If you’ve been arrested, in all likelihood you looked to a local bail bondsmen to help get you out of jail. But, there is so much more to bail bonds in Texas beyond simply getting out of jail. If you’re thinking of going with a bail bonding company, you need to know the good, the bad and the ugly.
In Texas, once you are arrested, you will be taken before a magistrate who will set a bond. This is the amount of money required by a court for you to be released. If the bail is paid, or posted, then you will be released from custody pending trial. However, if it is not posted you will most likely remain in custody.
This is where bail bondsmen come in. A bondsman will post bail on your behalf after you pay a nonrefundable fee, which is generally 10% of your bail amount. This can be extremely beneficial, especially if your bond is high. Instead of waiting in jail, you can go home and resume daily life.
For example, let’s say you were arrested for felony assault. The magistrate judge sets your bail amount at $20,000. However, there’s no way you can come up with that amount anytime soon. You decide to call a bail bonding company who will post your bail (the entire $20,000) in exchange for you paying the company $2,000.
You may ask, what is the alternative? Instead of using a bail bondsmen, you may choose to post a cash bond, thereby paying the entire bail amount to the court. Take the above scenario, where the judge sets your bail at $20,000. You decide to use your money in savings to post the entire $20,000 and get out of jail. And, if you make all of your court dates your $20,000 will be refunded to you; minus a small processing fee.
Why would you do that when you could get away with paying only $500? This is explained more fully herein.
Once you pay the bail bonding company their fee, they will post your bond and you will be released from jail. It doesn’t stop there, however.
After you are released, bonding companies will require that you go into their office and sign a formal contract. The contract includes various conditions that you must follow while on bond. Note that these conditions do not come from the court, but rather the bonding company itself.
So, what do these conditions look like? Here are some of the most common conditions:
- Weekly check-ins
- Additional fees
- Remaining in the county and/or state
- Staying out of trouble
Violating any one of these conditions could result in a bond forfeiture. This means that your bonding company will ask the judge to get off of your bond and get their money back. If the judge agrees, a warrant will go out for your arrest and a higher bond will be imposed. Although checking in weekly doesn’t sound too bad, when your case has been pending for 2+ years it gets a little tiresome.
If you decided to put up a cash bond, you will not have any conditions to follow from the bonding company. However, it is always possible that the court could impose its own conditions if you are released from jail. If you’ve paid the cash bond and the court has not imposed conditions, then you only need to worry about showing up to court dates and keeping in touch with your attorney. Failing to do so could result in your entire bond amount being revoked by the court.
Bonding companies aren’t exactly known for their, um, should we say, ethics. While there are many bonding companies that are fair and good at what they do, you must watch out for those that don’t play by the book.
Below is a common list of traps that you should watch out for prior to getting a bail bonding company on board:
1. Charge more than 10%. It is common practice in Texas for the bonding company to charge a 10% “fee” to post the bond on your behalf. Some bonding companies will charge more than 10% by adding additional reporting fees to the cost.
2. Bondsman Lawyer. It is a huge conflict of interest for your bondsman, who is also an attorney, to represent you. The problem is that your attorney will be working for the bonding company, not for you. Not to mention this is illegal under Texas Occupations Code section 1704.252(11).
3. Immigration or ICE Hold. Anytime there’s a hold on a county or city jail inmate, you will want to hire an attorney instead of a bonding company. You will not want to post bond and then realize that you won’t be released from custody. Bonding companies that know about the hold and take your money anyway are only harming you.
4. Parole Violation or “Blue Warrant.” If you’ve picked up a new case but are on parole on another case, you will have a Parole Violation Warrant or a “Blue Warrant.” While bond may be set on your new case, the blue warrant means you aren’t getting out of jail. Again, it is better to hire a lawyer in this situation since paying the bondsmen’s fee is fruitless.
If you’ve been arrested and the judge set a high bond, your only option may be to use a bonding company. Not many people can afford to shell out $100,000 for a bond. However, the best rule of thumb is if you can afford to pay the full amount of the bond in cash, DO NOT hire a bonding company. If you have questions about your bond, call my office today.