On average, 1.2 million arrests are made each year in the state of California. Many of these detainees are given the option to post bail, which means they are formally released from custody while awaiting trial. Of course, their release is subject to a lot of regulations. For example, if you are released on bail, you may be required to remain at home or report to the police station on a regular basis. However, in order for this to become a possibility, defendants must first post bail. Understanding how the bail process works and the laws that govern it can make it easier for those affected (such as the defendant or their family members) to navigate the legal system.
In this article, we’ll delve into the various laws and regulations surrounding bail in California - so that you can better understand the situation you are currently in.
What is Bail?
Bail refers to the sum of money that must be paid to allow the temporary release of the defendant before the trial takes place. The amount of money required to make bail can vary depending upon a range of factors, such as:
- The defendant's criminal history
- The severity crime that has been committed
- Whether or not the defendant is a “flight risk.”
A judge will consider the above factors and determine the bail amount. The more severe the crime, the higher the price for bail will be. In California, you can post bail for a variety of charges, including:
- Assault & Battery
- Child Endangerment
- Restraining Order Violations
- Corporal Injury
- Domestic Violence
- DUI & DWI
- Weapon Violations
- Misdemeanors (Disorderly Conduct, Petty Theft, etc.)
However, it is important to note that some inmates may be denied bail. For example, if they are deemed a danger to others or a flight risk or have skipped bail in the past, it's unlikely that the judge will give them the opportunity to post bail. If the defendant, or somebody close to them, can pay upfront, this is known as cash bail. If the defendant shows up in court as scheduled, this money will be returned once legal proceedings conclude, regardless of the outcome of the case. Most courts estimate that the money will be returned within 90 days of the case closing. However, this can vary from time to time.
Given that this can often cost thousands of dollars, many people are unable to pay upfront. For example, the typical bail amount for a vehicular manslaughter charge is $50,000 ($100,000 if the defendant was driving under the influence) - money that many people simply do not have lying around.
What's more, bail prices are exceptionally high in California, where, according to a recent report, the “median bail rates are five times higher than that of the rest of the nation.” In fact, it's estimated that only 60% of defendants are able to post bail. These rising figures, alongside the general consensus that the bail system unfairly penalizes the poor, mean that many are pushing for reform within the state (and beyond).
If you’re unable to afford the bail price determined by the judge, you can reach out to a licensed bondsman to obtain a bail bond. Alternatively, you may consider taking out a property bond against a property you own.
What is a Bail Bond?
A bail bond becomes a necessity when the defendant cannot pay the total amount set out by the court. Instead, they’ll work with a bondsman or bail agent, who will agree to cover the costs on your behalf. The defendant will then pay the agent a percentage of the original bail amount - which is typically around 10% of the original fee. This is non-refundable, but taking out a bail bond means you do not have to pay the full fee outlined by the court from your own pocket. As such, it's often a more cost-efficient approach to posting bail.
A bail bond works in the same way in which an insurance policy would. If you fail to appear in court, the bondsman will be responsible for paying for covering the full fee. You’ll also face additional legal consequences as a result of this, as part of the bail agreement means that you’ll turn up at court when required to do so. Failing to meet other arrangements outlined in your bail agreement could also mean that you’re facing additional charges.
What is a Property Bond?
When a defendant selects a property bond, this means they offer up a property as collateral should they not meet the conditions of the bail. In order to secure a bail release with this kind of bond, the property must be twice the value of the bail amount. In some cases, friends and family members may offer their own properties as collateral, which means that the defendant does not need to own the property themselves.
What are the Bail Bond Laws and Regulations in California?
There are many different laws and regulations relating to Bail Bonds in place in California.
For example, bail agents must be licensed by the California Department of Insurance. This regulation is laid out in section 1802 of the California Insurance Code. This license can be obtained as a corporation or an individual. To obtain this license, the license holder must:
- Be over the age of 18 and a California resident
- Have obtained all of the relevant qualifications and complemented mandated training courses
- Paid the relevant licensing fees
In California, license holders must reapply for their license every two years. This is because it ensures they are up-to-date with industry trends, development, and regulations. It also makes sure that their business practices are thoroughly regulated.
There are also regulations in place relating to the premiums that a bail bondsman can charge. In California, they are unable to charge more than 10% of the bail amount by law.
From the defendant's perspective, bail regulations dictate that if the defendant fails to appear at any scheduled court appearances, the bail can be forfeited. If a bail bond has been taken out, this impacts both the defendant and the bondsman. This is because the bondsman is then liable to cover the full amount of the bond. If you’ve put in place a cash bond, this money is also lost.
What happens if you skip bail?
A surprising amount of defendants attempt to skip bail, despite the fact that there’s a lot relying upon their appearance in court.
Skipping bail, also known as bail jumping, is a serious crime. For example, according to the California Penal Code 1302.5: “Every person who is charged with or convicted of the commission of a felony, who is released from custody on bail, and who in order to evade the process of the court willfully fails to appear as required, is guilty of a felony.”
Skipping bail will kickstart the bail forfeiture process. If you selected a property bail, your property could be seized. In most cases, skipping bail will mean that you’re facing additional charges in court. For example, many bail skippers will also face a “failure to appear” charge.
It also means that if you’re arrested again in the future, you’re unlikely to be given the chance to post bail.
Rising bail prices throughout California (and the rest of the country) are subject to a lot of criticism. After all, this is money that many defendants simply do not have access to. However, working with a bail bond agent helps ensure defendants can quickly be released on bail while awaiting trial - for a fraction of the original bond price.
As such, if you’re trying to help a loved one make bail, you may benefit from reaching out to a licensed bail bondsman in your local area. After all, they will be able to provide you with expert advice and guidance moving forward, which can make all the difference when navigating a complicated legal landscape.
Need a Bail Bond? Reach out Today.
If you or someone you care about is awaiting trial in California, and cash bail is not an option, we’re here to help. With years of experience, we’re on hand to guide you through every step of the process.
Furthermore, we understand that this can be a frightening and overwhelming time for all those involved, so we’ll work hard to simplify the process as much as possible. Non-judgmental and courteous, we’ll answer any questions you may have.
We also offer payment plans and work hard to keep our pricing as low as possible to support those who are working with a tight budget. Furthermore, we accept major credit cards, debit cards, cash, checks, Bitcoin, and PayPal payments.
If you’d like to find out more or would like to schedule a free consultation, please do not hesitate to get in touch today.