You’ve just been arrested and taken to jail. But how long will you have to be there? Trials often take place months or even years after the initial arrest. The following will offer a quick overview of bail bonds in Texas so that you will not have to sit in jail any longer than necessary.
If you need help getting a loved one released from custody, call a Fort Worth bail bonds lawyer for help. Our attorneys can explain the process and work to secure a favorable outcome.
What is a Bail Bond?
“Bail” refers to the procedure by which courts allow someone accused of a crime to leave jail while they wait for their trial date. Essentially, it is a payment temporarily made to the court to allow someone out of jail until their trial and acts as an assurance that the arrestee will appear at trial.
Before going any further, it is important to understand the different terminology regarding bail. To make bail, an accused needs a “Bail Bond.” A bail bond is a writing in which the court tells the accused that he can leave jail for now but must be back on a certain date in exchange for something from the accused. What the court gets from the accused can be in the form of a cash bond, surety bond, or a personal bond.
For more information about bail bonds in Texas, please reference the Code of Criminal Procedure 17A.01-02.
Why Hire an Attorney Before You Pay a Bond?
First and foremost, you will have no idea if the bond that was set on your loved one’s case is reasonable or not. An attorney in Fort Worth will be able to determine whether the bail bond is within the range customary to your location. If the bond is excessive, the attorney can ask for the bond to be reduced. This could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. Second, there may be ways to secure a person’s release without a bond, including personal recognizance bonds, and release for mental health supervision.
What is a cash bond?
A cash bond is a payment in cash by the accused for the full amount of bond set by the magistrate. The arrestee will pay either with their own assets or with assets borrowed from friends or family. The arrestee will pay the court up front, be released from jail, and will be refunded completely when they fully comply with their obligation to show up to court.
What is a surety bond?
The most common type of bail bond in Texas, and the kind that most people think of when hearing the term bail bond, is a surety bond. A surety bond is when someone other than the accused accepts liability for ensuring the accused returns to court. This other person is referred to as a surety. Often, the surety is a bail bondsman. Bail bondsmen charge a fee to use their services. The cost of a bail bond will depend on the risk that the bondsman is taking on. Someone who is a flight risk, not from the area, or has a very high bond amount is likely to pay a greater percentage than a person who lives and works locally charged with a lower-level offense.
The accused will not get money paid to a bondsman back – it is the bondsman’s charge for allowing the accused to use their service. In this situation, the accused can merely pay the bondsman’s fee rather than the full bond amount and the bail bondsman will use their own property to pay for the full amount of bond. In this situation, once the accused has fully complied with their obligation to return to court, they will not receive a refund as they did not post any of their own property to the bond. Instead, the surety will be refunded. Be aware that the surety will have a financial interest in making sure that the accused appears at court when required. If the accused fails to appear, the surety may send bounty hunters to find the accused in addition to the police the court will send after the accused for failing to appear. An attorney in Fort Worth who is familiar with the bail bonds process could help to explain these nuances to anyone looking to secure release.
What is a personal recognizance bond?
The final type of bond is a personal recognizance bond, also known as a “P.R. bond.” This is where the court releases someone from jail without making them post a cash or surety bond. Here, the accused’s promise to return is accepted as the bond. Personal bonds are often given after an accused has been deemed likely to return after an interview with a pre-trial release program. Do note that for some crimes (including capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, burglary, and aggravated robbery among others) the magistrate will not be able to authorize a personal bond. Only the court in which the case is pending can authorize a personal bond in those cases.
For more information, please reference the Code of Criminal Procedure 17A.03.
What does a magistrate do when it comes to bonds?
The law requires an arrestee to be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours of arrest. At this hearing the magistrate has several duties to perform. Most of those duties relate to informing the accused of their rights. The magistrate also determines if a bond should be set, and the amount.
The defendant may not be eligible for bail if he or she has been accused of a capital offense or in a multitude of scenarios involving prior felonies or commission of crimes while on bail already or while on probation.
For more information, please reference the Code of Criminal Procedure 15A.17 and the Texas Constitution Article 1 §11 – 11a.
What rules govern how the amount of bond is fixed?
The US and Texas Constitutions both provide that bail shall not be excessive. In order to help determine what a fair bond amount should be, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure lays out five rules for magistrates to use.
- First, bail should be sufficiently high to guarantee the accused will actually come back for their court date.
- Second, the bond amount should not be so high so as to merely be an instrument of oppression.
- Third, the magistrate should consider the nature and circumstances of the offense. The more severe the crime is, the higher the bail amount can be.
- Fourth, the amount of bail should be such that the accused can actually pay it. Magistrates are not supposed to set an amount that would be impossible for the accused to pay.
- Fifth, the magistrate should consider the safety of the alleged victim and the community. Therefore if they feel that the accused is likely a threat to someone, they can make the bail higher.
Additionally, the magistrate may set conditions on the bond. The magistrate is allowed to set any reasonable conditions related to the safety of the alleged victim or the community. Magistrates can also, among other things, require an accused not to talk to or go near a child, require drug testing, require the submission of a DNA sample, or require home confinement or electronic monitoring.
For more information, please reference the Code of Criminal Procedure 17A.15 and 17A.40-49.
Bail Amounts for Crimes
There is no particular bond amount for any given offense. In fact, one of the most common criticisms of the bond system in Texas is the unpredictability and lack of consistency in bond amounts. To reduce these problems some jurisdictions have published recommended bond schedules. These are merely recommendations and bonds are often set higher based on aggravating factors such as criminal history or risk of flight.
How long can you be kept on a warrantless arrest?
In the case of a warrantless arrest, there are special rules involving bail. In the case of an arrest in which there was a warrant, a magistrate has already determined that there is probable cause to believe the accused committed a crime. This is not so in the case of a warrantless arrest and the magistrate will be required to determine probable cause.
If someone is arrested for a misdemeanor, the magistrate must make a probable cause determination within 24 hours of arrest. If that determination is not made, the accused must be released on a bond not to exceed $5,000. But if the accused cannot obtain a surety or deposit the full amount of the bond, they must still be released on a personal bond.
If someone is arrested for a felony, the magistrate must make a probable cause determination within 48 hours of arrest. If that determination is not made, the accused must be released on a bond not to exceed $10,000. But if the accused cannot obtain a surety or deposit the full amount of the bond, they must still be released on a personal bond.
For more information, check out Code of Criminal Procedure 17A.033.