The Bail Bonding Process in Georgia
A criminal bond is a financial guarantee that you will appear for all court appearances until your case concludes or is dismissed. You pay the bail amount, and if you do not show up for court, the court will keep the bail and issue a warrant for your arrest.
The purpose of bail is to allow someone accused of a crime to stay out of jail while awaiting trial. It is not supposed to be punitive in nature or serve as a separate punishment. Our justice system has an interest in keeping defendants out of jail for many reasons. First, it allows a defendant to prepare meaningfully for their defense. Second, it reduces overcrowding in jail facilities and confinement costs. The flip side of this view, held by most prosecutors, is that people accused of dangerous crimes should not be released.
In serious cases, prosecutors try to keep people in jail, through high bond amounts, in order to use pressure and leverage to force a person into entering into a plea bargain. Many people make the decision to waive both legal and factual defenses in order to seek early release. However, the long-term consequence includes a conviction on their record and a sentence to a period of probation.
Once a person is on probation, they are subject to having their probation revoked in the event there is a violation of their terms of probation. As a result, a person is far better off to post a bond and then form an independent judgment of the best course of action in a case, not a judgment based on their desire get out of jail.
The Difference Between Bail And Bond:
Attorneys tend to use these terms interchangeably, but technically, “bail” is the money given as a security deposit to assure that you will appear for all court proceedings. On the other hand, a "bond" is when a bondsman, or bonding company makes a pledge on a person's behalf to pay the bail if they do not attend court.
Depending on the bonding company, you will have to pay between 10-15% of the bail amount.
How The Amount Of Bail Is Determined:
Judges have the sole authority to set bond amounts. Many people falsely believe that the Sheriff's Department sets the bond, but department personnel cannot take part in the bond price or conditions of bond. Most jurisdictions have something called a "bail schedule," which specifies bail amounts for common crimes. Bail schedules save both the accused and the court staff time and resources since the amount of bond has already been approved for certain offenses. As a result, you do not have to wait to appear before a judge.
A judge considers several factors when fixing a bail amount. The primary factor is the likelihood of the defendant leaving the jurisdiction to avoid a sentence. Relevant to this inquiry are ties to the community. Whether the defendant has family in the area, how long the defendant has resided in the jurisdiction, and job status all become relevant. This inquiry's second prong is the defendant's history. The judge will look at the defendant's criminal record to determine how reliable he or she has been in past insofar as attending court.
Other Factors That Affect Bail Include, But Are Not Limited To, The Following:
- The defendant's ability to pay;
- The seriousness of the offense;
- The defendant's character and reputation;
- The defendant's ties to the community;
- Public Safety;
- Whether the accused is likely to re-offend;
- Whether the accused is likely to return to court and answer to the charges (such as when a person has not appeared in court on previous charges);
- Whether the charge is in fact eligible for bond (some crimes do not allow bail as a matter of right).
Types of Bail Bonds:
In general, there are four types of bail bonds available that may be used to secure your release from jail: (1) own recognizance; (2) cash bond; (3) property bond; and (4) a professional bondsman/bonding company.
This method allows you to sign a form instead of making a payment. In this situation, the judge has taken your word that you will show up for all court appearances. This is usually available for minor misdemeanor offenses and misdemeanor traffic offenses. It is very rare to have an O.R. Bond in a felony case of high and aggravated misdemeanor.
Another option is a cash bond. This option is always available. If you choose this option, you must pay the entire bail amount. The benefit is that as long as you do not miss a court date, you get your money back at the end of the case, regardless of the outcome.
It is important to note, most jurisdictions do not accept credit cards or checks drawn from personal or business accounts. Cash means actual money.
However, there is an option to post a cash bond via the Internet in some jurisdictions. We can advise you in which jurisdictions that option is available.
Alternatively, you (or someone on your behalf) may post a property bond. To do so, most jurisdictions require a warranty deed, a current tax statement (showing the property's fair market value. Addionally all taxes must be current), a current mortgage statement (payments must be current), and the presence of all those whose names appear on the deed.
Our office advises those charged with a DUI to not use a property bond. The risk of losing your property is not worth the bail amount. It is too much risk for a small amount of money. It also takes more time to get a loved-one released via a property bond.
For those who do not wish or cannot afford to put up bail money, a bail bondsman is usually the right choice. A bondsmen is in the business of posting bonds for criminal charges. The bonding company will charge a fee, usually between 12% and 15% of the bond amount. Unlike a cash bond, this fee is non-refundable. What is paid to a professional bonding company is their fee in exchange for the risk of a person not appearing in court.
Some bonding companies also ask for a deposit to limit their risk. Usually a deposit is required for out of state people or non-citizens. However, if a professional bondsman requires a deposit that is equal to the amount of the total bail, there is no reason to use a bondsman. If you are being asked to pay the full amount plus a fee, it is less expensive to use a cash bond.
Bail and Bond Conditions:
Bailed-out suspects commonly must comply with "conditions of release." If a defendant violates a condition of the bond, a judge may revoke bail and order the suspect re-arrested and returned to jail. Some bail conditions, such as a requirement that a suspect "obey all laws," are common. Other conditions may reflect the crime for which a suspect was arrested. For example, a condition may order a domestic violence suspect not to contact the complaining witness.
If bail conditions are violated, the bond can be revoked. That means a person can be held in jail until the case is over. Additionally, in cases of domestic violence, if a person violates a "no contact" provision in a bond, that person will also be charged with aggravated Stalking.
What If a Person Does Not Have a Bond?
Sometimes a defendant is denied bond. One of many things can cause this. For example, bail is unavailable for those currently on probation. Those incarcerated for a probation violation must remain in custody until they appear before judge to resolve to resolve the violation.
By law, a defendant who has been denied bond is entitled to have his or her case presented to the grand jury within 90 days from the arrest date. Furthermore, if you cannot make bond, you will be granted a hearing after 90 days to readdress the bond amount. At this hearing, the judge has discretion to change or even waive the amount.
Superior Court Only Bonds:
Only a Superior Court judge may set bond for certain serious crimes. The list of offenses for which only a Superior Court Judge can issue a bond include: treason, murder, rape, aggravated sodomy, armed robbery, hijacking, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated stalking, certain drug related offenses, and enumerated offenses (kidnapping, arson, aggravated assault or burglary) if on probation or parole for any of the previously listed offenses.
In these cases, your Georgia Lawyer must file a motion for bond in Superior Court. The process of getting a bond hearing will take several weeks or more in cases that have Superior Court only bonds.
Matters Unique to Misdemeanor and Traffic Charges:
Anyone charged with a misdemeanor offense is entitled to a bond.
Sometimes, a licensed driver charged with a misdemeanor may surrender his or her license in lieu of bail, up to $1,000, after he or she has been incarcerated for at least five days.
If you are enlisted in the military, in certain circumstances, your commanding officer may be able to sign for your release.
Some auto clubs will also post a bond up to $1000 for their customers.
Act Now If Your Family Member is incarcerated:
If your loved-one is in jail, call us once you have arranged for their release. If you have questions about the bonding process, call us. We are always happy to provide advice. However, we cannot recommend a particular bonding company.
Also, in a DUI case a person only has 30 days to appeal the suspension of their driver's license. Once a person is released many people do not want to think about their legal problems. Do not miss this deadline. If missed, your license will be suspended up to a year.
Richard Lawson is a former Prosecutor with more than 25 years experience defending the rights of people charged with DUI in Georgia. He is the top-rated and most reviewed law office in Georgia. Our reviews can be found on Avvo. Call 24/7 for immediate legal help.