“ABIDING BY THE RULES”
(Jun. 17, 2019) — Did you find yourself locked up in the big house? You probably think you’re out of options. You’re not! Here are your options for posting bail.
If you end up in a cell, your first thought will be: ‘how do I get out of here?’ As the criminal justice system is a slow process, it can take a while to understand where your case is heading.
Luckily for you, your golden ticket home is by posting bail. The process can feel overwhelming, so we have your back. Here are your options for posting bail and getting out of jail.
The government uses bail to stop charged people from fleeing once released. You give the court bail, either as money or in the interest of a property, in exchange for being released. It’s important to note that the court keeps the bail during the case.
You only receive your bail if you attend all the court dates and abide by the conditions of the release. But, if you skip court dates or disappear, the bail will be revoked and forfeited.
After an arrest, you must find out your bail amount as soon as possible. When discussing bail practices, we must consider the Eighth Amendment, which establishes that no person can have an excessive bail amount set against them. This deters the government from raising money or punishing the arrestee, as bail is strictly to ensure the arrestee shows up to their trial.
Despite the Eighth Amendment, many judges use high bail amounts to stop the person from getting out of jail. Excessive bails occur when people are arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs, murder, or crimes where there’s a high possibility of fleeing.
If the judge sets bail at a reasonable amount but the arrested person cannot afford the payment, they can ask the judge to lower the bail amount at a special bail hearing or during their first court appearance. The judge has the power to lower your bail amount, depending on your financial situation, which could help you get out of jail.
How Is the Bail Amount Set?
Many jurisdictions use “bail schedules,” which is a list of bail amounts that match with different crimes. A minor crime may cost $10,000, whereas a more severe crime like manslaughter is likely to cost $100,000.
If you want to get out of jail without seeing a judge, you must pay the scheduled bail amount as jail officials don’t can’t deviate from the list. Judges, however, can set bail at any amount they find appropriate. They can even let someone out without requiring any bail, which is when an arrestee is released on one’s own recognizance or OR.
A judge will hold a “bail hearing” in court to address bail. The bail schedule is a starting point for setting bail, and the judge must look to the circumstances of the case before making the final call.
Factors considered during this process are:
- The defendant’s criminal record
- The likeliness that the defendant will flee before trial
- The defendant’s financial situation
- How much of a threat the defendant is to others if released
- The seriousness of the arrest offense
The judge can charge two people for the same crime and pay different bail amounts as the bail depends more on the defendant as opposed to the crime.
What Are Your Options for Posting Bail?
Once your bail is confirmed, it’s time to get it “posted.” Posting bail can be done by:
- Paying the entire bail by cash or check
- Signing over ownership rights to the property to the court
- Giving a bond (a promise to pay if you don’t appear in court) or signing a statement that says you will appear in court at a required time (O.R.)
When possible, post bail yourself, so you receive a complete refund at the end of the case. Many people have to buy a bail bond, which is a legal contract that requires someone to pay money if a defendant fails to return to court.
Bail bondsmen charge a 10% fee so if your bail is set at $5,000, you will pay a $500 nonrefundable fee to the bondsman. If you don’t turn up to court in time, the bondsman can cash in on your property and take the money.
But if you appear at court and meet all the requirements, you get most of your bail returned minus small administrative fees from the court.
Getting Released on Your Own Recognizance
If you’re given release on a personal recognizance bond, take it. To be considered for an O.R. release, request one at your first court appearance before a judge. If the judge rejects your request, you can try asking for a lower bail amount.
Several factors can cause a judge to release you on O.R., and it refers back to the community they arrested you in. Factors include:
- Having a job in the community
- Living in the community for several years
- Having no criminal history, or one that includes small crimes and misdemeanors
- Having close family members in the community
- Having a good track record and showing up to court (if required in the past)
Posting Bail Is Your Key to Freedom. Are You Ready to Start the Process?
Regardless of your crime, you’ll want to leave jail ASAP. Knowing you can post bail is a huge reassurance, but it’s key to abide by the judge’s and the court’s rules during the process. Getting released on your own recognizance is the best choice, and it’s a real possibility if you are charged for a minor crime. Good luck!
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Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.