By: Mark Diaz
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How is the Amount of Bail Decided in Texas?
Getting arrested for a crime in Texas is an overwhelming experience, but keep in mind that being charged is just the beginning of a case. There can be a long road ahead in the criminal process and, if given the opportunity, you would certainly wish to remain free until your trial date.
The Texas Penal Code provision on bail covers just this situation, allowing for a defendant to be released from custody over the course of the proceedings. In exchange, the individual must provide some security to the government. “Bail” is an amount of money the defendant posts as security and promises to return to court for all scheduled appearances. Bail bonds are one way to meet the court’s requirements to secure your release until your trial date.
If you were arrested, one of the first questions that may come to mind is how the amount of bail is decided in Texas. The answer is far from simple since it depends on the details of the case and the person charged. Though it is always the goal of Galveston criminal defense attorneys to seek a favorable arrangement for bail, there are numerous factors to consider. A summary of the key points may be useful to help you understand how bail and bail bonds work.
Overview of the Texas Bail System
The very first bail law in the U.S. was enacted in 1789, and the systems in most U.S. states are based on this basic system. For less serious crimes where the defendant was unlikely to flee, the court allows the individual to remain free until trial. The court requires you to pay a certain amount for this arrangement that offers a significant benefit to you; plus, the court needs some sort of security that the defendant will return to court. You forfeit the funds if you fail to appear, so bail is both an incentive and a sort of insurance for the court.
Bail as security could be in the form of a cash bond, but a defendant may not have that much liquid cash to post the entire amount. Therefore, the more common arrangement is for defendants to arrange bail bonds or surety bonds. In such a case, you enter into a written agreement with a surety company that posts bond on your behalf. You pay a fee to the bail bondsman in return for this service, which is usually a percentage of the total bail amount. In Texas, the average amount you pay the bail bondsman for service fees is about 10 percent.
The topic of bail will be addressed by the court at your first court appearance, usually arraignment or magistration.
If you appear at all court hearings until trial, the bond amount is returned to you at the end of the case if you posted the full cash bond – or officially to the bail bondsman who posted bail on your behalf. The service fee is not refundable.
Texas Bail Bond Schedule
In general, the amount of bail will be higher for more severe offenses because the risk of the defendant fleeing is presumably higher. The judge has considerable authority in how the amount of bail is decided in Texas.
Note that if your case involves multiple counts, you will need to post bail for each offense listed in the criminal complaint. Based on the severity of each offense, the individual bond amounts for each charge often varies.
Penalties for Jumping Bail
As mentioned, you forfeit bail if you fail to return to court for all required appearances. There are some exceptions; for example, if you have a true emergency or other circumstances prevented you from making it to court. With a cash bond, you lose your own money. When you purchase a bail bond, you are on the hook with the bail bondsman. The company has lost its money because of your misconduct, and you can be sure it will pursue all legal remedies for compensation.
However, there are other implications to keep in mind. Bail jumping and failure to appear is a Class A Misdemeanor. You could face up to one year of incarceration, a $4,000 fine, or both. Exceptions may apply in certain cases, so:
- You face a Class C Misdemeanor if the underlying case was only punishable by a fine. There is no jail time, but the court could order a $500 fine.
- It is a Third-Degree Felony to jump bail in a case involving felony charges. The judge could order 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
There is another consequence of jumping bail that you might not expect. By violating bail rules, a defendant is essentially proving to the court that he or she does not intend to comply with the court’s terms with bail. With the new offense of bail jumping, you can be sure the judge will think twice about releasing you.
How a Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyer Helps with Bail
Immediately upon arrest, you should contact an attorney to assist with the case. Even before addressing bail, you need legal help during interactions with the police. You have a constitutional right to remain silent, but officers may still attempt to get information that could be used in court against you. When it comes to bail specifically, however, a lawyer can help in a number of ways:
- Your attorney will be at your side during the arraignment or first appearance when a court decides your bail. Despite the state seeking an unjustly high bond amount, a judge has discretion in ordering bail. The prosecutor will be arguing to get a higher amount, so you level the playing field when you have a lawyer to argue for a lower bail amount.
- Having legal counsel is useful when obtaining a bail bond. This overview of bail in Texas is useful, but guidance with details and dealing with the bail bondsman is crucial.
- If a mistake or poor judgment leads you to jump bail, you will need a lawyer for failure to appear in proceedings. This is a separate offense, for which separate defenses may apply as compared to the underlying crime. You might have an excuse for missing court, and your attorney can help prove the facts regarding an emergency.
Of course, aside from bail, you will need help navigating the remaining stages of the case. You can best leverage defenses when you have experienced legal representation to fight the charges.
Trust Our Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyers for Legal Help
Statistics indicate that defendants benefit by getting released on bail pending trial, but you do not need numbers to realize that it is an advantage over being in custody. Being able to live freely, interact with loved ones, and maintain employment gives you some sense of normalcy. You are also better able to work closely with your lawyer on defense strategies.
If you would like additional information on how the amount of bail is decided in Texas, please contact Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz. Our Galveston criminal defense lawyers serve clients throughout Galveston County and Greater Houston in a wide range of cases, so we are ready to support you with your case. You can call (409) 515-6170 to set up a free consultation with a member of our team.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties including but not limited to Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.