If you’ve watched enough TV shows and movies, you’ve probably seen Hollywood depict characters who get arrested and are “released on bail.” But what is bail exactly and what does it mean to criminal defendants in Texas?
Bail is the money that a defendant has to pay so he or she can be released from custody until their court appearances and trial. A lot of people mistakenly believe that bail is a fine, but that is not the case. Bail is not a fine and it is not a punishment.
A defendant may be required to post bail so the court can be assured that the individual will show up in court for all of their court hearings and trial that they must be present at. “But what happens to the bail after the case is all over?” It is returned to the defendant and in some states, the bail is returned after a processing fee has been deducted.
How the Bail Amount is Set
Before a judge or magistrate sets a bail amount, he or she will consider a number of factors, including but not limited to:
- Whether the defendant is a flight risk. If the defendant is an immigrant, he or she may be at risk of fleeing to their home country. Still, there are other reasons why a defendant may be a flight risk, such as no job or no real community ties;
- The nature of the crime alleged;
- How dangerous the defendant is, for example, if the person allegedly committed an extremely violent crime, he or she may be a risk to the community; and
- If letting the defendant be released on bail would put the community at risk.
In some cases, a defendant is released on bail, but under certain conditions, for example, the judge or magistrate may say that the defendant cannot contact any of the alleged victims of the crime in question.
A judge or magistrate may decide to release a defendant on their own recognizance. This means the defendant is released without having to pay bail. In these situations, the defendant must promise that he or she will attend all hearings and they will be at the trial. When is someone released on their own recognizance, which obviously sounds like the most ideal way to go?
Usually, a judge releases someone on their own recognizance when they have a steady job, deep roots in the community, and by all appearances, the defendant is not a flight risk and they do not pose a threat to the community.
Bail Reform in Texas
Last year, an article was published in the Texas Tribune entitled, “Texas House approves bail reform after removing amendment that could keep poor people in jail.” We recommend reading this article to learn about the recent changes to bail in the state.
“Calls for reform in Texas have grown louder as successful legal challenges to bail practices expand across the nation. In many counties, judicial officers set a bond amount, based on the criminal charge, that arrestees must pay in order to be released from jail before trial. But some cities, counties and states are veering away from cash-focused bail systems. Instead, they are leaning toward making pretrial jail release decisions based on an arrestee’s risk level and pushing for release of low-risk defendants on no-cost bonds,” Jolie McCullough wrote in the Texas Tribune.
If you have further questions about bail in Texas, we invite you to contact Alband, Lane & Balderama at (817) 997-4366 to schedule a free consultation.