The beginning of the formal criminal process generally begins with an arrest. This can happen either by a warrant (authorization to “seize” you by law enforcement) or by an on-the-spot arrest (generally issuing a citation or citations). So now you are in jail. What now?
For minor misdemeanors resulting in arrest, some bail amounts are pre-set at the jail. That means you do not have to appear before a magistrate to have a monetary amount set. However, for most misdemeanors and all felonies, you will appear before a magistrate judge to determine whether to release you from jail pending court and under what conditions of release (generally money and/or no contact orders). This generally happens between 24 to 48 hours of arrest.
You are entitled to have a lawyer present at this hearing to argue for your release under “reasonable conditions.” This is even more important for serious crimes. Important practical considerations to the bail question are:
- Criminal History: the worse your history, the less likely you are getting out or the highest your bail amount.
- Ties with Community: it helps to live, have family, and work in the local area.
- Severity of the Crime: obviously, the more severe the crime, the more difficult it is to obtain bail. Nevertheless, even people charged with serious crimes are granted bail, so don’t through the towel in with a serious charge.
- Hire a lawyer! In my opinion, showing up with a lawyer shows the District Attorney and Judge that you mean business regarding the charges and are prepared to defend yourself. Lawyers can be convincing people to judges if they are on the fence.
So if bail is set, what then? You can post your BOND two different ways. First, you can post the entire amount of the bond. At the conclusion of your criminal case, you will get all of this money back! Second, if you cannot post your entire bail, then you can use a bondsman. You generally will pay the bondsman 10% of the bail amount, and they will secure the rest with the court under “bond.” Friends and family members can post bonds for you, as well.
What if bail is not set? It depends. Call our office immediately to discuss, because there are many different aspects that may affect future bail requests.
Military Personnel: Generally, your chain of command or MP’s can come and get you immediately. This is called being returned to military control. This could save you some money, but alert your command to potential misconduct.