California Bail Explained

August 31, 2015

When someone is arrested for a crime, they have a constitutional right to go before a judge within 48 hours of their arrest if they are still in custody. Unless there is a no bail hold placed on the suspect or perhaps the crime is so severe the police will hold someone without bail, such as murder, anyone can post bail and be released on their promise to appear in court. For example, if you punch someone in a bar fight and you cause great bodily injury then you will be arrested for battery causing serious bodily harm, a felony. The police will arrest you and take you to jail. The police will set your bail at $20,000. Thus, in order for you to be released on bail, you must pay $20,000. However, there are a substantial number of “Bail Bond” companies you can call to assist you or your family in raising bail.

Bail works like this: If you raise the $20,000 the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will release you based on your payment and promise to appear in court. If you abide by the terms of your bail, at the conclusion of the case, the court will send your $20,000 back in full. The money is only given temporarily and it’s assurance that you will go to court when ordered. If you fail to go to court, then “bail is revoked,” meaning the court will keep the entire $20,000 and a “no bail” warrant will be issued for your arrest.

Should I Hire a Bail Bonds Company?

Hiring a bail bonds company is the most common method of bailing out a loved one from custody. When hiring a bail bonds company, you only raise 10% of the bail amount, and the bail bonds company will raise the remaining 90%. For instance, if you are arrested and your bail is set at $20,000, if you hire a bail bonds company, you only need to raise $2,000. The catch is that you will not be getting the $2,000 back at the conclusion of the case. Think of the 10% as a non-refundable fee the bail bonds company charges for the work and risk they take. Meaning, if you fail to go to court, the bail bonds company will lose that $20,000 and then the bail company will be looking for you, likely hiring a bounty hunter to find you or perhaps go after your personal assets or family assets to make up for the lost money.

In addition, if you have already retained a lawyer prior to posting bail, most bail bonds companies will only charge you 8% of the total bail because when you retain a lawyer, that evidences your willingness to go to court and not skip town. Furthermore, most bail bond companies will accept payment plans as well. For instance, you can place a down payment of 3% of the total bail and make monthly payments to the bonds company – meaning the bonds company will require you to put up front, $600 out of the $20,000. Failure to make timely payments to the bonds company could result in a bail forfeiture and you could be taken back into custody. And note however, usually if your bail amount exceeds $100,000, the bail bonds company will most likely require collateral to place towards the bond amount.

Can my Bail be Reduced?

In order for your bail to be reduced, a judge must order the reduction. Each county in California has their own “bail schedule” for misdemeanors and felony offenses. When you are arrested for a crime, your bail be the exact scheduled amount. Often times, your defense attorney will argue for a bail reduction – i.e., if you are in custody on $100,000 bail, your defense attorney will argue that your bail should be reduced to $50,000 or perhaps you should be released on your own recognizance. Again as noted, the purpose of bail is to ensure you will come back to court and that you will not skip. The two most common legitimate factors the judge will consider are:

1. Does the defendant present a danger to society if he/she is released?

2. Will the defendant skip town if they are released?

If you are charged with selling drugs, then the court will not be concerned with you being a “danger to society” but may question whether you will show up to court if ordered to do so. However, if you are charged with a sex offense against a child, the court may look at whether you are a danger to children if released in addition to skipping town to an international country. Sometimes the court will order you to surrender your passport as a condition of bail to ensure that you do not travel internationally. The may also order other conditions such as protective orders and stay away orders or even ankle monitoring.

When a court releases you on your own recognizance (“OR”), this means that you are not required to “post bail” but the court in essence is allowing you to be released for free on your promise to appear in court. Clearly, getting released on OR is more beneficial which is why most defense attorneys request that their clients be released on OR. The judge will then make the decision on whether to keep bail at the same amount, reduce bail, or allow the defendant to be released on OR. For example, if you were arrested and it’s your first criminal offense, chances are the court will reduce bail or release you OR. Factors the court will consider on whether to reduce the bail amount or release you on OR are:

1. How long has the defendant lived in the Los Angeles community?
2. Does the defendant have family nearby?
3. Does the defendant maintain employment?
4. What is the defendant’s prior criminal record?
5. Is the defendant a United States citizen?
6. What is the defendant charged with and were there any victims?
7. Is the current offense a violent offense?
8. Is the defendant likely to commit another crime if released?

What is a Bail Hearing?

If a judge denies you bail, or does not reduce your bail amount, you may contest the judge’s decision by requesting a “bail hearing.” A bail hearing is a designated date usually within 6 days of someone’s initial court appearance outlining the reasons why you should be granted bail or bail should be reduced, or you should be released OR. The factors a defense attorney will argue are those outlined above. Defense attorneys usually file paperwork with the court along with other documents in support such as character letters etc. Think of a bail hearing as a date where a judge can take a closer look at the circumstances of the case when determining bail.

What is a P.C. 1275 Hearing?

If the prosecution or law enforcement legitimately suspects that the funds used to raise your bail are from an illegitimate source, then they can file a motion with the court prohibiting you from being released until you can prove that the money used to bail you out is coming from a legitimate source. This is known as a 1275 hearing. Most of the time, family members and friends will show up to court with pay stubs and bank statements showing proof that the source of their funds to raise the bail amount are not stemming from criminal activity. For example, if you are arrested for selling narcotics, the police may suspect you will be bailed out with drug money and request that you show proof the funds used are not coming from illegal activity but instead a legitimate source. Usually the bail bonds company will help your defense lawyer in 1275 hearings and perhaps even file the motion on behalf of you.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

For more information, or if you have been arrested for a crime, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers. Call (949) 625-4487 for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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