How Does Bail Work in Central Texas?

How Does Bail Work in Central Texas?On television and in the movies, bail seems to be a pretty straightforward process. The judge announces “bail is set at X dollars,” bangs the gavel, and the defendant convinces a loved one to get the money together. Depending on the dollar amount the judge named, and the defendant’s or their loved one’s finances, the defendant either makes bail and is released, or they are unable to get together the amount necessary to secure their release and they stay in jail until their case goes to trial or is dismissed.

But that’s Hollywood; not real life.

In real life, the bail process is somewhat more complex. For instance, several factors influence the amount of bail set – or if bail is even a possibility. And, a defendant has more options than their own money or their loved one’s bank accounts and assets. Additionally, a lot happens between the moment the judge’s gavel crashes down and the moment when a defendant who has met bail is released. If you or someone you care about have been charged with a crime, it is important that you understand how bail works in Central Texas. One of our criminal defense lawyers in Killeen or Copperas Cove can help.

What is bail?

First things first, we should clear up any misconceptions about what bail actually is – and what it is not. Simply put, bail is the security put up by someone who has been charged with a crime. This security is used to guarantee the defendant will appear in court. In Texas, bail can be a personal bond or a bail bond:

  • Cash Bond This is cash that a defendant can pay to the county front to cover the cost of bail. Cash bonds can be posted for any bond regardless of the set amount of the bond or the type of offense. The cash will be refunded to the defendant after his or her case is disposed of by a dismissal, probation, jury trial or some other conclusion to the case.
  • Commercial Bail bond. A bail bondsman will issue a bond to the county guaranteeing that you will appear for your court dates. In return the defendant usually pays 10% to 20% of the face amount of the bond to the bondsman in a non-refundable fee. So for example, if your bond is set at $5000 then you will pay a non-refundable of $500 to $1000. If the bond is set a $100,000 then you’ll pay a non-refundable fee of $10,000 to $20,000. Bond companies will normally request a co-signer and collateral for higher bonds. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail bondsman must pay fees to the county up front and may have to pay half or all of the face amount of the bond to the county. This means that any property or assets used to secure the bail bond may have to be surrendered to the bail bond agent.
  • County PR (personal recognizance) Bond. The county may agree to offer you this type of bond if you meet certain eligibility requirements and for non-violent offenses. You may pay nothing in fees or up to 3% in non-refundable fees. You will have to request and apply the county PR bond.

What bail is not is a “get out of jail free card,” as some may consider it. In fact, bail comes with specific conditions that the defendant must adhere to or face having their bail revoked. Bail is a refundable deposit that is used as collateral to ensure the defendant returns to court for all required proceedings, including trial.

Should I hire a bail bondsman?

Being arrested and charged with a crime – or having a loved one in this situation – can be terrifying. The wheels of justice move slowly, and the idea of sitting in jail while awaiting court dates is not something many people find appealing. Even if the Court offers bond, the amount may be too much for you. This is where a bail bondsman comes in, and the decision to hire a bail bondsman is not one to be taken lightly.

Some bail bond companies set very high rates that are unreasonable and unfair to the defendant. Bail bond companies have the right to put their clients back in jail, even though their client has done nothing wrong. Some bail bond companies will put their client back in jail after they’ve paid all their fees or if they think the case is dragging on too long. It is very important to sign a contract with the bail bond and that you get receipts for your payments and that you check in with your bond company every week.

Our law firm can help you find an honest and trustworthy bond company that sets reasonable rates and won’t gouge you on fees.

Additionally, a bail bondsman may not be necessary if you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer fighting on your behalf. A knowledgeable defense lawyer may be able to convince the Court to reduce the amount of bail to an amount that you and / or your loved ones can afford without the help of a bail bondsman. This is usually a better option. It is important to note that bail bond agencies exist to make money, and they always collect their service fee. Even if you adhere to the terms of your bail and the bail bond is dissolved, you still owe the service fee. Depending on the amount, this may present a financial hardship that could result in the bail bondsman taking anything that you or your loved ones put up as collateral for the bond.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Central Texas, it is vital that you speak with Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm. Our criminal defense lawyers in Killeen and Copperas Cave defend clients throughout all of Central Texas, including Temple, Belmont, and Waco, as well as Coryell and Bell Counties. We can help convince the court to grant bail and may be able to argue that it be set at a lower amount. We fight aggressively on your behalf and work hard to ensure you receive the best possible outcome at every stage of your case. Call us or complete our contact form today to schedule a consultation.