The Basics of the Bail Bonds System
What is a bond? If you get arrested and want to get out of jail before your trial date, then you’ll need to make bail (which means to be released from jail).
To make bail, you will have to make a bond with the Court. There are three types of bail bonds in Texas.: Cash, Surety, and Personal Recognizance or PR bonds.
About Surety Bonds
A surety bond is usually posted by a company in the business of making bonds for people who cannot afford bond themselves—aka a bail bondsman. A bail bondsman is any individual or corporation that acts as a surety (or person who takes responsibility for another’s performance of something) and pledges money or property as bail for the appearance of people accused in court. As stated above, bail bond companies frequently charge around 10% of the total bond amount and front the rest of the money to the court.
About Cash Bonds
A cash bond is when a defendant can pay the entire bond on his or her own in cash. The county will hold the bail money to ensure that the person returns for all of his or her court dates. If any of the required court dates are missed, then the county keeps the bail money and the accused has to go back to jail until trial. If he or she shows up to all the court dates, then the accused gets the bond money back (sometimes minus a transaction fee).
About Personal Recognizance Bonds (PR Bonds)
A personal recognizance or PR bond is a free bond; a defendant simply promises to return for all the set court dates. If they miss a court date though, they are taken back to jail and the court typically sets a bond amount.
So if you’re arrested, hope that you qualify for a PR bond. In order to qualify, a judge or pre-trial services division will take a look at your case and criminal history. In most cases where PR bonds are granted, the judge has determined that the individual does not pose a threat the to community and has ties to it so there is a low flight risk.
Bail & Texas Law
Bail is first set at something called a 15.17 hearing or “preliminary initial appearance”. This is when a person arrested first appears before a judge or magistrate. The arrestee will be told why he or she has been arrested, read your rights—including the right to have appointed counsel—and bail may be set. This hearing can happen no later than 48 hours after an arrest. If requested, counsel must be appointed within 24 hours.
In Texas, a person who is arrested is entitled to bond except in very limited circumstances. When setting bail, courts must look at multiple factors to make sure the amount is fair.
- Firstly, the bail amount must be high enough to assure appearance in court but not so high as to be an “instrument of oppression”.
- Secondly, a judge should consider the nature of the charged offense and the circumstances under which it was allegedly committed.
- Third, a judge must look at whether the accused has the ability to pay bond.
Bail Bonds & Economic Factors
The inability to personally make bail alone is not enough to force a judge to lower bail but it is an important factor that must be considered. If bail is set too high, an individual can challenge the bail as excessive if it can be shown that he or she was unsuccessful in attempting to pay bail. It should be noted that although an accused who makes bail generally is entitled to immediate release.
Bail Bonds in Family Violence Cases
However, in a family violence case, if there is probable cause to believe that violence will continue if the person is immediately released, the person may held for up to four hours after bond is posted (up 48 hours by magistrate’s order). Regardless of the charge, if the state is not ready for trial or no charges have been made within 90 days of arrest, then an arrestee must be released or have his bail reduced.
Denial of Bail
As stated above, there are some circumstances where a judge can deny bail. The best known circumstance is in when the arrestee is charged with capital murder “where proof is evident.”
The term “proof is evident” means clear and strong evidence leading a well-guarded judgment to the conclusion that:
- the offense of capital murder has been committed;
- the accused is the guilty party; and
- the jury will both convict the accused and will return findings requiring the death sentences. The state bears the burden of showing that proof is evident.
The burden requires a “substantial showing”, which is far less than the trial burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A judge also has an option to deny bail in other circumstances outlined in the Texas Constitution. A judge can deny bail if the a person is accused of:
- a felony and has twice been previously convicted of a felony;
- a felony committed while on bail for a prior felony for which he or has has been indicted on;
- a felony involving the use of a deadly weapon and has been previously convicted of a felony; or
- a violent or sexual offense committed while under the supervision of a criminal justice agency.
However, a judge is not required to deny bail in these non-capital offenses. Any order denying bail must be made within 7 days of detention.
Need Help with a Bail Bond Hearing?
Call Houston Criminal Trial Attorney Paul Morgan
If you or a loved one were arrested, accused of a crime in Houston and jailed in Harris County, please contact the Paul Morgan Law Office for information on obtaining possible relief.