Why Bail Keeps You Out Of Jail And Puts You Back In Your Own Home

People once had to sit in jail for days while the judge was able to hear their case. Now, you can be out of custody and back home by posting bail. Here is how the bail process works to keep you from spending nights in the local jail.

Bail is Set Based on the Charges Filed

Crimes are classified as bailable or non-bailable. Non-bailable crimes are serious offenses, such as manslaughter, and you have no choice but to stay in custody until your hearing. Bailable crimes, such as shoplifting, have a range of bail amounts that a judge can select from. They use these guidelines, plus any previous record you have with the court system, to determine the amount of bail to set.

If this is your first offense, the judge will also use the input from your attorney regarding your personal character. If the judge is confident that you'll show up for your hearing, they can set the bail very low or waive the bail entirely for certain charges. This is a good time to have a lawyer because they will attempt to get the bail waived or set as low as possible.

Your Next Steps

If the judge does set a bail amount for you, you now have two options:

  • decline to post the bail amount and stay in custody until your hearing
  • post the bail amount in cash to the court and be released from custody

If you post bail, the court will give you a receipt for the cash. Bring it with you to your hearing and the court will refund your money minus any court fees.

If the bail is set too high for you to cover or you just don't want to use your cash, your next step is to visit a bail bond company.

Bail Bonding

These companies post the bail for you, for a fee. When you show up for the hearing the bail bond company gets their money back from the court, minus any fees. The fee you're charged depends on the amount of bail the company posts for you. This is a straightforward process if you show up for the hearing as you're supposed to. The process becomes very complicated if you fail to show up for your hearing.

Skipping Out on Your Bail

Failure to show up for your hearing, also called skipping or jumping bail, is a crime itself in most states. Several things happen when you jump bail:

  • You forfeit any bail that you posted to the court.
  • If you don't show up within a specific amount of time, as set by each state, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
  • The court may send law enforcement officials to find and arrest you.

If you used a bail bond company and jump bail, they lose the money they posted to the court for you if you don't show up or if local law enforcement brings you in first. If the bail bond company can find you and bring you in, they will get their money back, minus court fees. Because of this, bail bond services often employ their own specialists to track down bail jumpers.