What you should know about getting a friend or family member out of jail in Dallas County.
Setting of Bonds
Setting bond When a person is arrested, as a part of the book-in process the arresting agency checks for warrants locally, regionally and nationally. If they find outstanding warrants, they will confirm them with the issuing agency and notify the agency that they are holding the person on their warrant(s). They will also hold the person on any new charges. For any warrants, often an issuing agency will have a fine or a bond amount associated with their charges. This will be included in the prisoner's book-in information to inform people of the amounts required to have the person released from custody. Such amounts are often specified as either bonds or fines. If they are fines, the person cannot post bail on the charges. Rather, they have to either pay the fines or be transferred to the issuing agency. (Sometimes the issuing agency will send paperwork to the jail holding the prisoner so that the prisoner may enter a plea and accept time served. This is a way the issuing agency can resolve the matter remotely without having to go pick up the prisoner.) If they are bonds, sometimes the agency will specify cash bond only. Otherwise they are considered cash or surety. A surety bond means that a third party can post a surety bail bond for a fee paid to them. Surety bail bonds are generally less than the full cash amount and are covered in more detail below. Some holds however, either do not have a bail amount specified or carry the designation "No Bond". In any case, a jail will book the person in and provide a list of charges for which the prisoner is being held. Then they will schedule the person for arraignment. This is a procedure in which the prisoner is taken before a local magistrate to be informed of the charges and have bonds set on any charges for which bonds are not already set. Different jails around the area have different schedules for arraignment. Some jails have a magistrate come multiple times a day to arraign prisoners, others have a judge daily in the morning, and yet others have a magistrate that only visits on a very infrequent basis. It is best to call the jail to ask when the prisoner is going to be arraigned if there are charges for which bonds have not been set. Of course, it's even better to call an attorney who is well versed in the various jails and their procedures. Often jailers will give partial or even incorrect information over the phone. This can cost many hours of frustration and delay for people trying to secure a jail release. Dallas County has a full time magistrate on duty. This magistrate is responsible for arraigning new prisoners but also helps arraign prisoners in some of the suburban jails either via a video link or through the writ process. The writ process is one in which an attorney files paperwork with the County Jail and has a bond set on certain types of charges. It is not possible to secure a writ in all circumstances so it is best to consult an experienced attorney to determine what may be done in specific circumstances.
The fastest way to get a person released is to take cash down to the jail and post a cash bond on the charges. This has several pros and cons. The pros are that it is fast and all money (minus a small bond fee) will be returned to the person who posts the bond upon completion of the case. The case is considered complete when the person on bond finalizes the case either through a plea bargain, a dismissal, a not guilty or other final dispositions. Basically, the bond obligation ends when the person on bond is no longer required to show up for court dates. The biggest disadvantages with cash bonds are coming up with the full bond amount in cash and the prospect of losing the money if the person being bonded fails to show up for court. Furthermore, there won't be a bond company keeping up with the court dates to help keep the person on track and going to court. If these problems prevent posting of a cash bond, the next route people often turn to is third party surety bail bonds. This would be the bond companies.
People who either can't afford or don't want to post cash bonds often turn to bond companies to post surety bonds for them. This can be attractive because it is generally much cheaper up front to post such bonds. The bond companies will usually post bonds for a fraction of the cash bond amounts. On felony bonds, the standard is 10% of the bond amount. On misdemeanors, bond companies charge a flat fee but it is more than 10%. Drawbacks to this process are several. First, it is somewhat slower as a person has to apply for a bond by providing financial and other background information. Bond companies try to minimize their risk on bonds they post by having a stable, reliable and creditworthy person sign to cover their costs if the person bonded does not show up for court. Second, though it's cheaper up front, they still come after you if the person misses court. Third, you may not qualify and they may want additional cosignors or even collateral to post the bond. Also, sometimes the process of applying for bond and being denied either outright or conditionally ties up your time and money for several hours or even days while you are trying to get a person out.
Pretrial release is similar to the above but it is a program run by and through the county. More information on pretrial release may be obtained by contacting the county.
PR bonds (Personal Recognizance Bonds) are bonds that are requested of the judge in the court from which the charges issue. Generally these are only available on felony and misdemeanor county cases. The major drawbacks with these are that they can only be obtained by going before the judge during court hours, there are no guarantees that the judge will grant the bond, and you might have to pay the attorney more to request one than you would pay a bond company to post bond. Though there is no bond fee on PR bonds, in most cases they aren't sought because of timing, cost and inconvenience.
There are a couple of common holds that need to be addressed as they change the release process. The first and most prevalent one is an immigration hold. People who are thought to be in the country illegally will be detained and interviewed. If the person is determined to be in the country legally, such a hold will be released and the bond and release process can continue in the normal way. If the person is thought to be in the country illegally, the hold will remain and the person, even if bonds are posted on all charges will not be released. Though there are channels by which immigration holds may be challenged and lifted, many attorneys are not familiar with these procedures and those who are often charge a great deal of money to address them.
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