After an arrest, the next step in the legal process is the arraignment. This is when the judge announces the formal charges against you and determines your bail amount. Court dates can be set for weeks, or even months, in the future. This can quickly lead to overcrowded jails if release isn't arranged for the more minor crimes. The options depend upon the judge, your background, and the nature of the crime.
Option #1: Released Without Bail
If you don't have a criminal history, aren't considered a flight risk, and the crime is minor – usually a misdemeanor – you may be released from jail on your own recognizance. This doesn't mean that the charges are dropped. In this case you will still need to return for your assigned court date. Failure to do so will result in an arrest warrant, heavy fines, or both.
Option #2: Released With Bail
Bail is a far more common option. In this case, you will have to pay the court the amount of money set by the judge before you are released. Then, this money will be refunded to you when you arrive for your court date. You get the money back no matter the final verdict in your case as long as you show for all necessary court appearances. The amount of bail can vary widely, even for the same crimes, since it is determined not just by the nature of the crime, but how likely you are to offend again and whether or not you pose a flight risk.
Tips for Securing Bail Money
You may not have sufficient funds on hand to cover bail, depending on the amount. The following are three options that are commonly available:
Personal loans: Bail money doesn't have to come out of your personal bank account, so you can borrow money from friends and family to cover the amount. It's unlikely that a bank will issue you a personal loan for bail, but you may be able to pay bail using a credit card or a line of credit you already have. Just make sure to pay back your family, credit card, or line of credit promptly once you receive the bail back after your court appearance.
Real Estate in Lieu: Some courts allow you to sign over assets in lieu of cash for your bail amount. This is usually limited to deeds to homes, businesses, or property, although it may extend to other assets like cars or boats. The court will hold a lien over the asset until you have fulfilled your court appearance responsibility. This means you will forfeit all ownership if you fail to show, even if the property is valued at more than the bail.
Bail Agency: Using a bail agency or bondsman is one of the most common choices. These businesses lend you the bail money for a set fee, usually a percentage of the bail amount. You will need to come up with this percentage and pay it to the agency before they will cover your bail, so they are effectively paid for the service up front. You will also need a friend or family member to act as the indemnitor. This person accepts the responsibility of paying back the bail to the agency if you fail to show up for your court date. If you do miss your court date, the agency will search for you so your arrest warrant can be served. They will also begin collection proceedings against your indemnitor.
Contact a professional bail bonds service, like All-Mobile Bail Bonds, for more information on how to proceed with bail.
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