When someone is arrested, he or she is first taken to a police station to be booked. When a suspect is booked, or processed, a police officer records information about the suspect (name, address, birthday, appearance) and the alleged crime. The police officer conducts a criminal background check and takes the suspect’s fingerprints and mugshots. Then the officer seizes and inventories any personal property, which will be returned when the suspect is released. The suspect is also checked to see if he or she is intoxicated and usually is allowed to make a phone call. Finally, an officer puts the suspect in a jail cell, usually with other recently booked suspects.
For less serious crimes, a suspect may be allowed to post bail immediately after being booked. Otherwise, the suspect will have to wait (usually less than 48 hours) for a bail hearing where a judge will determine if the accused is eligible for bail and at what cost.
The amount of bail depends on the severity of the crime but is also at the judge’s discretion. Some jurisdictions have bail schedules which recommend a standard bail amount.
In determining bail, a judge may take into account this amount but will also consider the defendant’s criminal record (if any), his or her history of showing up for past court appearances, ties to the community, whether the suspect is a danger to others, and any other concerns that may be raised by the defendant’s attorney.
Once a court has set the amount of your bail, that amount, or a specified percentage, must be “posted,” or paid to the court. Generally, you can pay in cash or an approved cash substitute, such as a money order or cashier’s check. Once you’ve posted bail, the court will issue a document or an order that shows you may be released.
Common Types of Bail
Cash bail means that the accused pays the full amount of bail in cash. Sometimes the court accepts checks or even a credit card.
(Ford Bail Bonds provides Surety Bond for the defendant)
Also called a bail bond, a surety bond can be used for any amount of bail, but it is especially useful when the accused can’t afford to pay his or her bail. This type of bail often involves a friend or relative of the accused contacting a bail agent, also known as a bail bondsman. A bail agent is backed by a special type of insurance company called a surety company and pledges to pay the full value of the bond if the accused doesn’t appear in court. In return, the bail agent charges his client a fee for this service.
By getting a friend or relative involved, the bail agent hopes that the defendant feels compelled to appear in court, since this friend or relative is probably paying the bail agent’s premium and has collateral on the line. The bail agent’s bond is also at stake, and if the defendant doesn’t appear in court (known as skipping or jumping bail), then it will be the agent who’s responsible for paying the entire bond.
If the defendant skips a court date, the bail agent, and even the family or friends of the defendant, might seek out a bounty hunter, assuming it’s legal in that state.
Release on Citation (Cite Out)
In some cases, an officer will not book a suspect at all but will instead issue a citation saying that the accused must appear in court. While this process is less thorough than taking a suspect to a police station and performing the formal booking procedure, it allows the arresting officer to focus on catching more serious offenders.
Release on Own Personal Recognizance
A judge may also choose to release a suspect on his own recognizance, meaning that he is responsible for showing up for court dates and does not have to pay bail. Personal recognizance is usually only allowed when the charge involves a relatively minor, nonviolent crime and if the defendant is not considered a danger to anyone else or a flight risk — meaning that it’s highly unlikely that the person will flee and not appear for his or her court date.
Sometimes a defendant can provide some property to act as a bond. (This is done at the court house, not with a bondsman-except in the case of part of bond being property and the remainder through a bail bondsman.) In these cases, the court gets a lien (essentially a legal claim) on the property in the amount of the bail. If the defendant doesn’t show up for his court appearances, the court can foreclose on the property to recover the forfeited bail.
*The amount in which you can do a property bond is determined by the equity in the home.