Bail and Release from Jail in California

Posted almost 4 years ago. Applies to California, 3 helpful votes

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In California State Courts and in Federal Courts, a person accused of a crime has statutory and Constitutional rights regarding bail. A lawyer should advise the person accused or her or his family members as to how best to secure release from jail.

In general, there are four ways to make bail or be released from jail pre-trial. You should consult with a lawyer regarding the best approach in the particular case. Considerations will include the cost, how important it is to obtain immediate release and other factors. A person arrested may also be subject to holds or restrictions on release which may have an effect on which approach is most appropriate. The actual legal rules regarding bail or pre-trial release from jail vary -- therefore, you should talk to a lawyer -- but there are some general concepts that are fairly common in California state cases. Federal procedure is different and, again, you should obtain the advice of a knowledgeable lawyer.

  1. Bail Bond: The person arrested or the friends or family of that person may contact a bail bond agent and arrange for a corporate surety (a bail bond). A premium is paid to the bail bond agent who then posts a bond with the court. Security is generally required for the total amount of the bail. If there are no holds or restrictions on release, the person will usually be released within a few hours of the posting of the bond. Generally, as long as the person makes all court appearances and obeys the subsequent orders of the Court, the bond will be discharged at the end of the case. If the person does not appear, the bond will be forfeited and the person or the friends or family arranging for it may be liable to the bond company for the full amount of the bail. You should read the contract carefully and be sure you understand you rights and liabilities before entering into the agreement.

  2. Own Recognizance Release: A person may be cite released from the jail after booking or may be considered for an "OR" release. Some jails have a unit with staff present who will evaluate a person for OR release or bail reduction. This process may take a few hours or, sometimes, days. Sometimes the release can only occur after a Judge has ruled on the OR or bail reduction. Depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case, a slight delay in release might avoid posting of bail or a bail bond. In other jurisdictions or under other circumstances of the case, waiting for an OR or bail reduction determination could result in additional days in jail. The Court, or the staff acting on the Court's orders, can impose conditions on an OR release such as report to the unit, not leave the county, surrender the passport or other conditions.

  3. Cash Bail: The person arrested or his or her friends or family can post cash with the jail in the amount of the bail. Usually this has to be in the form of actual cash or a cashier's check. There are some jurisdictions which will allow the use of a credit card. If cash bail has been posted, it will all be returned to the person posting it at the end of the case as long as the person arrested has made all of his or her court appearances and followed all orders of the Court. ON the other hand, if the person arrested does not appear in court, the cash will be forfeited to the Court. There have been some jurisdictions which allowed the posting of 10% of the bail directly with the jail.

  4. Property in Lieu of Bail: It is generally possible to post real property in lieu of bail. Depending on the jurisdiction, this usually requires proving that the person posting the property has equity of more than two times the amount of bail. This procedure generally requires proof of title (a title report), proof of encumbrances and court approval. The procedure generally takes time and is usually appropriate in high bail cases where a person is willing t spend s few days in jail pending the Court's approval.

In federal cases, the lawyer will advise you. It is important to work with Pre-Trial Services to arrange for appropriate release. The lawyer can explain the procedures thereafter which range from signing a promise to appear to justification of sureties.

Additional Resources

Bail

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