Bail bonds help those who have been arrested stay out of jail until their trial. In general, if you’ve been arrested and charged, you’ll stay in jail until you can get a pre-trial bail hearing, at which point the magistrate will decide what to do. Once you know what your bail is, you and your family and friends can arrange to pay it and get you out. No one wants to be behind bars for any longer than they need to, but figuring out how long you might be in jail pre-trial can be tricky. By the way, never discuss your case with anyone except your attorney. You don’t want what you say being used against you during the trial – or during your bond hearing.
What Is the Bail Bond Process?
The bail process is rather simple. When you’re arrested, you’re placed in jail until you have a hearing with a magistrate. This initial hearing must happen within 48 hours of you being taken into custody. During this hearing, the magistrate has to inform you of certain rights you have and procedures you can request. This is also when bail is set, and in Texas, most people have the right to bond out of jail. Only capital murder cases and certain other cases at the discretion of the judge are not able to post bail.
The type and severity of the charges, your prior history, your potential for flight (i.e., skipping out and not showing up to your trial as promised), and your potential to be a danger to others all play a role in what your bail will be. The magistrate may set a monetary value that you pay in full or by using a bond, or you can be released on a personal recognizance bond, in which you pay nothing. The magistrate will also set conditions for your release that you have to follow carefully, such as restrictions on travel.
The point of bail is to give people an incentive to show up for their trial. If they had no reason to go, other than honesty, a lot of people would skip out. By forcing people to put up money or other valuables as collateral, with the stipulation that skipping out means losing that money (but showing up means getting it back), courts get a much larger percentage of people actually showing up for trial.
Can You Bond out on a Felony Charge in Texas?
Yes, you can actually bond out on a felony charge. Again, capital murder is the only charge that flat-out isn’t eligible for bond. The judge can withhold bond in certain cases, such as when the accused is a flight risk. But other than that, if you can pay the bond or get out on personal recognizance, a felony charge, in general, shouldn’t stop you.
You are by no means the only person who has had to go through the bail process with a felony charge. However, it may certainly feel like it as you await your pre-trial hearing. Don’t be surprised if you have a high bail amount. This is normal, especially if you have more severe charges. For example, a state jail felony may have a bail of only $1,500, but a second-degree felony can command a bail as high as $50,000.
At your bail hearing, you’ll have a chance, along with your attorney, to request lowered bail or find out if you’re eligible for release on personal recognizance.
If you don’t have the cash to pay the entire bail, you contact a bail bondsman. The bond company will have you pay a percentage of the bail amount (typically around 10 percent), and the bond company will pay your bail. If you skip out and don’t go to your trial, you’re responsible for paying the entire bond to the bond company.
What Can Delay a Release Once Bail Is Ready?
There are a number of factors that can delay your release, many of which are out of your and the court’s control. Typically, once bail is ready and you have a bond or cash ready to go, you could be out of jail anywhere from a couple of hours afterward to 12 or 13 hours. However, factors that could delay your release include staffing levels and traffic, how much paperwork has to be filled out, technical glitches, and simply waiting your turn. If the jail is crowded and understaffed, and if there’s a ton of paperwork to fill out, you could be waiting for a longer time.
Attempts to Reform the Bail Process in Texas
It’s an interesting time to deal with bail in Texas. The government is looking at reforming the bail system in a way that could make it a bit harder to get out, although most of the effects seem to be on personal recognizance bonds. Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants to make it more difficult for dangerous felons to be released on bail, and both the House and Senate in the Texas legislature filed bills supporting this effort. (The bills originally died when Texas Democrats fled the state, but the Lege brought the bills back during a special session in July 2021.) These twin bills require bail for felonies to be monetary; in other words, no more personal recognizance releases for those accused of felonies. The aim is to make it harder for dangerous felons to be back out on the streets. However, critics say it doesn’t stop the release of dangerous felons as they can still post cash bail, and it will stop the release of poorer people who might have benefited from personal recognizance bonds.
How does that affect you? If you were hoping to be released on a PR bond because you have little money, you might no longer have that chance if these bills become law. It would be necessary to contact a bail bond company to ensure you can be released from jail if you end up with an unaffordable bail amount.
Don’t Take Chances With Your Future
If you’ve been charged with a DWI, you could face higher bail amounts. And if that bail reform passes, you won’t have a chance to negotiate for a personal recognizance bond. Instead of resigning yourself to a few months behind bars as you wait for trial, contact Stephen Bowling DWI & Criminal Defense Attorneys to discuss your case and the bail process.