What You Need to Know About Bail, Arrests, Detention, and Bonds

Bail bonds are often the last element in a bail proceeding with which a defendant is acquainted with, after the entire preliminary criminal justice process, beginning with the arrest, detention, and bail. In this article, we take a look at how these different things eventually lead to a defendant in a criminal case seeking a bail bond.

Caught and Arrested

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A law enforcement officer will arrest a person or take them into custody if they commit a crime. This can happen if a police officer catches you in the act; immediately after committing a crime when there is probable cause of your guilt; if there is a warrant issued for your arrest; or after a long series of investigations when probable cause has been found that you could have committed the crime under investigation. In any case, a law enforcement officer will place you under arrest, inform you of your rights (called the Miranda rights), and take you into police custody where you will be placed in jail after having been booked and processed. It may be said that the wheels of the criminal justice system officially start to roll when a person is arrested or taken into custody.

The booking or processing of arrested persons usually involves recording various information – about yourself, the alleged crime, background checks, etc. Being searched for dangerous weapons or illicit substances comes automatically after an arrest, and should these be found, they will be confiscated. The history of a person is inquired into, whether or not they have a criminal record in the past, and the details of where they live and work. After being booked or processed, the person is then brought to jail or a police holding cell, ideally to be detained until his trial could start, and his guilt or innocence determined.

Detention and Bail

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The original intention of pretrial detention was reasonable enough. You are not being imprisoned as a form of punishment, but you are being “held” pending trial so that you can be brought to the court when your case is to be heard. But because of the increasing volume of cases that are being heard by courts, the schedule of your court appearance may often be pushed back for an unreasonable length of time – days, weeks, even months or years, so that pretrial detention begins to seem more like actual jail time and punishment. This is part of the reason why defendants seek bail as a relief.

Despite the large volume of cases that are being heard by a court, a defendant has the right to be brought before the judge at the earliest possible opportunity for his bail hearing. During this bail hearing, a judge will determine whether or not your case is bailable, whether you are entitled to bail depending on your personal circumstances and on additional factors such as your being a possible flight risk or a possible danger to the community. If no reason could be seen not to grant you your bail, bail will be set. Either there will be no conditions and a defendant can be released on his own recognizance, or some form of monetary amount will be set as bail amount, plus other conditions that a judge may determine to be necessary. The decision that a judge makes in this instance, including whether or not bail should be granted and how much the bail amount should be, will be based upon a judge’s assessment of the overall impact of the charges filed against you and your personal circumstances. The ultimate goal is to make sure that you will appear in court.

It is also during the bail hearing that a defendant, through his counsel, will put forth arguments that may seek to challenge or modify the judge’s decision, such that bail be allowed where it was denied, or that a lower bail amount be set. The possible scenarios are that a person is denied bail, is released on his own recognizance or is granted release once the bail amount and other additional conditions are satisfied.

Bail Bonds

The amount of bail that is set is intended to ensure a defendant’s appearance in court. While there is a constitutional provision against excessive bail, neither should the bail amount be small enough as to be practically negligible. More often than not, in fact, bail is set at an amount that is beyond the financial capacity of the accused to fulfill. This is the time that a defendant seeks the assistance of a bail bondsman.

The basic service of a bail bondsman is to assist you in being released from jail by putting up a surety bond on your behalf in exchange for a non-refundable bail bondsman’s fee. This fee is often a lot lower than the bail amount and is often statutorily regulated at about 10 to 15 percent of the total bail amount. If things go without a hitch, then bail is satisfied, and you can be released from pretrial detention.