It's 2:30 in the morning at you're fast asleep and your cell phone rings. The loud unexpected ring scares the s$*% out of you! We all know that when your phone rings at this hour, its never good news, right? Its your loved one on the line, calling you from a local jail. Yep...its happened...he's been arrested for something and you say to yourself "this is what the end of someone's life or career looks like." Your friend or family member is locked up in jail with all of the bad and dangerous people in the world, and you feel completely helpless and panicked. "What in the hell are we going to do now!!??" you ask yourself.
The first thing to do is to CALM DOWN. Everything is going to be alright. Everything is going to work itself out. It is a crazy and awful circumstance that you have been forced into, but it will work itself out! This whole experience is a process...a process with like 100 steps, and you are on step 3. Chill...breathe...gather yourself and focus. Here is what I recommend you do:
Call the jail where your friend is located. I know that seems like common sense, but you would be surprised how many people actually dial 911 and ask an emergency dispatcher about their loved one's situation. Don't do that. CALL THE JAIL DIRECTLY. If the police agency is so small that they don't have a direct jail telephone number, call the NON-EMERGENCY police department telephone number. When a jailer (or a dispatcher if its a smaller department) answers the telephone, DO NOT ARGUE OR DEBATE OR INSULT THE JAILER!! The jailer didn't arrest your friend. A police officer did. You cannot win the case over the phone! Trust me...I've tried and it doesn't work. Ever.
Once you have a booking officer on the telephone, BE NICE!! Confirm that your friend is in custody with that police agency and what he has been charged with. Write it down. The complete charge or charges, including the degree of the offense(s). Once you have written down the charge(s) and the degree(s) involved, find out WHEN your friend is eligible to bond out of jail. Let me explain why....
Some criminal offenses require a specific amount of time to be spent in jail BEFORE the accused is ELIGIBLE to post bond. For example, a person charged with DUI will have to wait a certain amount of time based upon the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) resulting from the breath test. The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences gives an alcohol elimination table that estimates how many hours a person eliminates alcohol from their system over a given number of hours. The higher the BAC result, the longer the time a person has to sit in jail before they can bond out. The jail cannot release a person from their custody who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs until they sober up. You may not be able to bond them out for 24 hours! Think about it and it makes total sense.
Another criminal charge, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, requires a minimum 12 hour "cool down" period if a magistrate is not readily available to conduct a Conditions of Release Hearing. This is a hearing where the magistrate makes certain that the court has all of the necessary and required contact information for the accused and also informs the accused that his release is predicated upon certain conditions, such as not to have any conduct with the alleged victim (a topic for another blog). Like it or not, that is the law. The fact remains that your loved one may have to spend the night in jail. Intoxicated arrestees are NOT placed in the jail's general population. They are either housed in a "drunk tank" with other non-violent intoxicated inmates or placed in their own individual cell in the booking area so they can be closely observed by corrections officers.
Ask the jailer HOW MUCH the TOTAL bond amount is, including the bonding fee. Write down the exact dollar figure you are given. You will need that information later in this process, I assure you.
Ask the jailer if the bond(s) are CASH BONDS or GOOD BONDS. A cash bond requires that cash money (dead presidents) be paid to the jail in order to bond out your friend. A good bond is a bond that allows you (or your friend) to employ the services of a bail bonding company to "sign" him out of jail for a fee (usually 10% of the bond) that they keep as their charge for signing your buddy out of jail. **Check out my blog on Bailing (or Bonding) the Accused out of Jail dated April 2, 2020.
Ask the jailer WHAT BONDING COMPANIES they approve. Not all municipal jail or county jails allow every bonding company the privilege of conducting business with their jurisdiction! You don't want to waste time calling a bonding company that isn't allowed to make bonds in that jurisdiction.
Now I'm about to give you some of the best FREE advice you will ever get from an attorney regarding getting someone else out of jail: Ask the jailer if the arrestee has any holds or warrants on him! If there IS a warrant with another agency and you post a cash bond or contract with a bail bondsman and you pay that money, the jail (or the bondsman) keeps that money (or bondsman's fee) and your friend DOES NOT GET OUT OF JAIL! Instead, the agency with the outstanding warrant on your friend will come and pick them up and take them to their jail! Don't get duped! Ask the question. If they DO have a warrant with an outside agency, call the other agency and find out what their charges/bond amount is and make a decision as to how you want to proceed.
Next, call a bondsman. They all work off of cell phones, so don't worry about calling one that you think is close by. They probably are out at another location or making another person's bond somewhere else. Tell the bondsman your friend's name and what jail he is located. Tell him the charges and the total bond amount. Tell him when your friend is eligible to bond out of jail. Answer the bondsman's questions completely and truthfully.
Look....you may be really pissed that your friend or your loved one got arrested. I get it. After 19 years in law enforcement as a police officer AND as a corrections officer, I've literally seen and heard every reaction you can imaging that a person in your position has. Getting angry IS NOT going to help the situation or help your friend. In fact, if you act like a jerk on the telephone with Central Booking because you think they are too slow, not paying attention to what you are saying or how you feel, you are wrong! Trust me, as a corrections officer, an empty jail is a happy jail! No one wants to deal with drunk or angry or difficult arrestees. When I was a jailer, if no one came into get booked that night (I worked 6 pm to 6 am), I could read, watch tv, study, etc. Don't be an ass to correctional staff members. I assure you, they know EXACTLY how to deal with pain in the ass inmate family members...they ignore them.
Finally, if you are going to hire an attorney to represent your loved one or friend, BOND YOUR BUDDY OUT OF JAIL FIRST, THEN HIRE AN ATTORNEY. If a lawyer is a decent human being, he will understand that money is tight all over for everyone. Don't pay a lawyer HIS fee and then leave your loved one in jail (unless there is no way you can afford to make the bond or there is a NO BOND order, say like for a probation violation). That's just not right. Get your friend out of jail, THEN go hire a lawyer. Better yet, hire me.