What is Bail?
If you or someone you know is arrested, you need to know what bail is. Essentially, you (or a friend or family member) will pay bail to secure your release from jail after arrest and booking. Bail is a tool the courts use to make sure you will appear at your court dates and stay in the area after your release. Until the case is over, you must abide by the bail's conditions. Here are some things you need to know about bail:
- Judges use standard practices to determine bail. The amount you owe depends on multiple factors such as the charge, your record, your employment status and your standing in the community.
- The judge decides the final amount. If he or she wants to charge you more or less than the standard practices dictate, he or she has the power to do so.
- You can request a lower amount. Think your bail is set too high? The Eighth Amendment protects you from excessive bail. In some cases, a judge will set a high bail for someone who is potentially a danger to society or is perceived as a flight risk.
- You might owe nothing in bail. You could be released after booking if you have a citation to appear in court, or if you are released on your own recognizance (O.R.). This is more likely for suspects with clean records and minor violations.
- Someone else can bail you out. A family member, friend or bail bond company can cover this cost.
- There are several methods of payment available for your bail. You can pay with cash, certified check, money order, property bond or bail bond. Some courts will accept a credit card, but not all. Check to see if the charge will be treated as a cash advance, which will likely come with an additional fee and higher interest rate.
- You may get some of the bail back, minus fees. Assuming you follow the terms of your bail, you may get some of your money back. Keep in mind that any court fees or fines won't be returned, and if you use a bail bond company, they will charge a fee as well.