California Bail Bonds
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What happens if you get arrested in California?
If a loved one or family member is arrested, your first thought is probably how to get him/her out of jail as quickly as possible. Many people are not familiar with the bail process. After law enforcement brings the arrestee to a city or county jail, there will be a bail hearing where a judge will set the bail amount according to the bail schedule. The bail amount must be paid for the arrestee to be released while awaiting the trial date. There may not be a bail amount set at all, however, or the arrestee may not be given the option of release depending on the severity of the charges and the prior record of the arrestee.
How do I pay bail in California?
Navigating the bail system can be confusing, and most of the time, you are navigating it while stressed and worried about a loved one or family member. Once the bail amount is set for the defendant, you have the option of paying cash to the county court. This is also known as "cash bail." Once you have paid the bail amount to the court, the defendant will be released until the court appearance and not have to wait in jail for the court date. If the defendant fails to appear for the trial, you may forfeit the money that you paid for bail. However, if the defendant does make the court appearance, you will get the full bail amount refunded back to you at the conclusion of the trial.
If you are unable to pay the bail amount in cash, you will need to engage a bail bond agent to post the bail money. Since a bail bond is a form of insurance, the insurance company charges a premium for performing this service. The premium (usually 10% of the bail amount) is collected by the bail bond agent, who pays the insurance company for guaranteeing the defendant’s appearance in court. The bail bond agent keeps part of the premium to compensate him for his services. Most bail bondsmen accept credit cards for the amount of the premium. Additional collateral may be required, if the defendant is considered a flight risk. A cosigner is often required, if the defendant’s credit worthiness is questionable. The bail bond is a form of performance bond that acts as a guarantee that the defendant appears in court. If the defendant fails to appear, the collateral can be foreclosed on by the insurance company to pay the bail amount to the court. The bail bondsman may also employ the services of a bounty hunter to bring the defendant to the county jail if he/she fails to appear.
How are bail schedules (or bail amounts) set in the state of California?
In California, similarly to other states, the bail schedules are set at the county level. Bail for the same offense could be different in Los Angeles than in San Diego or Sacramento. Bail will be based on a variety of factors. The seriousness of the offense is the primary determining factor for the bail amount. A minor first offense or misdemeanor will require the lowest bail amounts, if bail is set at all. Sometimes the judge will determine bail is not needed, if he believes the defendant can be relied upon to appear in court on his own recognizance. The more serious the crime, the higher the bail schedule amount, and the risk that the defendant may not be eligible for release on bail at all. Bail can be set as high as $250,000 or even more for serious or violent crimes. The criminal history of the defendant plays a role in the amount of bail as well. A repeat offender may be considered more likely to commit other crimes after being released, so bail may be set higher by the judge. Finally, if the defendant is considered a flight risk the judge may increase the amount of the bail or deny bail. Obviously, a previous missed court appearance or bond forfeiture will be a red flag to a judge, so he will want to make sure the financial incentive to appear in court is high enough.
A criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and advocate for a speedy release
Remember that the 8th amendment states Americans are entitled to fair bail and a speedy trial, so if you feel that the bail amount is disproportionate to the crime, seek legal counsel.