Bail in Texas
When a court imposes bail in a Texas criminal case, the accused individual, a friend or a family member must pay or post the required bail amount so the accused can be released. The primary purpose of bail is to ensure the accused is present for their court date. If the accused cannot or does not post bail in a timely manner, the court will most likely hold them in custody until their criminal trial date.
The amount of bail that a court imposes will depend on several factors, including the severity of the offense, the court that is hearing the case and the accused individual’s prior criminal record. In some cases especially where the accused individual did not commit a violent crime and does not pose a significant flight risk the court may release the individual on their own personal recognizance. When that happens, the accused can leave but he or she must appear for all subsequent court hearings and trials.
In cases where the accused individual cannot afford the bail amount, he of she can hire a bail bondsman to help and must pay their fee. In some instances, the fee is between ten and twenty percent of the total bail amount, but different bail bondsmen insist on different fee amounts.
If the accused follows their pre-trial release conditions and appears for their court hearing, he or she can receive back the money he or she posted for bail. However, if he or she misses their court appearance, then the court can keep the bail money.
If you are currently pending criminal charges, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A skilled Houston criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of Bryan Fagan can review your criminal charge and arrest circumstances with you, represent you at your bail review hearing and advocate for the best possible result on your behalf. We can also represent you at all subsequent hearings in your case, including your criminal court trial. In court, we can advocate a strong legal defense on your behalf and help you pursue a charge dismissal or a favorable plea deal from the state prosecutor handling your case.
For a free initial consultation and case evaluation with an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer, please call 281-810-9760 or contact us online for more information.
What Is the Primary Purpose of Setting a Bail in a Criminal Case?
The primary purpose of setting bail in a criminal court case is to ensure that the accused will be present in court at all subsequent court dates, including their final bench or jury trial. An individual accused of committing a crime in Texas can post bail in one of three ways: a cash bail, a property bond or a bail bond.
The first type of bail an individual can post is a cash bail. In this instance, the accused or someone on the accused’s behalf, posts the full amount of the bail due to the court using cash or a personal check.
Another way to post bail is to utilize a property bond. If the accused individual has equity in real property, the court puts a lien on that property. This property is generally a house or real estate. Other times, the accused individual might have equity in a boat or other large purchase which the court can put a lien on. The court then uses the equity in the property to satisfy the bail amount.
Finally, an accused individual can retain a bail bondsman to post bail on their behalf for a fee. The fee a bail bondsman charges will depend on various factors, including the specific bail bondsman. Some bail bondsmen charge a maximum of twenty percent of the total bail amount; other times, the bondsman might charge as little as one percent, three percent or five percent of the total bail amount. You or a family member can negotiate with the bail bondsman for a reasonable fee.
The most common way for an accused individual to post bail is via a bail bond. If the person is accused of committing a serious or violent offense, the court may set a high bail that the individual might be unable to pay on their own. In that instance, the accused individual or a friend or family member, can call a bail bondsman to post bail in the case.
If the accused individual attends all of the required court proceedings, the bail bondsman will receive their money back. However, any premium that the accused individual, their friend or their family member pays to the bondsman is not reimbursable. If the accused individual fails to appear for one or more court dates, the bail bondsman will lose the money that they posted. The accused individual must reimburse the bail bondsman. If he or she fails to do so, the bondsman can take legal action against the accused individual to recover all of their losses.
Given the potential conflict of interest, a criminal defense attorney cannot call a bail bondsman on your behalf or negotiate bail with a bondsman. However, a lawyer can represent you at your bail review hearing and argue for a release on your personal recognizance or a fair bail in your case.
What Factors Determine the Court’s Pre-trial Release or Bail Decision?
Several factors can influence the amount of bail a court sets in a criminal case and whether you are eligible for a release on your own recognizance.
When it comes to bail amounts and pre-trial releases, the most important factor the court will consider is the pending criminal charge. In most instances, a court is more likely to set bail or hold the accused individual without bail, if there are pending felony charges as opposed to misdemeanors. A felony offense is one that is punishable by more than one year of incarceration. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are punishable by one year or less of incarceration, as well as monetary fines.
In cases where the accused individual allegedly committed a crime of violence, such as domestic abuse, robbery or assault the court might hold the individual without bail until their court hearing or they can set a high bail in the case. When it comes to bail amounts, each Texas court follows a bond schedule. The bond schedule sets recommendations for bail based on the alleged criminal offense. A judge has significant discretion to either lower or raise the bail amount on the schedule, depending on the circumstances.
When determining release conditions and bail amounts, courts will also consider whether the accused individual has any prior criminal convictions on their record. For example, if the individual has prior convictions for assault, domestic violence or other serious offenses, the court could either hold the accused without bail or set an extremely high bail amount. When a violent offender is charged with committing the same violent offense, the court might not have the discretion to release the accused individual or set bail under any circumstances. The same is true if the accused individual is pending a homicide charge, such as murder.
Courts will also consider whether or not the accused person was subject to any restraining or protective orders at the time of their arrest. If the accused individual was on probation or parole at the time of their arrest, it may weigh negatively on the court’s pre-trial release determination.
Courts will also review the accused individual’s record and determine if they have prior failures to appear. If so, the court could consider the accused person a flight risk and either hold him or her without bail or set a high monetary bail. The court might also consider the accused’s local ties to the community and whether he or she is currently working in the community.
Finally, the court will consider the danger the accused individual presents to a specific person or to the community at large.
If the court decides, based on the circumstances, to release the accused individual on their own personal recognizance, then the individual will be free to go. In that instance, the individual acts as their own bail bondsman or security and promises to appear for all court appearances. If an individual fails to appear for a required court appearance, they will likely be re-arrested and subject to additional penalties upon conviction.
Is a Bail Amount Subject to Reduction?
A bail bond that a court imposes can be subject to reduction at a bail review hearing. The court can also reduce a monetary bail amount if it delays the case. A criminal defense attorney can request a bail hearing on your behalf either by filing a writ of habeas corpus or a motion for bail reduction. In either of these motions, your lawyer will outline the reasons the court should lower your bail.
After the defendant’s attorney files a motion with the court, the court will schedule a bail review hearing. During the hearing, the defendant or their attorney will present evidence in support of a bail reduction. However, the state prosecutor handling the case will introduce evidence as to why he or she feels the bail amount should remain the same. A judge will then determine if a bail reduction is warranted in the case.
In some situations, a judge might also consider the amount of time in jail that the accused individual has already served while awaiting their court date.
Call an Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney About Legal Matters Today.
If you are currently pending criminal charges, time is of the essence in your case. You should have an experienced criminal defense attorney advocating for you at every stage of your pending legal proceedings including at your bail review hearing. If you show up for a court proceeding without a lawyer, the court could assume you are waiving your right to legal representation in your criminal case. The presiding judge can make you go forward at your hearing or trial without a lawyer to represent you, leading to serious consequences in your case including a hold without bail until your trial.
At The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we can represent you during your bail review hearing and at all other important hearings in your pending criminal matter. At bail review, we can highlight the strengths of your case, including your lack of a prior criminal conviction record or prior failures to appear in court and pursue a release or a fair bail amount on your behalf.
In addition to your bail review hearing, we can represent you at all your other legal proceedings. During your criminal bench or jury trial, we can advocate a strong legal defense of your criminal charge and help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. If you ultimately sustain a criminal conviction, we can represent you at your sentencing hearing and argue for a fair penalty on your behalf.
Finally, we can work to eliminate the collateral life consequences you might experience due to a criminal conviction.
For a free initial consultation and case evaluation with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney, please call 281-810-9760 or contact us online to learn more.