In the state of California, when a person has been arrested and charged with a crime, their first court date can be scheduled up to 48 hours after their arrest. If the defendant is not released after their initial court hearing, they will have a second court date. This date may be weeks or even months away, and unless the defendant is in a position to post bail, he/she will have to remain in jail at least until the trial. Then, depending on the outcome of the case, the accused will either be remanded to prison or some other facility, or released.
Obviously, no one wants to spend weeks, perhaps months, in a jail cell awaiting trial, and normally a judge will set bail. The amount of bail may differ greatly depending on the criminal charge and the judge. Although judges have certain standards to go by, they also have considerable leeway in setting bail.
Setting a bail amount
Once a judge has set bail, the accused may post a cash bond with the magistrate and thus secure release. However, it is unusual for most persons to be in a position to post as much as $100,000.00 or even much larger amounts.
The judge will take the charges against the prisoner, the prisoner’s past criminal history, the prisoner’s presumed flight risk and other factors into account when setting bail. The most common method of securing release from jail while awaiting trial is to have a member of the family or close friend visit a bail bondsman.
Bail bondsmen are licensed brokers and many have offices in the neighborhood of the local jail, but others may have offices in other parts of a city.
Cost of a bail bond in California
In California, the usual cost of having a bondsman post bail is ten percent of the amount of bail. Therefore, if bail has been set at $100,000.00, the prisoner or a friend or relative will have to pay $10,000 to the bail bondsman. This amount is not refundable. It should be considered the cost of purchasing a bond. Sometimes in California, if a prisoner’s attorney refers the prisoner to a bail bondsman, the cost may be reduced to 8% or $8,000.00 for a hundred thousand dollar bond.
How bail works
When the bondsman posts bail, it is equivalent to signing a contract with the court promising to assure the appearance of the accused. Upon having posted the bond, the prisoner will be released.
This bond assures the court that the prisoner will appear on the appointed date at the appointed time. It is extremely important that the accused comply because failure to appears means forfeiting the entire amount of bail.
Although the bondsman will have been paid 10% of the amount as his fee, he is now obligated to pay the entire $100,000.00 to the court in the event that the accused fails to appear.
What happens if the defendant doesn’t appear in court?
Often, if the accused fails to appear, the court allows the bondsman a certain time to produce the accused. The bondsman may send a bounty hunter to track the accused down and hopefully bring him or her back to the court. A bounty hunter has something of the authority of a police officer in tracking and apprehending a defendant. Sometimes, however, a defendant cannot be found, or will have left the country.
Naturally, few bail bondsmen are going to simply take anyone’s word that the accused will appear in court, so they will demand collateral. This is frequently real property, and may sometimes be the personal home of the accused, or of his parents, etc. If the bondsman has to forfeit the accused’s bail, he will take possession of the pledged property to regain the money he has had to pay to the court.
Unfortunately, this can be a terrible hardship on a family that may have pledged its personal home to secure the bond. Therefore it is extremely for anyone who is asked to post bond for another person, to exercise extreme caution, considering the possible consequences. It even more important for a defendant to remember the penalty others may have to pay in the event that he or she fails to appear as promised.