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Bail System

What is the Bail System in California?

If you're arrested in California, you can get released by posting bail and paying the court money. Once your case ends, you can get your bail money back if you comply with the bail conditions and attend all future court appearances.

It's unconstitutional in California for someone to remain jailed solely because they cannot afford to bail out. To keep somebody in custody, there must be clear and convincing evidence that their detention is necessary to protect public safety.

How Bail Works in California
If you're arrested in California, you can often be released from custody by posting bail.

In Los Angeles County, you can only be held on bail if you are arrested for severe or violent felonies. If not, you must be released on your own recognizance (OR), so you do not have to post bail.

Whether you are out on bail or OR, the judge can remand you to jail if you violate the terms and conditions of bail. Sometimes, these conditions include a stay-away order prohibiting contact with the alleged victim, which is common in domestic violence cases. You might be required to surrender any weapons.

It's important to understand that judges hold significant discretion in deciding whether bail is appropriate and how much to impose. The bail amount is always contingent on the nature of the crime.

"Bail" is money that must be posted with the court to be released. After release, you are required to appear at all future court dates. Notably, there are some situations and specific crimes where the judge can order a defendant to be detained without bail.

What Is Bail?

The term "bail" is mainly understood and generally described as the money you must pay to be released from jail. Bail is a standard method to ensure you will attend future court appearances. Either you or a bail bondsman can provide bail money. As noted, the bail amount will be refunded once the criminal case concludes.

Suppose you fail to appear in court as ordered. The bail can be forfeited in that case, and other legal consequences, such as the judge issuing a bench warrant for your arrest. Some specific rules and procedures regulate the bail process to ensure fairness.

All California counties have bail schedules that set the bail amount for each type of crime. You can post bail in different ways, such as with cash, but the most common method is to use a bail bondsman.

Sometimes, defendants post bail through a property bond, allowing the court to place a lien on their property. If they fail to appear in court, foreclosure proceedings might be initiated.

What is a Bail Schedule?

All California counties have a bail schedule detailing bail amounts for offenses such as misdemeanors and felonies. The amounts will vary, and judges have some discretion to adjust these amounts based on the case details, including the following factors:

  • Your criminal history,
  • Severity of the crime,
  • If you are a flight risk,
  • Whether you are a risk to public safety,
  • Financial ability to post bail.

Once you are arrested, the court will hold a bail hearing to decide what to do with you pending trial. The judge will set your bail. Depending on the details of your case and prior criminal record, they can deviate from the bail schedule.

What are Release From Jail Options?

The judge has several options for deciding your release from jail custody, such as the following:

  • The judge can allow you to post bail through cash bail, bail bond, or property bond. Cash bail means depositing the total amount with the court clerk or the arresting agency. You will get a full refund within three months if you make all your court appearances.
  • The judge can release you on your own recognizance release (OR). This means you are released without having to post bail after you promise to appear at all future dates, but there are also some terms and conditions. This is the default release method unless there is a reason to impose bail, such as a violent crime.
  • The judge can order you to be held without bail. This typically occurs when you are considered a threat to public safety.

If you fail to appear in court, you will forfeit the bail to the court, and the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. If you cannot pay the bail amount, you will be held in custody pending trial.

How Can You Post Bail?

There are several ways to post bail to get released from custody after you were arrested, including the following:

  • The most common method is using a bail bondsman who agrees to pay the entire bail amount. You or the cosigner must typically pay the bondsman 10% of the bail amount as a fee. If you fail to appear in court, the bail bondsman will try to collect your total bail amount.
  • The cash bail method typically means you or a family member will pay the total bail amount in cash, which can be refunded later.
  • The property bond method is uncommon, but when used, it typically involves using real estate as collateral to cover the bail amount. A professional appraisal is used to establish the property's value.

After your criminal case is over, the court releases your bail. Exoneration usually happens when the case is resolved, such as when you are taken into custody after a guilty verdict or ordered to a diversion program by the judge.

As noted, bail bondsmen will post your bail in exchange for a non-refundable premium of 10% under California law. Thus, suppose your bail is set at $1000,000; you will pay the bondsman $10,000.Suppose you posted cash bail and were convicted. The cash will be applied to these court-ordered fines or restitution in that case.

Using a cosigner is common when you cannot afford bail. They agree to take responsibility for your court appearances and could be held financially liable if you fail to comply. Cosigning a bail bond is a significant commitment and often risky.

What are Bail Conditions?

If you are arrested in Los Angeles County and released without posting bail, you still must comply with specific terms and conditions to stay out of custody, such as the following:

  • Regular check-ins with an agency,
  • Travel and driving restrictions,
  • Electronic monitoring device,
  • Home detention,
  • Stay-away order in domestic violence,
  • Surrender any weapons to police,
  • Alcoholics Anonymous meetings,
  • Drug and alcohol testing,
  • Ignition interlock device for DUI,
  • Alcohol or drug abuse treatment,
  • Mental health treatment,
  • Released to the family on a promise to appear.

How Can a Lawyer Help You?

Suppose you were charged with a crime. In that case, posting bail is often a primary concern. In Los Angeles County, only defendants arrested for serious or violent felony crimes can be held on bail. Otherwise, they are eligible for an own recognizance (OR) release.

This means you are not required to post bail or pay any amount to the court; instead, you must promise to make future court appearances.

A California criminal defense lawyer can be crucial in obtaining an own recognizance release (OR) or ensuring a fair bail amount.

A defense attorney can argue that an OR release is appropriate, negotiate for lower bail, or request a Humphrey hearing to decide whether you're being held due to an inability to post bail. After you secure a bail bond, it normally takes up to four hours to be released from custody. Contact us for more information. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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