You Can’t Bail on Bail: How to Reduce the Costs of Jail Time

“Can you bail me out?”

Are you imagining your favorite coming-of-age movie? The character desperately clinging onto the phone as they nervously wait for an exasperated “yes”? Maybe their friend throws down a few hundred bucks and promises not to tell their parents, then picks them up in their old truck. This scenario may work in the movies but in more serious cases, bail can cost you as much as a large home. This is why it’s so important to learn why hiring an attorney prior to bailing out and the first court appearance can immediately save you thousands and thousands of dollars.

You’ve heard an accused is presumed innocent; not so for the setting of bail. Once someone is arrested, a judge decides the date of your arraignment where they will set bail in an amount based on a variety of factors, including the bail schedule, the seriousness of the crime and the danger they feel you pose to the community. Those identified as at-risk for fleeing, contacting the alleged victim, or being a danger to the community will be assigned a higher bail amount.

Regardless of the dollar figure, bail can be paid in cash or through a bail bond company. Some can afford to post the entire amount of bail, and once the case is over the entire amount will be returned.

However, given most people feel hiring an attorney is a more important priority than paying a premium to get bailed out, most choose to work with a bail agent. The agent keeps the premium, usually eight to ten percent of the entire bail amount. Some attorneys will refer you to an ethical bondsman, who may even allow you bail payments, rather than having to come up with it all at once. Be advised there is substantial corruption in the bail industry.

By hiring an attorney prior to the arraignment, the lawyer can meet you at the jail, obtain information with which to persuade the judge and the DA you are not a flight risk or danger to the community, and more often than not, reduce the bail, potentially saving you a lot of money.

So, why do we even have bail? You are constitutionally entitled to reasonable bail. It creates a financial incentive for defendants to make their court appearances. They are released from jail when the amount is received on the agreement they will return. If they miss their court date, the court will issue a warrant for arrest. If this happens, the bail amount will most certainly rise, and more severe consequences can ensue.

When negotiating bail, you need the knowledge and experience of an attorney who is a certified criminal law specialist and who understands the process. They will advocate for you, perhaps referencing your otherwise clean background, employment/personal history and community involvement, and work to convince the judge to release you with a lower amount. This way, you’ll be able to prepare for trial in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by family, instead of in a concrete cell with strangers.

Identifying how to proceed with bail is one of the many reasons it’s so important to contact a capable criminal defense lawyer the moment you’ve either been arrested or become the target of an investigation. If you find yourself in legal trouble, don’t hesitate to contact my office. As an experienced criminal defense lawyer and certified criminal law specialist, I will work with you, the judge, and the prosecutor to reduce your bail, perhaps to zero, and to obtain for you the most favorable outcome.

Interested in learning more about bail. Please stay tuned for my upcoming blog all about changes to the California bail law.

Chase Geiser