To Bail or Not to Bail?

pittsburgh criminal defenseBail.

What is it? How does it work? Should you pay a bail bondsman, or wait it out?

Being in jail sucks. No doubt about it.

The only thing a person in jail wants is to get out of jail, and they will often pay an exorbitant amount of money to get released.

Bail, or a bond, is a way for the authorities to ensure a person released from jail shows up for court by allowing them to be released after posting bail.

The dollar amount is based on the seriousness of the charges, the criminal history of the person charged, and the potential flight risk they might pose.

A person with an out of state residence poses an extreme flight risk. A person with a local address and a job less so. Someone with a history of violent crime might pose a risk to the community, so their bail will be much higher than someone with no criminal record.

Bail Bondsman: What they do.

Bail can be in amounts as high as one million dollars, but generally fall between $50,000-$250, 000.

Most people don’t have that kind of money laying around, so they must contract with a bail bondsman, who will post the bail for a non-refundable fee, usually ten percent. In other words, they will charge $5000 for a bail of $50,000.

It is also common for them to require collateral, such as a house, to guarantee their investment. If the person they bailed out doesn’t show up for court, they forfeit the bail money, but get the house.

This is known as a cash bond. But there are other types of bail which do not require cash.

Non-Monetary or, Conditional Bail:

This type of bail requires no money, but is conditional, based on the charges.

For example, someone who has a drug problem might get released to a rehabilitation facility. Others might be remanded to electronic monitoring– an ankle bracelet that alerts authorities whenever the person is not at home.

Someone with mental health issues might be remanded to a hospital for treatment.

Often times, a “Home Plan” is required. Release is conditional based on their residence meeting legal requirements. For example, a residence that is subsidized by public assistance (Section 8 housing) does not qualify.

The owner or primary leaseholder, as well as any residents, cannot be a convicted felon. The authorities will investigate potential residences in order to make certain they meet established guidelines.

Another condition, in the case of home monitoring, is a land line phone. This is how they monitor the person released.

ROR: Released on their Own Recognizance.

This is a common form of bond where the only condition is showing up for court. Failure to appear will result in an arrest warrant being issued. ROR is common for non-violent crimes like simple possession and DUI.

How can an Attorney Help?

As mentioned earlier, being in jail sucks, and the desire to get out often overrides everything. Someone who is in jail will plead with relatives to post their bail, regardless of the amount. But it is important to remember that the fee a bondsman charges is non-refundable. That money is gone.

Even though a person in jail wants out, right now, retaining an attorney, and having a little patience, can often result in a release with reduced and even no bail.

In one instance, my client was being held on a $50,000 bond, meaning his family would have to come up with $5000 cash, plus collateral. That amount was actually higher than my fee to represent him. After reviewing the circumstances, I was convinced we could motion the court to reduce the bond, and my client agreed to hold out a couple of extra days. We were able to show the court there was no risk of flight, and my client was released on their own recognizance, saving them $5000.

Of course, each case is subject to the particulars of the crime, criminal history, etc., but an attorney can often make a huge difference when deciding whether to post bail or wait a few days.

So before posting bail, it is highly advisable to consult with an attorney. Yes, jail sucks, but so does spending $5000 that may not have needed to be spent at all.



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