The purpose of this blog is to give information to people so they will know what steps to take and what options they have to get their loved one out of jail before their court date! Bailing out of jail, also called by some as bonding out of jail, can sometimes be a confusing subject for family members and friends who are attempting to get their loved one out of jail after they have been arrested.
In America, a defendant (or an arrestee) is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This is a basic principle of freedom availed to all people in this country guaranteed by the United States Constitution. When someone is arrested and charged with a crime, they are CHARGED or ACCUSED of committing a crime. They haven't been CONVICTED at that time. Most criminal offenses in Alabama are what is known as "bondable offenses," meaning that there is an amount of "money collateral" that may be posted in the name of the defendant (or even sometimes the surety, the actual person who is putting up the money to bond out of jail) freeing them from jail and then guaranteeing that the accused return to court on their specific court date to answer to the criminal charges. As previously stated, most criminal offenses have a predetermined amount of bail assigned that can be posted in order to get someone out of jail BEFORE their court date. Other crimes, such as capital murder, usually have a "No Bond" assigned until a judge can determine an accused person's eligibility at a hearing to post a bond and leave the jail.
The intended purpose of a bond is not to punish the accused, but to simply insure that they return to court to answer for the crime or crimes that they have been arrested. However, the intended purpose of bail can have an unintended punitive aspect to it if the accused cannot afford to post a bond. Unfortunately, this is a harsh reality of the criminal justice system in America. That means that if an accused person cannot afford to pay a bond, they must sit in jail until they have court or until a lawyer who is hired to represent them can file a motion to reduce bail. I have always and will always advocate that before a person or their family pay a retainer to a lawyer that they FIRST put their money towards paying the bail to get their loved one out of jail!
There are typically (4) ways that a person can bond out of jail:
- Release on Recognizance (signature bond)
- Post a cash bond
- Post a property bond
- Hire a bail bondsman (good bond)
Release on Recognizance
Maybe you didn't know this fact, but if you ever received a traffic citation (speeding, running a red light, no turn signal, etc.) from a police officer, you were actually legally arrested for that traffic offense! It was not what is know as a "custodial arrest" where you are handcuffed and taken to the jail and fingerprinted and pictured, but you were arrested! You signed the ticket and your signature was actually the procedure for signing your bond right there on the spot. Your signature serves as an acknowledgment of the charge(s) made against you and you promise that you would either pay the citation by the date on the ticket or appear in court to answer for it. That was a signature bond. If a person is arrested for something more significant than a minor traffic violation, say like a DUI, shoplifting, domestic violence assault, or cocaine possession, it is extremely unlikely that you will be availed the opportunity to post a signature bond! If you are given the opportunity to post a signature bond and fail to show up for court, a Failure to Appear Warrant would be issued for your arrest. The Failure to Appear is now an ADDITIONAL CRIMINAL CHARGE, and when you are arrested, you will only be availed the opportunity to post a cash bond in order to get out of jail before your court date. There is also the possibility that the judge issues a NO BOND order.
Posting a cash bond
Each jurisdiction in Alabama has a typical bail schedule that it follows. That schedule serves as predetermined dollar amount that each offense requires for bail.. For example, a municipal bond for Theft of Property 4th Degree (a misdemeanor) is set typically at $1,000.00. If you were to post the $1,000.00 in cash (to be held in an account for the defendant with the court), that is a cash bond. Once the accused comes to court, he would be entitled to that money once the case is completed. If the accused were to be found guilty of the offense, that $1,000.00 cash would be put towards the defendant's court costs, fees, and fines. Any difference would then be refunded. If the accused fails to show up for court after the cash bond is made, you've just lost every last cent of that cash bond! Be careful who you post a cash bond for if you chose this path. It may be best to post the bond in YOUR name (not the accused) so YOU get your money back once all is said and done!
Posting a property bond
Posting a property bond is tough to do. Every jurisdiction has their own rules regarding the posting of a property bond. What a property bond is is posting owned property with the court a collateral insuring the accused presence in court. Since there are so many variations of requirements for perfecting a property bond in Alabama, I would suggest contacting the jail where your loved one is housed and inquiring on their particular procedure for making a property bond. Hear me now and believe me later, making a property bond is NOT an easy procedure!
Utilizing a bail bondsman is the most common method of bonding someone out of jail in Alabama. It requires that the accused and/or his friend or family member co-signs a contract with the bail bondsman and pay a fee (usually it is 10-15% of the scheduled bond as their fee, which the bondsman keeps as his profit). In return, the bondman is allowed to sign the accused out of jail. Lets say if the accused has a bond of $10,000.00, a bondman will charge the person typically $1,000-$1,500 that he keeps as HIS fee and then signs the accused out of jail. That's it. Simple, quick, inexpensive and easy. Bail bondsman companies are open 24/7/365 and work off of their cell phones, so they are always reachable. Make sure that you get an up to date list of the bondsman that are licensed to make bonds in the jurisdiction where your loved one is housed. Additionally, you need to know that if the accused breaches his contract with the bail bondsman, the bondman is going to hire bounty hunters who will search the world over to snatch up the accused on the run! Think of Dog The Bounty Hunter....
In the past few years, the State of Alabama enacted a new "fee" to be placed on bonds made within the state. The law puts a Bonding Fee of $35.00 to be paid IN CASH for each bond (that means $35.00 for EACH criminal offense charged) made in Alabama. Its just another way to tax people. The recommended bail schedule for the State of Alabama can be found in The Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, Title 15, Rule 7.2(b).