Bail laws in California have been in the news a lot lately. Primarily, the focus is on Los Angeles and the changes to the bail structure in that county. It leads many people to wonder, is there bail in California anymore?
The more research you do, the more confused you become. There are differing reports and headlines, but we will explain everything you need to know in this guide. The short answer is that yes, there is bail in California. New bail reform has made things slightly more complicated, so here’s a breakdown of how things work, and the current laws in play.
The Current Bail Laws in California
At the time of writing, bail still exists in the state of California. However, there has been a bail reform affecting some counties within the state. Los Angeles is the main headline here, and the new bail laws state that bail isn’t required for certain crimes.
Specifically, individuals who have been arrested for misdemeanor or non-violent felony offenses will not have to post bail. They will be covered by a zero bail policy in the county of Los Angeles.
Two crucial things need to be noted here:
- This ruling is only for LA, not the whole of California
- A zero-bail policy only applies to non-violent crimes
As such, if you are arrested somewhere else in California, you will still need bail. It doesn’t matter what crime you committed or were accused of, if the police are holding you in custody, bail is still required. Similarly, even if you get arrested in LA - but it’s for sexual offenses, domestic violence, or crimes involving weapons, you’re going to need bail as well.
We appreciate that this sounds confusing, largely thanks to the bail reform in Los Angeles. It’s made more complicated as plenty of news outlets are running stories about a “California bail reform”. The new zero bail policy only affects LA at the moment, so the rest of California still operates with bail in place.
How Does Bail Work in California?
Bail in California works similarly to other states in the US. When an individual is arrested and placed in custody, the jail will set bail as a financial guarantee. In essence, you will have to pay the bail amount to be released from custody. This doesn’t mean you’re paying for your freedom and exoneration from any crimes - it simply allows you to get out of jail and go home. You will still be required to attend all upcoming court dates related to your case. If you are found guilty of the crimes, you must face any consequences - which could include a period of jail time. If you are found not guilty, you will be free to go about your life.
In either outcome, bail is typically exonerated once your case is resolved. When you are not guilty, your bail gets released back to you and you receive the money, possibly minus some administration fees. The same can happen when found guilty, though if you’re charged with a fine for your crime, the bail payment will cover some of it.
How Is Bail Calculated in California?
Bail laws in California usually calculate your bail amount based on the crime you’ve been arrested for. Generally, the more severe a crime is, the larger the bail amount will be.
In addition to this, other factors weigh in on your bail:
- A previous track record of criminal activity
- Your “flight risk” - how likely is it that you may try to escape the state after posting bail?
As you can imagine, individuals with a bad criminal record and a possible history of trying to flee or avoid court appearances will command large bail amounts. There are also instances when the court may deny bail completely. This typically happens when the crime is extremely severe or a person is being convicted of the same offense they committed multiple times before.
Of course, as mentioned before, in Los Angeles you will not be required to post bail for minor and non-violent crimes. This may also be the case in other Californian counties, though it’s rare.
How Do You Pay For Bail in California?
At Mr Nice Guy Bail Bonds, we’ve had plenty of experience dealing with bail in California. Based on our calculations and previous clients, we can conclude that the average bail costs are relatively high. You may have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be released on bail.
Naturally, most people don’t have this much money lying around. Paying cash bail is not feasible in lots of situations. If you can’t afford the bail amount in cash - or can’t get support from friends or family - you are left with two options:
- Continue to be held in custody until your court dates
- Use a property bond to cover the costs
- Get a bail bond from a licensed bail bondsman
You’d like to avoid the first option as it means spending time in jail. If you believe you’re not guilty, then this is unwarranted jail time that can have a significant impact on your mental health. We also don’t recommend using a property bond either. It means your property is put up to cover the cost of bail, though it needs to be worth more than the bail amount. This is highly risky as your property can be repossessed if you accidentally miss court dates. Overall, the best option is to get a bail bond from a bail bondsman.
Many people worry that the new bail reforms in Los Angeles mean bail bondsmen are no longer in operation. This is far from the truth! You can still find bail bonds in California without any problems. If you’d like to learn more about this or require a bond for yourself/a family member, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.
We won’t go into too much detail on how bail bonds work in California as we’ve covered this in a previous blog post. Instead, here’s a brief overview of what the bail bond process looks like:
- A bail bondsman will provide cash to cover the cost of bail
- You pay a fee that covers a percentage of your bail (typically around 10%)
- You will attend all of your court dates until the trial concludes
- After the case is resolved, the court releases the bail back to the bondsman so they receive all of their money back
- You will therefore only pay 10% of the full bail amount
As you can see, it potentially saves you a lot of money and stress. For some individuals, paying a cash bail is life-threatening. It can land you in serious debt and make you miss important payments. Working with a bail bond agency is the most secure way of posting bail without damaging your finances.
What Happens If You Skip Bail in California?
Skipping bail refers to instances when you break the terms of your bail agreement. As mentioned before, the jail will release you on bail, but under specific circumstances. Mainly, you must attend all court dates and stay out of trouble while released on bail. Fail to do this and you could be arrested again and your bail may be void.
If this happens, and you have a bail bond, your bail bondsman is allowed to search for you and bring you to court. They cannot legally arrest you, but they can hire bounty hunters to locate you and bring you in. This is the worst-case scenario as the court will nullify your bail, meaning you have to pay the full amount to the bail bondsman.
In some instances, you might miss court dates unintentionally. Perhaps you were sick or had a family emergency. In situations like this, you can work with your bail bondsman to submit a motion to reinstate bond. They will contact the court and submit documents asking that your bail be reinstated. It basically gives you a second chance and you must provide evidence that shows you missed court dates because of situations out of your control.
Is There Bail in California: A Summary
We’d like to summarize everything to reiterate the main points about bail laws in California right now.
Yes, there is still bail in California, and bail bond agencies are still in business. Bail reform changes in some counties - like LA - simply mean that non-violent crimes don’t always require bail.
Therefore, if you are arrested in California, it is highly likely you will require bail. When cash bail isn’t an option, we recommend getting a bail bond. Be sure to only work with licensed bail bondsmen who have a track record of working with clients and helping them during this troubling situation.
At Mr Nice Guy Bail Bonds, we are more than happy to help with your case. Get in touch with our team today to talk about the specifics and we can work on getting a bail bond ASAP.