Should you post bail? A criminal defense attorney's viewpoint
With the average bail in Los Angeles County set at over $20,000, it will cost you or someone close to you a lot of money to secure your freedom. Bail is set by law in California and regulated by the State Department of Insurance. Bail fees are set at ten percent for most cases and can be eight percent in certain circumstances. This means that if your bail is set at $20,000, your cost to post a bail bond will be around $2,000.00.
Before I get to the answering the question at hand, I would like to address certain special situations:
- First, if you can afford to post cash bail, and not use a bail bondsman, this is often a good idea, even if it takes a day or two to get the money together. By posting cash bail, you save the cost of using a bail bondsman (the ten percent fee).
- Then, after the case is over, you will get all of your money back provided that you make all of your court appearances in a timely manner.
- Next, there is always a chance your case will not be filed or it will be reduced to a misdemeanor; you might consider remaining in jail for a day or two and wait to see the judge.
- If your case is not filed, you will be released from jail without posting bail.
- If your case is reduced to a misdemeanor, you will often be released on your written promise to return to court, or your bail will probably be reduced significantly.
Moving on to when to post bail, I will divide my opinion into three different categories:
I will always recommend posting bail when my client is at risk of deportation or has critical medical needs. If you are not a legal resident, you must post bail before getting booked in County Jail. Once in County Jail your case will be reviewed by immigration officials. If you are determined not to have legal status here, an immigration hold will be attached and you can no longer bail out until your case is finished and you appear in front of an immigration judge. If you have chronic, critical or severe medical conditions or mental health conditions, then jail is not the place for you. Medical attention in local and county jails in very limited at best. Seriously ill inmates often wait days to see doctors or nurses and days might be too late, especially if you are taking certain medications which must be maintained at constant levels in your blood stream at all times.
What about the regular person faced with spending a month's salary or more to obtain his freedom by posting bail? You must ask yourself? Will you earn the money that it costs you to bail out in the time you will likely be out on bail. Or, will you lose a valuable job by remaining in jail that will cost you more money over the long term than the cost of bail today? In Los Angeles the average misdemeanor is resolved in less than four months and the average felony is resolved in less than six months. If your bail is set at fifty thousand dollars and your cost to post bond is five thousand, will you earn at least five thousand dollars while you are out on bail? If the answer is yes, then you should probably post bail. Or, if you will lose a good job while you are in jail fighting your case, you should probably post bail.
If you simply do not have the money to post bail or if your family with not be able to eat or pay rent if you post bail, then you should probably remain in jail and hope for the best. Also, if you have an extensive criminal record, are on parole or otherwise are planning on a state prison sentence, you might consider not posting bail. Remember that you will start racking up jail credit from the first day you are arrested, plus good conduct credits on top of that. Finally, I often tell clients that it is easier to stay in jail once you are in then it is to get out of jail and then have to go back to jail or prison at a later time.
Hiring a lawyer vs. posting bail
The final thing to consider in whether or not to post bail is if you plan to hire an attorney to represent you in your case. If you plan to hire a lawyer, I always recommend consulting with one before posting bail. A competent attorney can often assist in bail reductions or getting client's released without bail, saving the client thousands of dollars. One of the ways that bail can legally be posted at eight percent (instead of ten) is for attorney represented clients. Also, many lawyers will offer a free initial consultation so that you may discuss all of your potential options before you have to make some tough decisions.