How the bail bond system works for Texas criminal defendants
Although many Texans have heard the phrase “bailed out of jail,” they may not know exactly what these words mean. After all, most people don’t have to worry about the bail bond process until they find themselves being booked into a county jail.
Fortunately, the bail bond process isn’t difficult to understand.
If you have further questions after reading this article or would like help fighting a criminal charge, reach out to Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Sharp to schedule a free consultation.
What is a bail bond?
Essentially, bail bonds are a way for a person who’s been arrested to make an agreement with the court. This agreement consists of a payment and an agreement to appear in court at a later date in exchange for release from jail.
Bail is the amount of money that a defendant must pay if they want to be released from custody while they await trial.
A bond, on the other hand, is a financial guarantee, often posted by a bail bond company on behalf of a defendant, to secure their release from custody. In Texas, bail bond companies must have a license from the state of Texas for the bail bond to be accepted.
How does the bail system work in Texas?
Texas bail bond laws are not so different when compared to other states. When charged with a crime in Texas, the court arrests the accused, books the trial date, and sets the bail amount. The defendant can either remain in jail until the trial or post bail to be released while they wait for trial.
Below is the general process for setting and posting bail in the Texas court system.
Step #1: Setting bail
After a person is booked into jail, the amount of their bail will be determined. This amount will vary based on the facts of the case and the charges against the person.
For many misdemeanor crimes, bail will be based on established amounts. For other crimes, the judge will set bail at an appropriate amount for the alleged crime, keeping in mind that, under the U.S. Constitution, it’s illegal to set bail excessively high to force a person to remain in jail.
In some cases, a person might have to appear before a judge to find out their bail amount. For most misdemeanor offenses, though, the defendant can find out their bail amount when they’re booked into jail.
Once the bail amount is determined by the court, the defendant is entitled to request a lower bail. This request leads to a bail hearing, where the court assesses whether a reduction is appropriate. A defense attorney can play a crucial role in securing a lower bail by presenting arguments that the defendant is unlikely to flee.
Factors such as being a Texas resident with a stable job and family responsibilities, lacking a passport, and having no history of leaving the state of Texas can strengthen the argument that you pose minimal flight risk.
Conversely, if you lack strong community ties in Texas and have the resources to leave the state, the court might consider setting a higher bail amount.
Step #2: Paying or posting the bail
After a judge sets the bail amount, it must be paid for the defendant to be released. The defendant has the option to post bail either in cash or through a bail bond. If the defendant possesses sufficient cash, they can directly pay the full amount to the court, which allows them to be released while awaiting trial.
While some people may be able to pay the full amount of the bail right away, most people don’t have access to the large sums of money required to post bail themselves. In these cases, they can purchase a bail bond from a bondsman.
So, how does the bail bond process typically work?
Bond companies require defendants to enter into an agreement and pay a fee (usually about 10% of the total bail). The bond company then covers the full price of bail so the defendant can be released from prison. However, this agreement also comes with bail conditions that the defendant will need to follow if they want to remain out on bail.
Step #3: Following the bond and release conditions
Once a defendant has been released from jail, they will likely be ordered to abide by certain conditions. These can include:
- Conditions of release from the court
- Conditions of bond from the bondsman
The defendant is expected to follow all of these conditions in exchange for being released from jail. Failing to follow these orders or violating the conditions can be grounds for re-arrest and additional charges.
Some typical conditions for pretrial release include:
- Agreeing to appear in court on certain dates and times
- Agreeing not to break any laws
- Meeting with the bail bondsman at certain times
- Calling the bail bondsman regularly to check in
- Avoiding certain behaviors related to a crime (e.g., abstaining from alcohol or drugs or avoiding contact with a domestic violence victim)
Once a defendant has been released from jail, they should make sure to take care of their immediate obligations of release right away. Then, it’s a good idea to look for a defense attorney.
An attorney may be able to help a defendant handle all of their conditions of release and avoid violations. A lawyer may even be able to take care of some of the initial court appearances so that the defendant doesn’t have to appear in court.
How much does bail cost in Texas?
In Texas, courts follow a bond schedule that provides guidelines on bail amounts based on the nature of the offense. Nevertheless, judges and magistrates have the discretion to alter these amounts based on specific case details.
Factors influencing bail determinations include:
- The seriousness of the offense
- Whether the defendant was already on bail at the time of arrest
- The potential risk to public safety
- Whether the defendant has previous criminal convictions
- The defendant’s current probation status for other crimes
- The likelihood of the defendant fleeing
It’s important to note that bail payments are not restricted to cash or bail bonds; courts may also accept credit cards or various forms of collateral, such as vehicles, real estate or other valuable assets.
Do I get my bail money back in Texas?
In Texas, whether or not your bail money is refunded depends on your appearance in court. If you attend all required court sessions, the bail amount is returned. However, if you don’t show up for your trial, you will lose your bail money.
When dealing with a bail bond, the situation differs slightly.
The 10% fee paid to a bail bond company as a premium is not returned, regardless of the trial’s outcome. If the defendant fulfills their obligation to appear in court, the bail bond company recovers the full amount of the bond.
Conversely, if the defendant fails to appear, the bail bond company loses this amount, and the defendant may be liable for the financial loss incurred by the bond company.
Were you arrested in Texas? Get help from an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney.
If you or someone you love has recently been arrested in Texas, don’t wait to get the legal advice and help you need. At The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp, seasoned and affordable Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Sharp will fight to ensure you receive fair and just treatment under the law.
In addition to arguing for a reduced bail, Matt can provide a robust defense throughout your legal proceedings by thoroughly investigating the circumstances of your arrest, challenging any evidence that may have been improperly obtained, and working tirelessly to ensure your rights are protected.