The History of Bail
Bail has been in the United States since the birth of the country. Much of our system for bail was borrowed from England, many are surprised to learn that bail statutes date back to as early as 1275. In the 13th century the determination of bail fell to the sheriffs, as you can imagine these were not always fairly distributed. Everything changed with the Statute of Westminster. In 1275 the Statute of Westminster took away the discretion of sheriffs to determine bail amounts and decided which offenses were bail-able. In 1689 England introduced the English Bill of Rights which stated excessive bail should not be required.
The founders of the United States brought this basic idea with them to the New World. In 1791 the United States adopted the Bill of Rights, which included the 8th Amendment. The 8th Amendment protects due process and guarantees a persons right to bail. It states that excessive bail will not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted. Bail law in the United States remained relatively unchanged until 1966 when Congress enacted the Bail Reform Act. This required bail to be granted to all non-capital defendants that did not pose a danger to society; it created a legal presumption of bail. In 1984 the Bail Reform Act was amended to require that a person be detained prior to trial when convincing evidence supports that no release condition will reasonably assure the safety of another person or the community.
Why the Bail Industry is Important
When any person is arrested they have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Why should any person who has not been proven guilty remain behind bars for an extended period of time? This is why we need bail. Bail allows accused parties to retain their freedom throughout their trial. Without bail, innocent defendants accused of a crime could be held in custody for the duration of their trial which could take months and even years to adjudicate. Bail works by allowing a defendant to pay a predetermined amount of money in exchange for his or her freedom. Once all trials and proceedings have been completed, the defendant can then return to the court in order to recover the amount of money that was paid.
Advantages of Bail Bonds
Bail amounts are often set at a price that most people are not able to afford. Even though bail is refundable as long as you attend all court dates, the total amount set by the court may be far more than a person is able to pay. While bail bond fees are non-refundable, they allow defendants who cannot afford bail to be released from jail in a timely manner.
Bail allows a person to obtain their freedom and maintain the presumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Innocent until proven guilty means that any individuals accused of a crime should be able to retain their rights as a US citizen until they are deemed guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Bail bonds prevent innocent parties from being completely stripped of their rights when charged with a crime. Whether or not a person is guilty they will need to present their case to the court. Planning a legal defense from behind bars can be very difficult and attending court from in custody can give the appearance that one is guilty even when innocent. When released on bail it allows a person to seek legal assistance and properly prepare for their trial.
Bail also provides a valuable service to the courts and community by way of financial incentive. A bail bondsman has an obligation to ensure a defendant obeys the law while on bail and attends all court hearing. If a defendant does not appear in court the bondsman will either assist in scheduling a new court date or returning the defendant to jail.
The Jail Booking Process
Anyone who has been to jail understands that being arrested is a stressful ordeal. An arrest is often the beginning of a drawn out tribulation that can end in a loss of money, time and freedom. Most people who go to jail for the first time are lost and have no idea what to expect when they get to jail. Every jail will have their own slightly different way of doing things, but there are several things that every person who enters jails will be required to do.
The initial intake begins before a person is even inside the jail. Everyone is subjected to a “pat down” to check for contraband before being brought into a detention facility. A person is then brought into the booking area where an officer will enter an arrestees personal information in the computer. Information about the alleged offense is also recorded at this time. After this information is recorded the officer will collect and itemize all personal belongings. These items will be kept safe until the person is released from custody. After these items have been collected the officer will take a picture and fingerprints. The persons fingerprints are then entered into a nationwide database to check for any outstanding warrants the arrestee might have. While waiting for the fingerprint results the arrestee will be taken to a holding cell where they will be allowed to make phone calls to family members for a bondsman. If arrangements are made for bail the arrestee will have their personal property returned and they will be released. If bail is not made the arrestee will be given a full body search and jailhouse clothing. The arrestee is then taken to a regular jail cell to await court.
There are many efforts made at the jail during the booking process to ensure the protection of the officers and inmates. The arrestee is often questioned about current or former gang affiliations. If the accused has been part of a gang then they may be housed (for their own protection) in an area where rival gang members are not present. A general medical exam is also administered to ensure the safety and health of the inmate and fellow prisoners. If a person has a serious medical condition the officers will be able to accommodate them while protecting other prisoners from possibly contagious diseases. Depending on the jail, these exams can even include tuberculosis checks. Inmates are also made to take a shower with delousing shampoo.
How to Survive the Night in Jail
Going to jail is a very stressful situation, even an arrest for a minor crime can lead to a night in the county lockup. Nobody wants to be locked up and while you are not going to make this a good experience there are a few things you can do to prevent it from getting worse.
Resisting police officers demands is one of the quickest ways to get hurt while spending a night in jail. Officers demands may seem trivial, and sometimes even unfair, but you will want to follow their instructions to a T. Showing any physical resistance or even disrespect can lead to an officer getting physical with you. It may not be right, but getting officers removed from their posts for using excessive force is a difficult and time-consuming venture that often ends in the officer’s favor. It is best to do what they say when they say it. You will not be in jail for long, so it is a small price to pay for your safety.
If a single cell is available you should request that cell. While most inmates mean you absolutely no harm, there will always be at least one bad apple in the bunch. The chances of you ending up in a cell with that bad apple are slim, but there is still the possibility. Don’t demand that officers give you an empty cell, because they don’t legally have to. Make the request in the friendliest way you possibly can. If you do end up in a shared cell then you should probably come to terms with the fact that you may not be getting any sleep that night. While most people in county jail are only there for minor offenses, there are still inmates who may try to hurt you when you’re vulnerable. Stay awake in your cell with your back against the wall.
Keeping to yourself is one of the best ways to ensure your safety while in jail. Don’t appear to be scared of other inmates, just look as if you aren’t interested in making conversation with anyone. If someone does ask you a question make sure that you answer it. If you don’t answer then you may come off as rude, and that information will make its way around the jail unit. Answer any questions with a short and quick response while trying to sound friendly. It is also important to not accept favors. Another inmate may appear to be nice and inviting, but he may use any accepted favor as ammunition to get something he wants later.
Going through a night in jail is likely going to be a taxing event on anyone. County jail isn’t the same as prison, so there will be far fewer people around you that are willing to cause you harm. Even with this being the case, there are still bad people in every jail unit in the country. If you are arrested you definitely want to take advantage of your phone call as soon as possible and contact a bail agent. Bail agents are able to secure a person’s release in only a few hours. This could get a person out of a holding cell before they are even put into general population. Speaking with a bail agent before being put into the regular population is the best option for surviving jail.
How Long Before you See a Judge
Getting arrested starts an entire series of hardships and consequences that a person must face. People are often left sitting in jail waiting to see a judge so that they can learn their bail amount, but this is not always necessary. Regardless of the situation, there are standards in the legal systems of most states and localities that dictate how long a person will be in jail before seeing a judge. People being held on Federal charges actually have a law on their side stating when their arraignment must take place. There are circumstances when a person can get out of jail before seeing a judge, but people usually can’t take advantage of these legal nuances if they do not know of them.
There is no set federal law that tells states and localities when they must arraign a defendant, but most areas provide the accused with their first appearance in front of a judge between forty-eight and seventy-two hours after booking. This time frame will vary greatly dependent on how busy a specific jail is and on when a person was arrested. Many areas do not hold court on the weekends or holidays, so if a person is arrested around either of these times, they may be held for a bit longer than usual.
If a person is arrested on federal charges then federal law requires they be given their initial arraignment within forty-eight hours of their arrest. This will also vary if a person is arrested on the weekend or holiday, but the time doesn’t exceed seventy-two hours. In both local and federal courts, a person is informed of the crime they are being charged with and expected to enter a plea. If a person enters a “guilty” or “no contest” plea, then they may be sentenced immediately. If a “not guilty” plea is entered then the judge will inform the defendant of the bail amount, if any, that they must post before leaving jail.
Getting Out Before Seeing a Judge
Once a person goes before a judge and is given a specific bail amount, they can get out of jail as soon as they post that amount. It isn’t, however, always necessary for a person to wait in jail before seeing a judge. In most areas, certain crimes have a preset bail amount, known as a bail schedule, which can be posted before a person ever sees a judge. In these instances the defendant can be released without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.
Bail amounts, even preset ones, may seem excessive, but bail costs in America are high in general. If a person has the available funds to post their own bail then they may do so. In most cases, however, a person will likely be better off if they contact a bail agent. Bail agents are usually able to get a person released from jail within hours of being contacted. If a person is able to use a bail agency, they may be out of jail before missing any work at all.
Bail Schedules & Preset Bail Amounts
Bail schedules are basically a long list of crimes with a predetermined or preset bail amount that needs to be paid in order to secure a persons release from jail. These schedules are set forth by the superior court of each county and can vary drastically from county to county for the exact same crime. The two main advantages of bail schedules are that they keep the jails from overcrowding and they allow a person to be released from jail so they can prepare a proper defense for their case.
Reinstatement & New Court Date
Whenever a person is out on bail they are required to make all scheduled court dates, if a court date is missed the judge will order the bail forfeited and issue a bench warrant for arrest. Here at A-1 Bail Bonds we understand that life is full of unexpected circumstances and emergencies that could prevent someone from making a court date. We are able to work with you to clear your warrant and get a new court date set. If you miss court give us a call immediately and we will make arrangements for you to come in and receive a reinstatement letter. This is a legal document stating A-1 is aware you missed court and would like to keep the bail in place and have the courts issue a new court date. You must take this signed document over to the court records office and they will schedule your new court date. The courts do charge the bondsman a fee for processing the reinstatement paperwork which is typically around $200. Anyone who would like to clear their warrant and receive a reinstatement letter will be required to pay this fee.