For a vast majority of people, it is not feasible to spend weeks or months in jail awaiting court dates or a trial. That is why every defendant, except in extenuating circumstances, is offered a reasonable bail they can pay to be released from jail. This bail payment is considered a form of collateral to ensure that you will appear in court after your release from jail. If you have never had to deal with posting bail before, it can be extremely confusing and scary, especially when your bail is set somewhere in the thousands and you have no idea where you're going to get the money to pay it.
Your first call after your arrest should be to secure yourself a criminal defense attorney, before your bail hearing. Any time you enter a court room, your criminal defense attorney should be at your side, ready to fight for you. At TF Law, we believe that every defendant has the right to experienced and dedicated council, and always provide our clients with the best legal representation possible. We handle most criminal cases in the Upstate of South Carolina. Our office is located in downtown Greenville at 819 E North St. Suite 234. Contact us today to discuss your options with an attorney.
What Is Bail?
In most cases, when a person is arrested they will have a bail hearing within 24-48 hours, unless you are arrested on a Friday, in which case your bail hearing will be on the following Monday. At your bail hearing, the judge will review the crimes you have been charged with and decide an amount of money you must pay if you wish to be released before your court date.
This bail payment is used as a deposit, which you will be refunded upon your presence in court at the agreed upon time. If you do not show up to court, your bail payment will be forfeited, and a warrant will be placed for your arrest. Bail amounts, The average bail payment is $10,000 for felonies, and around $2000 or below for misdemeanors, which can be a lot of money to pay out of pocket for most people.
If you are planning on paying out of pocket, or if someone else is paying for you, you can make payments directly to the court. This should be done in cash, since most courts charge extra, very expensive fees in order for you to pay with a credit card. You will then have to sign the bail agreement, stating that you have been informed of when you must appear in court and you will be in court at that time, or else a warrant will be released for your arrest and you will forfeit your bail money.
If a warrant is released for your arrest, you may find yourself also dealing with a bounty hunter, or a bail recovery agent, on top of the police looking for you.
I Can't Afford My Bail
If you can't afford to pay your bail in cash, you can go through a bail bond program or bail bond agency to have a licensed bail agent pay your bail for you. In most states you have to pay 10%-20% down in order to qualify to work with bail bond companies, in Illinois that number is 10% down. That downpayment is used as a fee for using the bail bond services, and you will not receive it back. Once you have paid this bail fee, the bail bondsmen will pay your bail, which they will receive back in full when you attend your court date.
Learn More: What To Do After a DUI in Greenville
When you sign an agreement with a bail bondsmen, you will also have to sign a surety bond, or surety agreement. This agreement states that if you do not show up in court, and the money that they bail bond agent paid for your release from jail is forfeited to the court system, you are responsible for every penny of that money and must repay the bail bondsman.
I Was Denied Bail, What Can I Do?
In certain circumstances, a judge will deny a defendant bond. The most common reason for this is the defendant being a flight risk, though bond may also be denied if the crime was especially heinous and the judge believes the defendant is still a danger to others. This can apply to any violent crime, or crime that may carry a sentence of life, or the death penalty. If a judge rules that you are a flight risk, there isn't much you can do, especially if you do not have ties to the local community, have previously fled while under bond, or have an excess of financial funds.
The judge will keep any person in jail that they believe will not return for their date. An experienced defense attorney may be able to fight to have you realized under house arrest with a monitor on, or broker you a deal to turn over your passport and have your assets frozen so that you cannot afford to run. However, if you are denied bail, it is most likely you will have to stay in custody until your court or trial date.
What Is A Recognizance Bond?
On the opposite end of being denied bail, you may be eligible to be released without having to pay bail at all. Known as "being released on your own recognizance", a judge may decide that you can be trusted to return of your own accord for your court dates. You will be required to sign paperwork stating that you know when you are meant to appear in court, and you will appear, under the risk of being arrested if you do not. Being released from jail on your own recognizance will depend on your criminal charges, your criminal history, and, in a lot of cases, how experienced your criminal defense attorney is.
There Is No Need To Spend More Time In Jail Than Necessary
While most people know that you need to hire legal representation before your court date or criminal proceedings, the best idea is to hire your attorney before your bail hearing. With an attorney on your side, it is more likely you may be released on your own recognizance, or be assigned a much lower bail amount. This is because experienced Greenville defense attorneys like what a judge looks for when setting bail amounts, and can help you conform into what the judge wants to see.
If you have been arrested in Greenville, SC or anywhere in the Upstate, call TF Law criminal defense law firm as soon as possible for a free consultation to discuss your case and bail options, and get you back on the right track.