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How Bail Works In A Criminal Case

Posted by Vitaly Sigal | Mar 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

When a person is arrested for a crime, one of the first things that their family or friends look for is a way to get him or her out of jail. That is why often their first call is to a bail agent rather than a criminal defense lawyer. This almost always a mistake and later in this article, I will discuss why.

Before I get to that, I will first explain the concept of bail.

What is Bail?

Bail is a deposit of money that secures a Defendant's appearance in court. The money is deposited in an escrow account with the court and held there while the case is pending. Once the bail is posted and the money is deposited the Defendant is released from custody.

If the Defendant appears for all court hearings, then the money is returned in full to the person or entity that posted the bail at the end of the case. If, however, a person fails to appear for a court hearing, the full amount if the bail money deposited is forfeited and lost.

What is a Bail Agent?

Most people choose not to post bail themselves but rather use a bail agent to do so for them. When a bail agent posts bail the agent, using a surety company, deposits the bail money. For this service, a bail agent will charge a fee that is based on a percentage of the amount to be posted. The bail agent may also require collateral in terms of property to secure the bail.

If a person that is not represented by a criminal defense lawyer calls a bail agent, the fee will generally be 10%. Most times, if a criminal defense lawyer is the one making the phone call, the fee and the payment terms will be a lot less.

Bail in a Felony Case

The bail in a felony case is set by the police once a person is taken into custody. To do so, they use something called a felony bail schedule to determine what the amount of the bail will be. This system of determining bail amounts can be problematic for the Defendant and the people posting bail as I discuss further.

Once a case is filed, the judge hearing the criminal case will have the final say as to the amount of bail. Many times, the charges for which a person was arrested can differ from what the police cite in their bail determination and the bail amount may change. If the bail goes up then the person is taken back into custody and the family must either pay more money to get them out again or they will have spent money on bail for no reason.

Likewise, the bail may be lowered by a judge if the case is properly argued by a criminal defense lawyer at the first hearing. The court also uses the felony bail schedule in their bail determination but unlike the police, a judge can make a determination based on the individual circumstances of a case rather just going off a list. Many times, in the past I have been able to get my client out of jail with no need to post bail at all.

Only a criminal defense attorney with knowledge of the facts of a particular case can properly advise you as to what may happen in any given case. That is why it is crucial that a criminal defense lawyer and not a bail agent evaluate your case before any action is taken.

Bail in a Misdemeanor Case

Unlike, felonies release without the need to post bail is a right a person has in a misdemeanor case unless there is a showing by the government that there is a special need for bail. Even if the police require bail on a misdemeanor case, usually a person will be released if they wait until they see a judge after their arrest. This usually happens within 48 hours of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays.

Calling a Criminal Lawyer First Will Save You Money

I have touched upon this in other parts of this article but it bears repeating in a separate section. When a person is sick, their first call if to a doctor. Likewise, when someone's pipes burst they call a plumber. For some reason however, when they get arrested, they call a bail agent and not a lawyer and often get bad advice that will have lasting repercussion.

When my clients need bail, I shop around on their behalf and try to get them the best deal possible. Many times, I can get them a bail for a much lower percentage and other times, I can arrange a bail with no money down or no collateral. These are terms that you cannot get if you were to call the agent yourself.

Similarly, if a criminal defense lawyer is able to see a judge before the bail is posted, the bail may be lowered or eliminated altogether. This requires a criminal defense attorney to be properly advised of the facts and circumstance not only of the case but of the individual he or she is representing.

Lastly, it is not always in the best interest of the person in custody to have bail posted on their behalf immediately after arrest. Only a criminal defense lawyer with knowledge of situation can properly advise you of the specific aspects of any given case.

For a free no obligation consultation and case evaluation, please contact our office at (818) 325-0570.

About the Author

Vitaly Sigal

Vitaly Sigal Sigal Law Group Owner 355 S. Grand Ave, Suite 2450 Los Angeles, CA 90071 (213) 620-0212 Vitaly Sigal has extensive trial experience and is not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. From straightforward to complex litigation, Mr. Sigal handles every case with the same i...


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