bond is a document in which the court tells the accused that he can leave jail for now but must pay a dollar amount to do so and the accused is promising to appear in court, at all hearings, until the very end of the case. What the court gets from the accused can be in the form of a cash bond, surety bond, or a personal bond. (See Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 17.02).

What is a personal recognizance (P.R.) bond?

The best type of bond is a personal recognizance bond, also known as a “P.R. bond.” This is where the court releases someone from jail without making them post a cash or surety bond. Here, the accused promises to return to court and that person’s word is sufficient to take care of the bond. Personal bonds are often given after an accused has been deemed likely to return to court, either because the level of the crime is so small or the person’s reputation and attachment to the community is known. However, some crimes are restricted from getting a P.R. bond, which includes capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, burglary, and aggravated robbery, plus a few others. Only the court in which the case is pending can authorize a personal bond in those cases. (See Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 17.03).

What is a cash bond?

A cash bond is a payment you make in cash for the full amount of bond set by the magistrate. For instance, if your friend gets arrested for Possession of Marijuana and the bond is $1,000.00, then the cash bond is payment of a full $1,000.00. The entire amount is paid to the Court and is held by the County/District Clerk in a special bank account. The arrestee will pay either with their own assets or with assets borrowed from friends or family. The arrestee will pay the court up front, be released from jail, and this amount will be refunded completely when the accused fully complies with their obligation to show up to court. This obligation can mean that jail time has been served, probation has been completed, or the case is dismissed.

What is a surety bond?

The most common type of bail bond, and the kind that most people are aware of, is known as a surety bond. A surety bond is when someone other than the accused accepts liability for making sure the accused will show up for court. This other person is referred to as a surety. Often, the surety is a bail bondsman, although it can also be an attorney (attorney bonds are unique). Bail bondsmen charge a fee to use their services, anywhere from 8% to as much as 20% of the bond amount, plus an administration fee. So, using the example above, if the bondsman charges 10%, then the fee would be $100.00 plus an administrative fee. The remaining balance of the bond is guaranteed by the bail bondsman. The cost of a bail bond will depend on the risk that the bondsman is taking on. Someone who is a flight risk, not from the area, or has a very high bond amount due to the alleged crime is likely to pay a higher percentage than a person who lives and works locally and/or is charged with a lower level offense. The money paid to the bondsman is NON-REFUNDABLE and when the case is finished, do not expect anything back.

Since the bail bondsman has a financial interest on the line, they are going to make sure the accused appears for all hearings, and this is why the accused will be required to check in weekly with their bondsman. If the accused fails to appear, the bail bondsman will send bounty hunters to find the accused, plus the Court will issue a warrant for the arrest of the individual which means the police will also be looking for the accused. Furthermore, if you miss court and the judge issues a “judgment NISI,” which, in layman’s terms means “unless.” This will happen unless something else happens. In other words, the accused will be arrested after a certain date and time unless the accused appears in front of the court. If a warrant is issued, not only will the remainder of the bond be owed to the bail bondsman, but they will come after the person and their property to get paid.

Why hire an attorney before you pay a bond?

 First and foremost, you will have no idea if the bond that was set on your loved one’s case is reasonable or not. An attorney will be able to determine whether the bond is within the customary range for your county. If the bond is excessive, the attorney can ask for the bond to be reduced. This could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. Second, there may be ways to secure a person’s release without a bond, including personal recognizance bonds, mentioned above, or release for mental health supervision.

Our attorney, Victor Rivera, has been handling criminal defense cases for over 12 years and has received multiple awards, both locally and nationally. Before becoming a defense attorney, Mr. Rivera served as a police officer for the City of Ft. Worth. So, if you, your family, or your friend needs an attorney to help with a criminal case and bond, keep Dodson Legal Group in your cell phone, 469-400-0000. Connect with us today, and let Mr. Rivera assist with your legal needs.