Bail is not a happy situation to find yourself in. No matter why you need a bail bond, it probably means you’re dealing with some pretty stressful times.
The confusion and complexity around bail and bail bonds only makes matters worse. Bond is not a system that is broadly understood and depending on what kinds of things you own and the specifics of your situation, it can get even more complicated.
When you have to deal with bond, there are some questions that might come up. It’s likely that others have had these same questions and issues. The good news in this regard is that this means that there are answers out there for people hoping to learn more about bail.
Here are 10 common questions about bail and things you should know about bail.
1. What is Bail?
Let’s start with the most obvious question about bail: What even is it?
The basic definition of bail is that it is a means for a defendant to get released in exchange for money. If you are out on bail, the court is holding on to that bail money until all of your court proceedings and trials are complete. The hope is that bail will ensure the defendant returns for all their scheduled court appearances.
However, bail gets way more complicated after this initial, basic definition. If you want to know more about bail, you need to understand the process behind it. It starts when someone is booked at a police station.
Depending on the severity of the crime someone is booked for, they may be able to post bail immediately, or they could have to wait for a bail hearing. At a bail hearing, it’s up to the judge whether the defendant is eligible for bail. The amount of the bail also hinges of the severity of the alleged crime.
However, even this is not straightforward, as a judge can take into account other factors like someone’s criminal record and ties to the community before determining a bail amount.
2. What is a Bail Bondsman?
Bail is not simply left up to the judge, though. There are a lot of people involved. Learning about bail requires learning about who some of these people are so you can better understand the system.
One key person is a bail bondsman. Someone who is detained may need help contacting a bail bondsman. However, these professionals are sometimes necessary in order to get released from detainment.
Bail bonding services come at a premium, with bail bond agents charging a 10 percent premium and collecting some collateral against what is essentially a loan. It is a difficult situation because you may have little choice but to accept these terms or remain in detainment.
A bail bondsman is doing a very similar thing as the court itself: You have to pay them in order to be released. However, unlike the court, the bail bondsman is going to take a cut in the form of that 10 percent premium.
Bail agents and bail bondsman can also seek a bounty hunter if a defendant skips their court appearances. This is not a situation you ever want to find yourself in, so if you go through a bail bondsman, try to ensure you can pay them and that you’ll arrive for your court dates.
3. What Role Does Your Lawyer Play?
Lawyers are another big part of the system you need to understand in order to know more about bail. A lawyer can help you get the best possible outcome, regardless of why you were detained in the first place.
You should get knowledgeable counsel on your side as quickly as you can. This includes when you are first detained. If the police want to ask you questions, you should not answer without having the help of a lawyer who knows the system and your rights.
A knowledgeable counsel can truly mean the difference between a terrible legal outcome that impacts your life forever and a relatively positive outcome. They will know about bail, as well as all the other parts of the legal system that you are likely to now encounter.
No matter why you were detained, it’s always a good idea to consult with a criminal defense lawyer as quickly as you can. You have the potential to make the situation worse without their help. You don’t have the extensive knowledge about bail and the law that they do, so get an expert on your side the moment you can.
4. What is a Guardianship Bond?
There is one more type of bond we should discuss while talking about bail. That is a guardianship bond, sometimes called a custodian bond.
This type of bond is specifically meant for people who have a custodian or guardian looking after their finances. This might mean they are a minor, disabled or elderly. Regardless of the specifics, a guardianship bond is for those who have been assigned by the court to look after someone else’s finances.
For example, if a minor is taken into custody and requires a bond, the type of bond their parent gets is likely a guardianship bond. The court is likely to assign a parent this task, as the minor cannot take care of it themselves.
As with other types of bonds, there are many factors that will go into how much this bond is. The court will weigh things like credit scores and financial information before determining the amount of a guardianship bond.
5. What Will Happen to Your Business?
So that was a lot of information about bonds and about bail. However, the system gets more complicated when we start thinking about certain assets, such as businesses.
It can be hard to say what exactly will happen to your business if you are arrested. In the best case scenario, you can post bail quickly and get out so you can arrange your affairs. This may require you to put someone else in charge, if you anticipate a protracted legal fight and potential jail time.
If you work for someone else, this is not quite as complicated. You may well lose your job, depending on the crime and your employer’s stance. Some crimes will certainly get you fired instantly, particularly if you are deemed a potential threat to the business or other employees.
However, once again, the best case scenario is posting bail quickly so you can get out and get your affairs in order before things proceed any further.
Here, knowing about bail can help you a lot. If you know the procedures and what to expect, at least somewhat, you can better prepare yourself and your business. There are situations in which authorities are allowed to seize your business, especially if it is related in some way to the reason you were detained. There is not much even the best lawyers can do about this.
However, you can protect yourself as much as possible. It’s good to study up on illegal search and seizures so you know what the authorities can – and can’t – seize. Your lawyer may be able to help you learn more about bail and how you can get your property back after an arrest.
6. What Will Happen to Your Pets?
A more personal concern is around what might happen to your beloved pets if you are arrested.
As with most things about bail, it depends. That’s a frustrating answer, but it’s the truth.
Because there is no uniform national policy about what to do with pets when the owner is arrested, a lot falls to local governments. That means what happens to your pet mostly depends on where you are arrested and where you pet lives.
A lot of times, a pet can be handed off to a friend or relative. If you have someone you can call who will take care of your pet, that’s a really good thing to do. This ensures your pet gets care and isn’t either neglected or picked up by animal control.
Unfortunately, animal control can be a reality for many pet owners who are arrested. Sometimes, if officers don’t know what to do with pets (for example, because there is no policy in place at all), they’ll call animal control. They have few other options in some instances. Either way, you don’t want this to be your pet’s fate, so set up a friend or relative to care for the pet if you can.
Other places might actually charge you for your pet’s room and board. There are places where even if you are in jail, you might have to pay a monthly fee for the state to look after you pet. After bail and court fees and lawyers, you definitely don’t want this added expense as well.
7. What Will Happen to Your Vehicles?
A vehicle is another large hurdle to deal with if you are detained. It can be tricky to know what to do with your car or other vehicle.
If you have learned about bail and about the consequences you’re facing and suspect you might not be out for a while, it might not hurt to sell your vehicle. If you car had issues, you could potentially take advantage of lemon laws to recoup some cash, those these laws don’t apply to off-road vehicles, motorcycles or motor homes.
Think carefully about the best way to handle your vehicle. Again, you can look to friends and family for help. They may be willing to buy the vehicle off you, or simply take care of it while you are away.
For some specific types of vehicles, you’ll need specific types of dealers. You’ll want to sell motorcycles to a motorcycle dealer, for example, in order to get the best deal possible.
The same goes for other types of vehicles. You can even branch out and think more broadly than typical land vehicles. If you have off-road or maybe even water vehicles, look for a powersports dealership who can take those off your hands.
Of course, the above only applies if you learn about bail and decide you want to get rid of vehicles, perhaps to help pay it. That is not going to be the best result for everyone. If you prefer to keep your vehicles, try to ensure someone will be looking after them.
8. What About Other Possessions and Valuables?
You might have other valuables that you are thinking about while you’re thinking about bail. These can be an asset or a hindrance, depending on the specifics of your situation.
Many assets might help you deal with this situation, if you are willing to part with them. For example, a jewelry store or pawn shop might be willing to buy valuable jewelry from you that will help you with paying your bail and other legal fees. The same goes for items like paintings, furniture and electronics.
It can be hard to part with a lot of these kinds of things. They have sentimental value and are simply useful to our everyday lives. However, if you are in a bad situation, you might have to think first and foremost about how to mitigate your circumstances. Stuff can be replaced later, after you deal with your legal troubles in the moment.
9. How Are Bail Bonds Determined?
Bail is determined by the severity of your charges, as well as your history. This includes both your criminal record prior to your new charge, as well as your history of compliance with bail requirements. That’s why it’s important for you to comply with the conditions of your bail and show up at your next court appearance if you get out on bail. Failure to do so can result in a warrant being issued for your arrest and your bail bonds being revoked. It can also affect your ability to be granted bail in the future.
10. How Does Bail and Bond Work?
In New York, you have the option of either a cash bail or a bail bond. In some cases, you may be fortunate enough to be released on your own recognizance, which means that you don’t have to put up any money for bail. Bail amounts can be set while you are at the police station or you can go in front of a judge if the set amount is excessive. A bail bond requires the use of a bondsman and costs 10% of the ordered bail amount.
Protect Yourself with Knowledge
If you are arrested for any reason, one of the best things you can do is get informed. Learn about bail, about lawyers, about courts, about your finances. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make, even in a really tough situation.
It isn’t fun to think about bail and potential jail time, but if it is your reality, looking away won’t help. As much as possible, think carefully about your situation and deal with as many details as possible ahead of any potential jail time.
This may be a very hard time for you, but the more you can go in prepared, the better your potential outcome can be. Get support from family, friends and legal experts to help you navigate this difficult time and hopefully put your legal troubles behind you in the very near future.
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