How the Bail Process Works

by | Jun 30, 2015 | Blog, Criminal Law, Legal Procedures

Hopefully you will never find yourself in this situation – but if you need to get out of jail after you have been arrested, then it is your right to know what to expect.

Step 1: Booking

  • After being placed under arrest, the suspect will be taken to the police station to be booked. The arresting police officer will take down the necessary information about the suspect, including name, date of birth, address, and appearance, along with a description of the alleged crime.
  • Fingerprinting, photographs, and a background check will also be done at the station.
  • The suspect will then be searched, and all personal property will be confiscated (keys, phone, wallet, etc.)
  • Next, the suspect is placed in a holding cell.

Note: for minor offences, suspects may be allowed to sign a written citation to appear in court at a later date, thus allowing them to be released immediately without posting bail.

Step 2: Own-Recognizance Release

  • After booking, the next step is to arrange release of the suspect.
  • The main concern is to make sure the suspect will actually appear at their scheduled court hearing.
  • This type of release is only used for less serious crimes and can only be granted by the judge, who will take into consideration:
    • The seriousness of the alleged crime
    • Whether or not the suspect has a previous criminal record—and, if so, its severity
    • If the suspect poses a danger to the community
    • Whether or not the suspect is considered to be a flight risk

Step 3: Bail

  • When a written document is not sufficient to guarantee the suspect will appear at their scheduled court hearing, then that suspect must provide a financial guarantee, known as bail.
  • Bail is the process by which a suspect gives cash, a bond, or property in order to be released from police custody.
  • If the bail amount is paid in full, then a court date will be scheduled.
  • If the suspect appears at all scheduled court hearings, then the bail amount is returned in full; if not, then the suspect is subject to arrest and will forfeit the bail amount.

Step 4: Bail Hearing

  • Hiring a qualified attorney upon being arrested can save a suspect a great deal of money that would otherwise be lost to a bail bondsman.  If the suspect can not afford to pay the initial bail figure in full, their next best option is to use a bondsman.  Bondsmen require a down payment and subsequent payment plan that typically equals ten percent or more of the bail figure.  That means that with a $100,000 bail, a bondsman can typically secure your release if you pay him $10,000.  However, the bondsman will keep your $10,000 even if you show up to all required court appearances.  Alternatively, an experienced attorney can contest  a bail hearing.  At the hearing, a judge may be persuaded to lower your bail to a figure that you can pay in full (and ultimately have refunded in full) or a lower figure that will save you on the bondsman’s percentage fees.
  • In addition to monetary or property bail, the court can place other conditions on the suspect, such as travel restrictions, curfew, and ownership privileges, in addition to drug and alcohol testing or treatment.
  • Bail source hearings may also be required for serious offenses.  At a bail source hearing, an experienced attorney can demonstrate that the funds used for bail came from a lawful source.  Otherwise, you can be prohibited from posting bail and denied your freedom while waiting for your case to proceed.