Criminal defense in Austin Texas.

Bonds. What they are and how they work. Subtitle: Getting out of jail in Travis County.

Posted By on December 3, 2008

Bonds are confusing, partly because there are several different kinds, partly because of the terminology (a “bond” can be either an amount of money set by a judge, or a paper signed by a judge, allowing you to get out), and partly because it’s not always in everybody’s interests to explain things clearly.

The first kind of bond – the amount set by the judge – is pretty straightforward. The police are required to bring a person arrested in front of a judge (or magistrate) within either 24 or 48 hours. The police submit a paper called a PC affidavit (or “Affidavit for Arrest and Detention”) to the magistrate, who uses the affidavit to determine, first, whether the police can hold the suspect, and second, how much the bond should be. (In other states, they hold actual hearings to determine bond amounts. That rarely happens here, and always after the fact, if at all. More on that later.)

The amount of bonds set by magistrates varies tremendously. It can range from three to five hundred dollars on penny-ante misdemeanors, to $5000 or more on run-of-the-mill-dope cases, on up to $30,000 on certain family violence cases. Serious felonies can go much higher, and sometimes judges will set higher bonds for people who are already on probation, and then pick up a new charge.

Whatever the amount, whenever you’re arrested, you have basically four options.

The first is to pay the amount, in cash, and let Travis County hang on to it until your case is disposed of. (At which point, you can get it back.) (And forfeit it, if you don’t show up to court.)

The second is to hire a bail-bondsman. Bondsmen put up the amount of the bond for you, so you don’t have to. In return, they get a fee from you, which they keep. In Travis County, that fee is ordinarily 10%, but could be more or less, depending on your case, and how well you negotiate. And, of course, whether or not they think you’re the kind of guy who will show up for court. Bondsmen are on the hook if you don’t, and will come and get you, if it turns out you’re less reliable than they thought.

The third way is to hire a lawyer. (More on that later.)

The fourth way is to do nothing, and wait to see if you get approved for a personal bond. If you get approved, it’s going to be the cheapest way to get out of jail, because it doesn’t cost you anything.


Leave a Reply

Security Code: