How Does Bail Work?

Posted by Keith Hall | Sep 09, 2015 | 0 Comments

One of the frequent questions I find myself answering to clients in my office is on the subject of posting bail.  Bail is something that most people never have to deal with, and they often find themselves wondering: 1) what is it; 2) how does it work; and 3) what is it for?

The reason that a person has to post bail is to secure their attendance at future court hearings and ensure the safety of the community, while they are out-of-custody.  The courts assume that a person who has posted bond to get out of jail has a more vested interest in remaining law abiding, knowing that they have money on the line.

A person always has the option to remain in custody if arrested and jailed. Some "frequent fliers" in the criminal justice system actually prefer to stay in jail, knowing that while they are being fed and housed they are getting credit toward an eventual jail sentence.  

Most of my clients need to get out of jail as soon as possible, as they have jobs and responsibilities that remain in the balance.  Even a few days of missed work while in jail can lead to a loss of employment.

The courts in Washington generally allow a person to post bond in one of two ways: they can either post the total amount in cash to the court clerk; or they can opt to use the services of a bail bond company to post the bond for them.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and many times they are situational.

The advantage of posting cash bond with the court clerk is that if the accused attends all of their court hearings, the person who posts the bond gets 100% of their bond back from the court, when the case is resolved.  The disadvantage is that if the person does not attend all of their court hearings, the person who posted the bond loses 100% of their money to the court.  Additional disadvantages are losing control of a large amount of money for the length of a court case, which could last for months or years; having to navigate the cumbersome process of posting the bond with court clerks or jailers who are used to dealing with bail bonding companies; or an occasional procedural issue can go wrong.  One I frequently see occurs when the case is filed in one court, and then refiled in another.  The dismissing court will often take several weeks to release the bond funds, while the new charging court will immediately require them.  This can result in a situation where someone needs to post two bonds in order to keep the person on the street.  Bail bond companies are usually allowed to simply transfer their bond between the courts.

The advantages of posting your bond through a bail bond company are that you usually only have to pay the bail bond company 10% of the total bail bond to ensure release, and therefore tie up less money.  Additionally, you are hiring experts at posting bond, who know how to quickly take care of the necessary paperwork to get the person out of jail, or to transfer it between various courts. The disadvantages to using a bail bond company are that 1)  you don't get your 10% service fee back, even if the person attends all of their court dates; 2)  you are still on the hook for the entire bond amount  if the person jumps bail, and the bond is forfeited; 3)  the bail bonds company may seek a lien on personal or real property that you own, in order to assure that they will be able to recover their money if the person jumps bail, and the bond is forfeited.

We are happy to discuss the pros and cons of these bail issues with you, just schedule a consultation with our office today by calling (253) 867-2675.  You can also see our webpage on bail and other conditions of release here

About the Author

Keith Hall

Keith is our firm's lead criminal defense attorney.

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