Unfortunately, we know that bad things can happen to good people. If you just got the call from a loved one asking for bail help, call us immediately 210-224-5245.
First, do not panic
First of all, the most important thing is to not panic. The legal system must follow certain procedures and understanding those will help you through the process. Those procedures and regulations may vary by jurisdiction or state and an attorney or bail bondsman can explain the local process.
Second, think big picture
Second of all, you may be asking yourself if you should bail someone out. Perhaps you are angry, perhaps you feel the need to teach them a lesson, perhaps as a parent you want to give your child a dose of “tough love.” From our perspective, jail can be a brutal, terrifying and very dangerous place, and few lessons worth learning were ever learned in jail. There is time to be frustrated and mad later but think about it, do you really want to leave someone you care about locked in a room with perhaps dozens of violent criminals for an extended period of time? TIP: if you are bailing out someone who may have issues that you think may make them a flight risk – and cost you your bail money – there are steps you can take to protect you. 1. You can require that the defendant accept completion of a treatment program for drug, alcohol, emotional and other problems in order to receive bail. 2. You can also request that the court order frequent check-ins from the defendant as well. 3. If the defendant will not coorporate with you, you can get a list of all required court appearances from the bondsman so you can ensure they make all appearances. 4. You can request the bondsman uses a GPS ankle bracelet on the defendant to track their whereabouts at all times.
Third, be prepared
Third, if you get a call from someone in jail who has just been arrested, it is vital that you get as much information from them as possible. What jail are they in? How long have they been there? When were they arrested? The answers may be necessary for you later to help them or to get a bail set up.
The bail bond process
Many people feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the process so we have put together this simplified chronological guideline for you.
In general, here is the process:
*An arrest occurs when an officer feels a crime has been committed and takes the accused into custody and the arrest is considered complete when the person being arrested is no longer free to walk away.
*After the arrest, the person will be taken to the booking room, usually at the local police station, or jail facility. In some parts of the country, particularly the mid-west getting booked is also known as getting slated.
*During the booking process, the arrested person will be asked to surrender the personal property and money they have on themselves. They will be asked to verify the inventory and the property will be placed in a safe place until it can be returned although perishables may be destroyed. During their time in jail they will not have access to these items including their cell phone, credit cards and money.
Contraband and other illegal substances will be seized, and criminal charges may be brought for their possession or conveyance into a detention facility.
*The arrested person will be asked to provide information about themselves such as name, address, birthdate and similar information. Fingerprints and a photo will also be taken as well as a check for warrants, and a background check. Some facilities have the capability to do a national background check as well. The inmate is interviewed by various people, receive a medical intake screening, and standard jail issued clothing, bedding, and toiletry items.
*After being processed and entered in to the computer database (booked), some jurisdictions allow the arrested person to make a telephone call. This call is meant for the purpose of obtaining a lawyer or securing bail. In some cases, a call can be placed to someone like a family member to arrange an attorney or bail. The phone call may be allowed before the defendant is taken to a cell, or in some cases there is a pay phone within a cell. The call must typically be done by “collect call.” TIP: a jailer I interviewed mentioned to me that some defendants turn their cell phone in, and then realize once in their cell that they don’t have or can’t remember their important phone numbers. In the cell holding area, often there is only a pay phone and you have to know the number you are calling to use it to make a collect call. Often, we plug numbers into our phone and only make calls by using the contact list. Unlike the old days, cell phones have made it so convemient that we don’t have to learn the numbers. If you don’t have your numbers memorized, ask if you can write them down before turning in your phone.
*This entire process of being booked can take anywhere from less than an hour to several hours depending on how efficient and busy the jail is.
*At this point, all information will be sent to the prosecuting office to determine what, if any charges are to be filed. WARNING: the prosecutors usually have the right to change the charges later and they often do.
*Next will be an appearance in court usually called an arraignment or “first appearance”. The judge will ask if attorney representation is needed. You can ask to be represented by a public Defender and if deemed indigent by the court, an attorney will be provided. Often, however, a defendant feels it is in their best interest to hire a private attorney. The arrested person may at this time be asked if they plead guilty or not guilty, or in some cases, no contest.
*Depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances, the judge may set bail at this time. The bail amount can vary widely and depend on the charge and other contributing factors. The judge will look at things such as if the defendant has a criminal history, or a history of not showing up for court appearances, whether the defendant is a risk to others, whether the defendant has ties to the community, the stability of residence, work history and the nature of the crime. The bail will usually be refunded upon completion of the trial, regardless of the verdict. Without bail, the defendant will remain in jail until the conclusion of their trial.
After posting the bail, the release process is started for the defendant. The defendant is brought from their cell, personal belongings are returned, computer information is be updated and the defendant will be given paperwork detailing when and where they are to appear.