With all the crime shows on television, we’ve witnessed the scene a million times: a judge issuing a sum of bail and the defendant posting bail a little while later. You may ask yourself how it makes sense that these people, often with regular jobs, post bail at, say, $100,000 or more; that’s a lot of money to come up with at one time. But there’s a lot to posting bail that you may not know or understand.
Bail is an amount of money held by the court in exchange for the release of a defendant. Bail is kept until the end of the court proceedings in hopes that the defendant will attend all proceedings and not leave the state or country during the trial.
One of the main reasons behind allowing for bail is because court proceedings can start weeks or months after an initial arrest and may last just as long. Since a person is innocent until proven guilty, it is seen as unjust for a person presumed innocent to sit in jail for the duration of the trial. However, there are times when the defendant may be seen as a danger to society or a flight risk, so safeguards are built into the bail system to protect society while still respecting individual rights.
How the Bail Process Works
Once an arrest is made, a suspect is booked at a station. If the crime is considered less serious, a suspect is typically allowed to post bail immediately on his or her own. For more serious crimes, a bail hearing is set up with a judge, usually within 48 hours of the crime being committed.
The actual bail amount is ultimately at the judge’s discretion, but does take into consideration other factors. Some states have bail schedules that offer suggestions on bail amounts depending on the crime. Criminal history is also taken into account, which will also determine if bail is even a possibility. Bail amounts can be set anywhere between $25,000 for something like perjury or sexual assault to up to $1.0 million for the likes of kidnapping with intent to rape. In a recent Fort Worth murder case in which two Bandidos Motorcycle Club bikers were arrested and charged with murder, all of the discussed factors would have been considered in issuing their $100,000 bail.
Types of Bail
There are five types of bail, some used more frequently than others. We’ll discuss each below:
Cash Bail: The accused pays the entire bail amount in cash. Checks and credit cards may also be accepted.
Surety or Bail Bonds: Typically used when the defendant can’t afford the total bail amount. A friend or relative then contacts a bail agent, who takes collateral plus a 10% premium in exchange for putting up the bail. The friend or relative is meant to assure the accused shows up to all scheduled hearings or else their collateral will be lost.
Citation: In lesser crimes, a police officer won’t even go through the booking process. They will instead issue a citation stating that the accused must appear in court on a scheduled date.
Personal Recognizance: Also used for minor crimes, the accused is not required to pay bail and has the responsibility of showing up to court without any collateral.
Property Bond: The accused is allowed to put up some type of property (home, etc.) as collateral for their showing up in court. If they fail to appear, then the courts foreclose on the property to recover the bail.
PCS Bail Bonds has been dealing with this process for decades and understands all of the nuances of each procedure. We are a trusted part of the Fort Worth court system and community and hope to continue our services for years to come.
Silverman, J., “How Bail Works,” How Stuff Works website; http://money.howstuffworks.com/bail.htm, last accessed December 28, 2014.
Nagy, M. “2nd suspect arrested in fatal shooting at Fort Worth bar,” Star-Telegram, December 15, 2014; http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article4508379.html.
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