You are really never prepared for those unexpected emergencies: the late-night phone call of a frantic family member or friend explaining they have been arrested and taken to jail is one such situation. Your first thoughts are of how you can help get them released from jail as quickly as possible.
A bail bondsman is often the fastest and easiest way to help bail out your friend or family member. It’s important for you to know how the bail process works from start to finish, so that you can know what to expect along the way.
Arrest and Booking
When someone is taken into custody, they will be transported to jail for arrest and booking. This process will consist of fingerprinting, photographs (“mug shots”), a background check and nationwide warrant search.
The defendant will be searched for any weapons or contraband, and personal belongings such as jackets, wallets, purses and cell phones will be collected and held until their release from the jail. This process generally takes from 2-6 hours to complete, but could be significantly longer depending on how busy jail staff is with processing other arrestees.
The defendant’s bail amount will be set after the booking process has been completed and they will be able to make arrangements to post bail. They will have access to a phone to make calls to a friend or family member, lawyer, or bail bondsman.
Several factors will be taken into consideration when a defendant’s bail amount is set. Bail in California is set by the use of county bail schedules. Judges will take into account any criminal history; a repeat offender will likely be given a higher bail amount than someone who has no criminal record.
The severity of the criminal charges is another key factor when a judge sets the bail amount. The more serious the defendant’s charges, the higher their bail amount. A judge will also determine if the individual is considered a “flight risk”, meaning that they are not likely to reappear for court. Bail amounts could be set higher for anyone the judge fears will not return to court.
Bailing Someone Out
Bail amounts are often set high for a reason: to make sure the defendant comes back to face the charges against them. This amount could be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most people don’t have the means to pay such a large amount of money. They may need to put up their home for collateral in order to secure the release of their loved one.
If you wish to pay the full bail amount, it will have to be done by cash or cashier’s check directly to the jail or courthouse. If the defendant makes it to all court appearances, this money will be returned to you once the case has been concluded. However, it could be months or even years before you see your money again.
The option that most people choose is to work with a bail bondsman. This could be the most affordable solution for you. Each state sets regulations on how much can be charged for a bail bond. In most states, the cost of a bail bond is 10%. For example, if the defendant’s bail is $20,000, then you will pay a bondsman $2,000 to bail out your friend or family member. This is a fee and is not returned.
When you agree to sign a bail bond contract with a bondsman, you will become the “indemnitor.” This means that you agree to be financially responsible for the contract. You must make certain that the defendant makes it to all scheduled court appearances.
If the defendant “fails to appear,” your bondsman can help you get them back on track. Simple mistakes such as oversleeping or car trouble can generally be addressed with a couple of simple phone calls.
If, on the other hand, the defendant flees, or “jumps bail,” you will be responsible for helping the bondsman track down the defendant and get them back into the court system.
It’s a stressful time when someone you care about is in jail. You want to make sure they are released as quickly and safely as possible. Before you decide to take on the responsibility of bailing them out, though, you need to be certain that the defendant is going to do what needs to be done and face their charges in court.