Picture this scenario: you were arrested and charged with a crime, for which you were put in jail. During your bail hearing, the judge determines that you are entitled to bail, and sets the amount of your bail. You are returned to jail pending the time when your bail is posted to the satisfaction of the court.
What do you do next?
Most states have what is called a bail schedule, which is a set schedule of bail amounts which are determined depending on the severity of the crime committed. The quickest way for you to get out of jail would be to pay the amount of bail set in the bail schedule. In certain jurisdictions, you can do this without the need for seeing a judge but deal directly with the law enforcement officers and jail authorities. This may seem like the simplest solution, because it is the quickest way to get out of jail, and even if you wait for a hearing before a judge, bail will likely be set in the same amount, since judges follow bail schedules too, right?
Not necessarily. Remember that judges have wide discretion in setting bail, and while they may increase the amount of bail, or deny bail altogether, they may also reduce the amount of bail, or choose to let a defendant go on his own recognizance, without requiring any bail.
In any case, once bail is set, the defendant has at least three options of posting bail and securing his release:
- By putting up a cash bond in the amount of the bail with the court;
- Providing security other than cash, in the form of valuable property such as real property, with the court;
- Entering into a contract with a bail bondsman, paying the bail bondsman fee, whereby the bail bondsman will put up a security bond with the court on your behalf
Of course, the one other option you have is not paying bail in any form and thus staying in jail. This is not advisable, however, not only because of the proven negative impact that staying in jail has on an individual but also because of the restrictions you will suffer as a result. A defendant in a criminal trial may still have personal responsibilities or responsibilities to his family, such as paying rent and providing money for food and other expenses. You may end up losing your job because you will not be able to go to work as a result of being detained. Add to all that the financial cost of hiring a lawyer to defend you, and the necessity of meetings with your legal representative to prepare for your defense. Statistics show that defendants who are detained before and during the trial are much more likely to be found guilty, and to be given a longer sentence, than those who were able to secure their release from pretrial detention.
Each of these options come with their own respective advantages and disadvantages, but for a person with limited resources, going to a bail bondsman might be their only feasible option.
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