Although bail is used in virtually any type of criminal charge process, many people do not understand exactly what a bail or bail bond is or how it applies to their case. Terms can become confusing, but bail is essentially a deposit meant to ensure that the accused individual will appear in court. There could be weeks or months between an arrest and the different stages of a criminal trial. In many cases, a defendant will be allowed to remain at home while awaiting a court date, rather than staying in jail. A bail is paid to the court as an assurance that the individual will honor the summons to appear and answer their charges. Texas laws define the limits, regulations, and requirements for the use of bail bonds across the state.
According to Tex. Code of Crim. Proc. Ann. 17.01, bail refers to the full amount that must be paid in order for an offender to be released from jail to await a future court date. In some cases, however, a defendant may not have to pay the full amount and may be released on a bail bond or a personal bond.
Personal bonds may be approved by a judge, which permits that the alleged offender be released based on his or her word, without a financial assurance. Although these types of bonds are used for criminal charges, certain charges typically do not include this option in Texas courts, such as DWI offenses.
Section 17.02 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure goes on to explain that a bail bond is a cash deposit or some other security given to the court to guarantee the defendant’s appearance in court. This is typically just a portion of the full bail amount.
If the full bail amount cannot be paid by the defendant, they may hire a bondsman. These agents typically post bond for offenders in exchange for a fee that usually ranges from 10 to 15%. Once the conditions of the bond are properly met, the bond will be returned to the bondsman.
Although family members or friends of a defendant may pay the full bail amount, only certain licensed individuals can post bond. Licensed agencies can fulfill this role, or an attorney can post bond for a defendant, providing that the attorney then represents the alleged offender for any legal proceedings. Texas Occupations Code 1704.001 outlines the details of who is eligible to post bail bonds.
Not every offender is eligible for any type of bond. A judge will determine what situation applies to each individual case, although bonds in Texas usually start at a minimum of $5,000. The option or amount of a bond may be affected by the defendant’s prior offense record, but Section 17.08 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that all bonds must include certain elements, such as:
• The signature of the defendant and bondsman
• The location and time that the defendant must appear
• Whether the charge is considered a misdemeanor or felony
• Must be payable to the State of Texas
• Must legally bind the defendant and bondsman to appear to answer for the charges against he accused
Failure to appear for the designated court date will result in a forfeiture of the bond paid or a requirement to pay the full bail amount. This sometimes leads to bondsmen hunting down alleged offenders, to turn them in to courts for failure to appear.
Bonds are an essential way to keep alleged offenders from spending months in prison before pursuing the charges against them. They are an important tool in our justice system that can be beneficial to defendants if they are properly used. If you face charges in Texas, many attorneys offer their services as a bondsman, and may even be willing to apply the bond fee to their future services in representing you. Other bond agencies are numerous across the state, and they may be your ticket to freedom while awaiting your day in court.