Bail is a payment made to the court allowing a defendant to be released from custody, and is fully returned once that defendant appears for all court appearances. Courts will also accept property with a value of twice the set bail amount. Instead of paying the full bail amount directly to the court, you have the option of paying a bail bond, usually for a nonrefundable fee of 10% of the bail amount set by the court or police, to a bail company. It is important to know that bondsmen often require collateral, like a financial interest in a car or house, in addition to the bail bond, and that even if you make all scheduled court appointments, the bond seller will keep your 10% fee.
If you can afford to pay the full amount yourself you can save the 10% fee. However, you will be required to attend all court dates otherwise you may lose your freedom and money. Posting the total bail amount with the court will save you money in the end, as the court refunds the entire bail amount and you do not have to pay a 10% fee. Friends or relatives can make the bail payment or buy a bail bond, but if someone else posts bail on your behalf, they will lose the entire bail if you do not appear. You should also know that in addition to forfeiting the bail paid, it is a crime not to appear in court after posting bail.
Bail is usually set by a judge at your first court appearance. Sometimes, it is set at jail, according to a Bail Schedule, which specifies certain amounts depending on the offense. Bail amounts are much higher for felony offenses than misdemeanors. The more serious or violent crimes carry the highest bail. However, judges can increase or lower bail, deny your chance to post bail or release you without posting bail (called Own Recognizance Release or O.R. Release), in some situations. For example, if you have no criminal record, and a job to support your family, a judge might be swayed to lower bail.
If you or a loved one has been arrested, call the Morales Law Firm so we can help guide you through this process.