Former Prosecutor. Powerful Defense Advocate. Certified in the Area of Criminal Law

Bail

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Tulare County

Bail refers to money that is given to the Court to hold until a case ends. When the Court receives this money, it will release the defendant so that they can remain at liberty as the trial progresses, rather than have to spend that entire time in the County Jail.

If the defendant makes all of their Court appearances, whoever posted the bail will get that money given back to them when the case ends. A case ends when the defendant is either acquitted or when the defendant is sentenced.

What is a "Bond?"

For our purposes, a bond is something that is given to ensure the completion of a promise. When the promise is kept, the bond is returned. You may have heard it said of a particularly trustworthy person that "Their word is their bond." What this means is that the person is staking their reputation for telling the truth on their promise, and that no other insurance is considered necessary. Sadly, in most criminal cases, the judge will not allow the defendant's word to be their bond, and will instead require bail.

When a specific object is given as the bond for the promise of repayment of a debt, this is generally referred to as "collateral."

What has to happen before I can be bailed out?

After a person is arrested, they are taken to the Sheriff's department to be "booked" into the County Jail. The "Booking" process (literally meaning the process to put the defendant "in the books" of the jail, or more modernly, into the computer system) takes anywhere from less than an hour, to several hours, depending on when and where a person is arrested and booked.

The booking process involves taking a picture of the defendant, fingerprinting them, and then running a background check to see if the defendant has any outstanding warrants. Assuming that the defendant does not have any outstanding warrants, and that they have been arrested for something other than a serious and violent felony, they will immediately become eligible to be bailed out according to the County Bail Schedule. Once booked in the defendant will be allowed to make a phone call.

How do I get bailed out?

There are two ways to "make bail." If someone, be it the defendant, or the friends and family of the defendant, is willing and able to give the Court the entire amount of bail to hold until the end of the case they can do so and the defendant will be released. This is very rare. It is much more common for the defendant to need to employ a Bail Bondsman.

What is a Bail Bondsman?

A Bail Bondsman, in exchange for a fee and often the attachment of collateral, will post bail for the defendant. A Bail Bondsman issues a large, albeit relatively short term, loan to the defendant and/or his friends and family. Typically the Bail Bondsman will charge a fee of ten percent (10%) of the total bail amount. This money is paid to the bondsman in exchange for the loan.

If the defendant "jumps bond" or fails to appear as scheduled for their Court appearance the Bail Bondsman is given a certain amount of time to find the defendant and bring them in before the Bail Bondsman's investment is forfeited to the Court. This encourages the Bail Bondsman to use private detectives who, under the law, are given the power to arrest Bail Jumpers and bring them to the Court. These private detectives are often referred to as "Bounty Hunters," though this name has not been accurate for some time in the United States.

What are some ways to reduce the amount a Bail Bondsman will Charge?

  • Hire an Attorney. Many Bond agencies will give up to a 20 percent reduction off of their rates to a person who has a private Criminal Defense Attorney representing them. The existence of a private attorney shows that the defendant is stable and is unlikely to jump bond.
  • Posting collateral. If the Bond Company can get someone to offer collateral like a home to secure the bond, they will lower the amount that they charge.
    • What does this mean? Say that the bond is $100,000 and say, for example, that the defendant's grandfather is willing to list his home for collateral on the bond. The Bail Bondsman may be willing to reduce the amount they charge. If the defendant jumps bond, and the court takes the $100,000 that the Bail Bondsman has posted away from him, the Bail Agent will promptly foreclose on the house to pay back the amount lost.

Will I have to pay the entire ten percent to the Bail Agent up front?

Maybe not. The Bail Agent wants to make a sale, but the Bail Agent also wants to minimize his own risk. The answer to the question of whether, and what type, of payment plan will be available to you depends on a number of factors including:

  • Your credit rating.
  • Your income.
  • Your ability and willingness to post collateral.

In most cases you should be prepared to put down at least half of the payment to the Bail Agent before they will be willing to post Bond for the defendant. That means 5% of the total bail, or, in our $100,000.00 example, Five Thousand Dollars.

A NOTE ABOUT BOND EXPIRATION: Bail Bonds typically last only 1 year. The vast majority of criminal cases will resolve within that year, but not all. If your matter takes more than 1 year, you may need to contract with your bail agent to post a new bond.

What happens if the defendant posts bail and then fails to appear?

Two things will happen if the defendant fails to appear in Court:

  • The Court will put out a warrant for the arrest of the defendant.
  • A 180 day countdown will begin until bail is forfeited.

What does this mean?

  • In terms of the warrant, it means that if the defendant comes into contact with law enforcement for any reason involving a warrant check they will be arrested. It is also possible that police will be sent to look for, and arrest the defendant.
  • In terms of the countdown, it means that if the defendant does not appear in Court within six months of the date of the failure to appear the court gets to keep the money that it was given to hold. This gives the person who posted the bond a strong incentive to bring the defendant back to court.

What kind of forms will I need to fill out to hire a Bail Bondsman?

  • Financial Disclosure
  • Contract
  • Indemnification

The Bondsman is going to want to know that you are able to pay them back, and for this reason will ask for your financial records. This may include requests from a copy of your latest paycheck, to a copy of your most recent tax returns, to a written breakdown of all of your assets and debts and a summary of your current spending habits.

After looking at your financial disclosure, and determining that they are willing to contract with you to post the bond that you want, the Bail Bondsman will have you sign a contract. The contract will include terms such as:

  • That you make payment on scheduled dates.
  • That you keep in contact with the defendant and inform the Bail Bondsman of the defendant's whereabouts it requested.
  • That you sign an Indemnification.

What is an indemnification?

For our purpose here, indemnification means that the person contracting with the Bail Bondsman is saying that if the Bail Bondsman loses any money as a result of this contract, that they will pay that money back to the Bail Bondsman. The result of all of this is to put the negative results of the defendant's failure to appear, not on Bail Bondsman, but on the defendant, and his friends and family.

What is a co-signer?

For our purposes here, a co-signer is a second person who also assumes the duties of the contract, including the indemnification.

How is the amount of bail set?

Each County has its own Bail Schedule that lists the amount of money that needs to be posted in order to be bailed out after a person is arrested. Different amounts are set for each possible criminal charge.

The Tulare County Bail Schedule can be found at:

http://www.tularesuperiorcourt.ca.gov

The King's County Bail Schedule can be found at:

http://www.kings.courts.ca.gov/depts/criminal/Criminal_Main.asp

Am I stuck with the Bail Schedule?

Not necessarily. The Bail Schedule is used to determine the bail at the time of arrest and will stay in effect until at least the first Court appearance. At the first Court appearance, the Judge may decide to keep the bail set according to the schedule, or to either raise it or lower it.

Why was my bail reduction request denied?

The one guaranteed way to get a request for a bail reduction denied is for a defendant simply to make the request and then not say anything else. The judge had some reason for setting the bail the way he or she did, and they almost never change this decision unless the defendant can give them a reason to do so.

Additionally, a judge will not reduce a bail on the defendant’s insistence that they are innocent. While it is extremely difficult being charged with a crime you did not commit, the judge is required by law to set bail under the assumption that you are guilty, and claiming otherwise will not sway them.

What should I keep in mind when making a bail reduction request?

One of the most important reasons to have an attorney represent a defendant at every Court appearance is that everything that is said in Court is written down by the Court reporter. Remember that everything the defendant says "can and will be used against them."

Many defendants use the bail request as an opportunity to argue their case. This is a serious mistake. Anything you say during this period is put on record, and it is possible to make incriminating statements that the prosecution can use against you without even realizing it.

A defendant should never argue their own bail motion. It is in your best interests to hire a private defense attorney who will have the time and knowledge necessary to make the best argument possible for them.

What factors are taken into consideration when a Judge decides whether or not to lower bail?

The most important thing to know is that the California Constitution (Article 1, Section 12(c) gives each person accused of a crime the right to "reasonable bail." If an argument can be made to the judge that the scheduled bail is not "reasonable" in your case, the judge will be compelled to lower bail. If you are able to hire an attorney to make this argument for you, you will have a much better chance of getting the Judge to reduce bail.

The two primary factors the judge will use in deciding the amount of "reasonable bail" are the danger the defendant will pose to society if released, and the likelihood that the defendant will fail to appear in the future if released.

NOTE: There is an exception to the right to bail. Under article 12 section 1 of the California Constitution, if a person is accused of a crime punishable by the death penalty or a serious felony, and the likelihood of danger to the public is high, the court can refuse to set a bail, meaning the accused must remain in custody while the case progresses.

What kind of factors hurt my chances of receiving a lower bail?

Defendant On Probation And/Or Already On Bail:

If the defendant is on probation for another offense or has another open criminal case, this is considered by most judges to be a very damaging fact, suggesting that bail should be raised above the normal schedule.

Prior Record:

Prior Convictions, particularly for either violent offenses, or for the same offense that the defendant stands accused of, will suggest to most Judges that the defendant's bail should be raised, or at the very least not lowered.

High Profile Crime Charges:

There are some offenses which, unfortunately, have a tendency to capture public attention.

  • Sex crime charges, especially child molestation charges
  • Multiple conviction DUI charges
  • Domestic violence charges
  • Crimes against the police, or other high profile victims

While public attention should not impact the judge’s bail making decision, judges are elected officials, and will often try to appeal to what they believe the public wants. However, with a solid, logic-backed argument, it is still possible to lower bail with the right attorney.

Prior Failure to Appear or Arrest on Old Warrant:

If a judge looks at the defendant's record and finds that they have been released from custody in the past and then failed to appear as scheduled. there is little chance they will lower the bail. Many judges in these situations will raise bail to cover the increased risk of flight, or at the very least to deny any request to lower bail made without any context.

What kind of factors increase my chances of lowering bail?

Prior Record:

Obviously, the best case scenario is to have a defendant with no criminal record, who has never been arrested and is facing criminal charges for the first time in their life. Under such a circumstance the judge is likely to find that the defendant poses a minimal risk to society. That does not mean, however, that the judge will not lower the bail without an official request.

Employment:

Criminal Court Judges are always happy to see a defendant who has a job, any kind of job. If it is at all possible to have a supervisor write a short letter to the judge saying that they hope the Court will release the defendant so they can continue working, that often goes a long way towards convincing a judge to lower bail.

Similarly, if the defendant has lived in the jurisdiction of the Court for many years, is a member of neighborhood organizations, and has a number of friends and family willing to come to Court to show support, these things will go to show that the defendant has such strong ties to the community that he would never run away and not appear as scheduled in Court.

Dependents and Other Family:

Many judges will claim that a defendant having a family will not affect the bail decision, but the truth is that by establishing ties to the community and your home, you are providing evidence of your commitment to staying in town and seeing this through to the end.

Non-dependant family members can also make a big difference, particularly if they are willing to come to Court on the day of the Bail Reduction Hearing. Such family members can stand up and say to the Court that they are willing to watch over the defendant and personally drive him to and from his Court dates. Bringing the family members that will actually be posting bail on your behalf can also be beneficial.

Letters of Good Character:

One of the most effective means of convincing a Judge that a defendant is a good candidate for a reduction in bail is to flood the Court with letters of good character from friends, family, co-workers, etc. These letters should all say two things:

  • I will personally see that the defendant has a ride to court and will come with him if necessary
  • I don't believe that the defendant is the kind of person who could have committed this crime, and he must be innocent.

Outside the Box Options:

Occasionally the Court will agree to release a defendant or lower their bail to a level where they can secure their own release f the defendant is willing to agree to certain terms in the bargain. Some of the things our attorney has seen successfully suggested to Courts include:

  • The defendant will immediately begin Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous classes, or in more serious cases will immediately check into a residential treatment center.
  • The defendant will agree to be placed under house arrest pending trial.
  • The defendant will give their license to the Court and agree not to drive a vehicle pending trial.
  • The defendant will abstain from drinking pending trial.
  • The defendant will move out of the victim's home, but continue to support the victim, pending trial.
  • The defendant will take anger management, parenting, or other classes as ordered by the Court.

These agreements are to terms that are often similar or identical to those terms that would be imposed as conditions of probation if the defendant were to be convicted of the offense. The Judge will almost never suggest these terms as a condition of release and in some cases indeed might get in trouble with the Judicial Council were they to do so. If such terms are suggested by the defendant's attorney, however, they often go a long way towards convincing the judge to allow the defendant to be released.

When should I not request a lower bail hearing?

Occasionally, bail will be set below where it should be. When this happens, it is recommended you post bail as soon as possible.

It is important to realize that bail is initially set by the Sheriff's Department when the person is booked into the County Jail, and that they sometimes make mistakes. Some of the reasons that might lead to bail set lower than it should be are:

  • The Sheriff's department didn't realize that you have a strike prior, or some other very serious prior conviction that would lead any reviewing judge to raise your bail.
  • The Sheriff's department didn't realize that you were on probation, parole, or already out on bail in another case:
  • The arresting agency booked the defendant in on charges that are substantially less serious than those the District Attorney is likely to actually charge.

You should speak with an attorney to confirm that your bail is lower than it should be. If it is, posting it before your arraignment could be beneficial.

They say I'm not eligible for bail. Why is that?

There are a few situations where a person cannot be bailed out pending trial. These include:

  • You are serving out a sentence for another case.
  • You have an immigration hold.
  • You have an outstanding warrant in another jurisdiction.
  • Someone has requested a 1275 Hearing.

What is a 1275 Hearing?

A 1275 Hearing refers to California Penal Code Section 1275.1. It is a hearing requested either by the County Sheriff or the District Attorney, requesting that the Court require the defendant to prove that the money used for Bail was not illegally obtained. This kind of hearing is generally requested in cases where the defendant is accused of running some sort of illegal business or otherwise illegally obtaining money such as by selling contraband (drugs, guns, etc), or committing fraud.

The good news is, defense attorneys usually prevail at these hearings by proving that the money going towards the bond is "clean." The easiest method of doing so is to simply provide that someone other than the client is putting up the money as a gift.

Unfortunately, until the hearing is held, the defendant will continue to be held in the County Jail.

Why might I not want to bail out?

The primary reason you would not want to bail out is because you cannot afford to pay the bail or a bondsman. In some cases, a person is left with the choice of posting bail or hiring an attorney. The best choice is always to hire an attorney, and any ethical bail bondsman will tell you this as well.

While it can be a major relief waiting out your court date from the comfort of your own home, you are much better off planning long-term by creating a strong defense with a private attorney. While public defenders are available, they do not have the same amount of time to dedicate to your case and investigate all the possible angles. Proving your innocence should be your ultimate goal.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Greg Hagopian in Visalia at (559) 377-6627. We're here to help.

Mr. Hagopian Knows What You Are Going Through, and He Is Committed to Getting You Through This Tough Time.

Request a Free Consultation Today.