Monday, May 16, 2011

Bail - Explained

If you're arrested, taken in to custody - and held in a cell until you get before a judge - odds are you'll be subjected to some conditions of release. Often these can included restrictions on your behavior - such as in the case of a DWI or Drunk Driving arrest - where you could be ordered to abstain from using alcohol.  You might also be ordered to pay some sort of "reasonable" bail.

Why Do I Have to Pay a Bail?

Bail is generally imposed in situations where public safety is implicated or if there's some doubt that the arestee might not return for future court dates. There are also situations where judges must - by law - impose a mandatory bail.

Arrested individuals have a right to a “reasonable” bail. Usually, the judge initially sets it according to a pre-determined county-wide bail schedule. However, a judge can deviate from that schedule. Usually, this is done after examining the facts surrounding the crime charged and the background of a particular party.

For example, a defendant charged with a first time DWI - who has no criminal history and extensive ties to the community such as a family, job, and property ownership - will likely be able to have his bailed reduced to nothing. When bail is reduced to zero, the judge is releasing the the person “on his own recognizance.”

A judge may also deviate from the bail schedule by increasing bail. This is common where a judge finds that an individual has a lengthy criminal history, is a risk to flea the community and not appear for court in the future, or may be likely to harm another person while out on release. When someone is facing a lengthy sentence - like life in prison - bail can even be denied altogether.

What to Do if You're Arrested

When a person is arrested and taken into custody, their most pressing concern is often getting out jail. However, it is often a wise decision to make your first call to a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney - first - and the bail bondsman - second. This is because an experienced lawyer will be able to negotiate the possibility of lowering your bail and/or maybe get you released with no bail at all.  Additionally, an attorney, having experience in these matters, will be able to find a reputable bail bondsman on your behalf.

Buying a Bond

When an arestee "makes bail” this means that he has put forward a specified amount of money (to the court) in exchange for being let out of jail - promising to return to court in the future. If and when the case is ultimately resolved, the bail is "exonerated" - and the full amount of money is returned (minus any fines that the court might impose.)  If the arestee fails to appear in court - the bail can be forfeited and as such the money is kept by the court.

Individuals who cannot afford to pay their bail - because the don’t have large amounts of cash just lying around - often will contract with a bondsman to put up the money for them. Generally, a bondsman will charge 10% of the total bail - and require that some sort of collateral is also promised - before doing as much. For example, if the bail is $12,000 (the common amount of bail sought for a 2nd time DWI charge), the arestee must pay to the bondsman $1,200 - plus put up some form of collateral, such as the title to their car or right to other valuable property. If and when the case ultimately resolves itself - and the arestee does not skip out on bail and returns to court as scheduled - he will get his collateral back but the $1,200 he paid to the bondsman stays with him or her.

Your First Best Call

If you or someone you love has recently been arrested and taken into custody, you owe it to yourself to contact an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney.

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