You’ve made a mistake and landed yourself behind bars. You want out, but have no idea how to make that happen. Fortunately, America’s criminal justice system gives you the option to post bail and be set free.
Depending on your state, trying to gather up enough funds to make bail can seem next to impossible. In 2016, around 3,931 people in New York City were thrown in jail every day just because they couldn’t afford to pay their bail.
You’re not out of luck if you don’t have enough money to make bail. Here’s what you need to know about bail and how you can get out of jail:
What is Bail?
The first step in paying off your bail is knowing exactly what bail is. Bail can be anything from plain old cash, property, or a bond that you’ll give to the court.
Making bail means that you’ll be released from jail until your court date. When your court date arrives, you’ll come to pick up your bail. Not going to your court date means that your bail may be kept and that you’ll likely be placed under arrest.
Without bail, innocent people can be stuck in jail for several weeks before their trial. They can’t work or see their family, presenting financial and emotional hardship.
How Does the Bail System Work?
When you get arrested, you’re anxious to know how much your bail is. However, you might not be able to see the judge right away, especially if you’re arrested on a weekend. This means spending a couple of days in jail before your hearing.
Some jails have a standard system of bail rules or schedules that they use for petty crimes. After you’ve been booked, you’ll simply be asked to pay the amount that they’ve set up.
If you’re in for a more serious crime, the judge will determine the amount depending on how bad the crime is. The judge also factors in your criminal record, your responsibility for showing up to previous court dates, along with whether you pose a threat to the community or not.
The Eighth Amendment of the United States’ Constitution is supposed to prevent the judge from setting an excessive amount of bail. In other words, the bail has to be a reasonable amount. This doesn’t always pan out, as some judges seek to punish the person by posting a ridiculous bail in order to hold them in jail.
Judges set bail at a high amount in cases where suspects were involved in drug deals or murder. This prevents the suspect from getting out of jail and fleeing.
Sometimes the judge gives you a fair amount of bail, but you still can’t afford it. In this case, you can request that the judge lowers the bail. If that doesn’t work, don’t panic–there are still other ways you can pay for your bail.
Ways to Make Bail
There are a few options that have whether you’re posting bail or bailing someone out of jail. You just have to determine which method is right for your finances.
Pay in Cash
When you pay in cash, you have to pay the entire amount of bail. The court may also be able to take a credit card or a check.
Pay with Property
You can also exchange a piece of your property that’s worth the same amount as the bail–this allows the court to claim the property you offer up. Not showing up for your court date will result in your property being foreclosed.
Get Released on Own Your Recognizance
If you’re lucky, you’ll be released on your own recognizance (O.R.). This means that you’ll just have to make a promise that you’ll show up to your court date, and you won’t even have to post bail. This type of release is usually granted when the crime you’ve committed is mild and nonviolent, as it’s more likely that you won’t skip out on your court date.
Some things may influence whether you’re released on O.R. or not. Here are some possible factors:
- Holding a job in the area
- Showing up to previous court dates
- Your family members are living in the area
- Being a member of the community for several years
- Having a lack of criminal history
You’re also able to get free on bond. Bail bonds are helpful if you really can’t afford your bail or if you’re unable to get released on O.R. To get a bail bond, you’ll likely have to ask your friend or family member to contact a bail agent for you.
Bail agents are associated with surety insurance and will provide you with a loan to get out of jail. In exchange for their service, you’ll have to pay the agent 10% of your total bail amount, as well as offer up collateral that’s worth the rest of the bail amount. Your friends or family might have to pitch in if you don’t have enough collateral.
If you don’t end up going to your court date, your bail bond will be canceled and the court will need to have the rest of the bail paid. The bail agent will likely have a bounty hunter find you to make you pay. They also might sell your collateral to make up the rest of the bail.
On the other hand, showing up to court results in you just having to pay the bail agent 10% of your bail. So if your bail is $10,000, you’ll have to pay the bail agent $1,000. Check out Amistad Bail Bonds if you’re interested in learning how to become a bail agent, or if you’re looking for more information about bail bonds.
Get Set Free
Being able to make bail is a huge relief. You’ll be able to await your court date in the comfort of your own home, instead of spending weeks waiting inside of a prison. Hopefully your bail will be affordable, otherwise you may have to enlist the help of a bondsman.
Want to learn how to save cash and make money? Find us on our blog.