What is bail?
Bail is a sum of money (certified or cashier’s checks) or bond that you can put in the custody of the court as assurance or surety that you will appear before the court whenever your presence is necessary. This process of paying an amount to the court is referred to as “posting bail.” bail out
What kinds of bail are there?
There is the cash bond. This is allowed but not commonly used. Accused people usually post cash bail when the bail is low. This is when you put a sum of money in the custody of the court. When the charges are dismissed or dropped, or when you are declared not guilty, you can usually get back the cash amount you posted as bail. Cash bond may be forfeited if you fail to appear for court or if you are found to have violated a condition of your bail.
There is a bail bond or a surety bond. This is usually in the form of an insurance policy where you pay a premium to a bondsman (about 10% of the amount of bail set by the court). The bondsman promises the court to find you and bring you before the court to appear during the trial or it will pay the face amount of the bond (the amount of the bail). If you do not appear for trial, the surety or bail bond will be forfeited by the court.
Some bondsmen require a collateral for the bond. An acceptable collateral is a piece of real property (house or land). When the court has forfeited the bond, the bondsman will be required to pay the entire amount of the bail. The bondsman will then put a lien on the real property to answer for the amount of the bail it paid.
When can I post bail?
You can usually post bail when you were arrested without a warrant of arrest. You can post bail after you are charged and booked. This means that you can post bail at the police station where you were arrested or booked. The police usually follow a schedule of amounts of bail that they can charge an accused person. This is called the Uniform Felony Bail Schedule in California.
When an accused posts bail, the accused undertakes to appear in court for arraignment and trial and whenever his or her presence is required by the court.
When can I not post bail?
When you are charge with multiple offenses, or when you are charged with violent and serious felonies, you will not be allowed to post bail prior to appearing in court for your arraignment. This means that after you are arrested and booked, the police will bring you before the judge for your arraignment and for a bail hearing. You will be detained and kept in custody until your arraignment or booking and after the judge determines whether you should be allowed to post bail and how much bail you can post.
When you are charged with a capital crime such as murder, or when you are charged with felony involving violence and here is substantial likelihood that your release would result in great bodily harm to others, you will not be allowed to post bail. In the alternative, you may be allowed to post bail but at an amount that is higher than the uniform schedule of bail. If the judge determines that you are a flight risk or finds evidence that you will flee or pose a danger to others if you post bail, you will be detained while you await trial and during trial.
What is a bail hearing?
A bail hearing is a formal hearing before a judge, usually held after arraignment (when the charges are read to the accused and the accused is asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty). At times, the bail hearing is heard before the same judge who held the arraignment. At the bail hearing, the judge will determine if the accused will be allowed to post bail for his or her temporary liberty and how much bail the accused will post.
Who sets the amount of bail?
It is the judge who sets the amount of bail. At the bail hearing, the police, the prosecutor or district attorney will present reasons or evidence why the bail recommended in the schedule is inadequate for the crime. The prosecutor may ask that no bail be allowed if the accused is a flight risk. The accused or his defense lawyer can ask that bail be set or that the amount of bail be reduced. The accused will usually present evidence of ties to the community that will ensure that they will not flee.
What circumstances influence the amount of bail or whether bail is allowed?
Generally, a schedule of bail amounts guides the court in determining how much bail to set. The schedule is a list of crimes and the bail amount recommended for them. However, in some instances, bail will not be allowed, or, when bail is allowed, the amount of bail will be set by the judge after considering the following circumstances:
- The offense charged — courts set bail higher for felonies than for misdemeanors.
- The residency or citizenship of the accused (if outside the US) and if the accused has a passport
- If the accused is a naturalized citizen and has family in the former country of citizenship
- Outstanding warrants of arrest or pending trial for other charges in the state or outside the state
- If the accused is charged with a second or third offense or strike for the same crime
- If the accused is in violation of a felony probation, mandatory supervision, parole or community supervision
- The amount or value of the things stolen
- The possible sentence that may be passed on the felony charged
- The volume of the prohibited or regulated substances seized (grams, kilograms, or liters)
- The fine attaching to the crime or misdemeanor charged
- If the accused is charged with a misdemeanor and a felony, or for several felonies, the highest bail amount for one felony offense may be set.
- The advanced age or deteriorating health of the accused
What conditions may a judge attach in exchange for reducing my bail?
- The judge may place you under house arrest with electronic monitoring.
- The judge may require you to wear a remote alcohol monitor
- You may be required to surrender your passport and driver’s license
- You will not be allowed to leave the state
- You will be prohibited from having any contact with the victim
What happens to my bail if I fail to appear for my trial?
The court will forfeit your bail and issue a warrant for your re-arrest. This is often called a “bench warrant.” Failing to appear in court while you are out on bail is a misdemeanor in California. So, there will be an additional charge for this misdemeanor.
If you had put up a collateral for your bail bond, the bondsman may sell the property to pay for your bail which will then be forfeited by the court.
What happens if my failure to appear was for a good cause?
The court can revoke the forfeiture of your bail and reinstate your bond if you appear before the court or provide evidence of the good cause why you failed to appear. You can provide a medical certificate that shows illness, injury or hospitalization due to illness or injury. If you were physically or mentally disabled or if you were in custody for another charge in another jurisdiction, these are also good causes for failing to appear for trial.
While you can post bond without a lawyer, you may need the assistance of a lawyer if you are called to appear at a bail hearing or if your bail has been revoked and you seek its reinstatement. Call and speak with any of our criminal defense lawyers at Ramiro J. Lluis Law Office. We are willing to help you.