Over 10.5 million Americans are arrested each year and while many can afford to pay bail, some people simply don’t have an emergency fund to draw from. This means you or someone you’re close to is doomed to stay in jail until the case goes to trial, which may be several months from the time of the arrest.
The answer is no. Believe it or not, it is possible to get out of jail even if you can’t immediately afford to pay bail. Read on to learn how to get someone out of jail if you don’t have enough money for bail.
What is Bail Anyway?
In the U.S. judicial system, bail simply acts as collateral to prevent an arrested person from becoming a flight risk. The good news is anyone who hasn’t been tried yet is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law; that is one of our legal rights. The bad news is the government needs a way to prevent suspects from fleeing and bail act as a sort of insurance against that.
How is the Cost of Bail Determined?
How high or low a person’s bail is depends upon several factors including the seriousness of the crime, what kind of criminal record they already have, how much of a threat or flight risk they are, and their finances.
Ways to Pay for Bail
There are three general ways a defendant can pay for their bail:
2. Bail bonds — a bail bond is when you borrow money to pay for your bail
3. Own recognizance — also called O.R., it’s when a judge waives your bail if you meet certain criteria
We’ll go over bail bonds and O.R. in a minute.
Bail s Given Back
One little-known fact about bail is that as long as a defendant follows the law by showing up for their court hearing, not fleeing, and any other conditions of their release, that bail will be returned to them. Otherwise, they can end up back behind bars until their trial.
Believe it or not, the government is willing to allow defendants ways of making bail even if they can’t readily afford it because it understands that people have responsibilities such as work and taking care of family. After you pay bail, it will be held until your trial to ensure you’ll show up for it.
How to Get Someone Out of Jail With a Bail Bondsman
You or a loved one also have the option of hiring bail bond services as a way of getting out of jail when you don’t have enough cash to secure it on your own. Many bail bondsmen will take care of all necessary paperwork to get your bail processed as quickly as possible.
When a defendant uses a bond bail service, they must still pay 15% of the bail amount upfront. This amount goes to the court. Using a bail bond services can make the process of posting bail a little less stressful and make you feel like you have a helping hand during a confusing time.
There are some important questions to ask a bond bail service company before hiring them to secure your bail. These include asking if they’re licensed, how quickly they get people out of jail, and what their terms are. Discover more about how a bail bondsman can work with you to post your bail.
O.R.: The Get Out of Jail Free Card
If you’re lucky, sometimes a judge will allow you to leave jail without posting any bail on account of O.R., or “own recognizance.”
A defendant can actually request O.R. at their first court appearance following arrest, but obviously, there are some factors that judges take into consideration when granting O.R. Defendants who are granted O.R. usually meet most or all of the following conditions:
- They are employed
- They live with or have immediate family in the area
- They have no past criminal record, or one with very minor offenses
- They are in good standing with the community and have lived there for several years
- If they were charged with a previous crime, they did not flee before trial
Defendants released on conditions of O.R. don’t pay bail and will only sign a written agreement to come to court as directed. However, they still need to follow any conditions of their release as set by the judge.
Signature and PR Bonds
Similar to O.R., a judge may grant a signature or PR bond if they believe you are not a community threat nor a flight risk.
A signature bond is also known as a recognizance bond or R.O.R. The defendant signs a promise to return for the trial and the bond doesn’t require a cash or collateral payment.
A PR bond is usually granted if you a criminal with a background that is not violent. It usually comes with terms which may include attending therapy, staying sober, or performing community service and of course, showing up for all court appearances.
No Cash Bail in California or Washington, D.C.
In August 2018, California became the first state in decades to officially end cash bail. The California Money Bail Reform Act, set to become effective in October 2019, was passed so that rich and poor defendants are treated equally. Washington, D.C. already abolished its cash bail system over 40 years ago.
This doesn’t mean you’re automatically released until your trial, however. The local court decides who may be released and who will have to stay depending upon the seriousness of the crime and how much of a flight risk the suspect is.
This bail reform could be a trend and eventually sweep other states but for now, California and D.C. are two states where you won’t have to pony up the cash to get out of jail.
Learn More With Our Educational Posts
It isn’t impossible to know how to get someone out of jail, even with limited funds. Now that you know a little bit more about types of bail and options available to you, check out our other educational posts on more topics related to law and legal rights.