defendants who are not accused of a capital offense (a crime that, if convicted, could come with a death sentence) will be granted the right to post bail.
Pre-trial release can be granted in one of three ways:
If the booking charge is relatively minor, such as being drunk in public, the defendant may be released from custody on their own recognizance. In this case they’ll be given a piece of paper that tells them when and where they need to appear in court and they’ll need to promise to be there.
A second option is cash bail; this is more common if the defendant’s bail has been set very low. When a family chooses this option they’ll need to put up the full amount, in cash, with the court or at the jail. As long as the defendant finishes their case this money will be refunded to whomever posted it once the matter is over.
The third option is to arrange a surety bond which is more commonly known as bail bonds. Bail bonds are pieces of paper that are posted at the jail and promise two things. One, if the defendant is released from custody they’ll go to court when they are supposed to. Second, if they skip town in hopes of evading prosecution and the bondsman and the cosigner can’t get them back into the system in a set period of time, both those parties will be on the hook to pay the full bail amount to the court as a penalty.
Many families struggle with the question of whether to bail or not to bail. Below are several things you’ll want to consider while making that decision.
- How well do you know the person who is in custody? If the person calling you is someone you haven’t talked to in years, or is someone you just met a short time ago, buyer beware. There is likely a very good reason they can’t get a longtime friend or family member to sign for them.
- Are you sure you understand the responsibilities you’re taking on by cosigning for them? Be sure to read the contract before you sign it and ask questions about any points that seem unclear.
- Are you willing to stay on top of their court dates and make sure they attend each required hearing? If the defendant misses court, you could find yourself dealing with a very big problem. Some bail bonds companies can set up auto text-message and email alerts that can help keep you informed.
- Have you done your research on the bondsman you’re considering using? Not all companies are alike. Some work 24-hours a day, others don’t work nights or weekends. Be sure you find a bondsman who can help you in a way that is best for your individual situation.
- Does that company have years of experience and a solid reputation for helping its clients? Companies that have have been around for decades are far less likely to make mistake than the guys around the corner that have just opened shop. Experience matters, especially in a time like this