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Five Ways to Get Out of Jail — But Not For Free

When an individual is arrested for a crime, typically that person will be taken to a local law enforcement station for booking, prior to incarceration in a station lock-up or county jail. Once arrested and booked, the defendant has several options for release pending the conclusion of his or her case.

The bail system is designed to guarantee the appearance of a criminal defendant in court at the time the judge directs, once the defendant is released from jail. There are five basic options: cash bail, surety bond, property bond, release on his or her own recognizance (O.R.), and release on citation ("Cite Out").

Cash Bail

To be released on cash bail, an individual must give the court the total amount of the bail, in cash, to secure his or her return to court on an appointed date or dates until the case is concluded. Full cash bonds provide a powerful incentive for defendants to appear in court. If the defendant shows up for the scheduled court appearances, the cash is returned. If the defendant fails to appear, the cash bond is forfeited to the court.

Surety Bond

An alternative to cash bail is the posting of a surety bond. Essentially, a surety bond is a contract guaranteed by an admitted insurance company having adequate assets to satisfy the face value of the bond. The bail agent guarantees to the court that they will pay the bond forfeiture if a defendant fails to appear for their scheduled court appearances. The bail agent's guarantee is made through a surety company and/or by the pledge of property owned by the agent.

For this service, the defendant is charged a premium (the amount varies by state). For example, if the bail amount is $10,000.00, a ten percent premium requires the defendant to pay $1,000.00 for the bond.

Property Bond

Property bonds are less common. With a property bond, the court records a lien on a specified property, to secure the bail amount. If the arrestee fails to appear at the scheduled court date, the court may institute foreclosure proceedings against the property to obtain the forfeited bail amount.

Own Recognizance (O.R.)

Another method of release pending trial is through a county or law enforcement administered pre-trial release program. Usually, the staff members of these programs interview individuals in custody and make recommendations to the court regarding release of these individuals on their own recognizance (i.e., without any financial security to insure the interviewee's return).

The interview process is often conducted over the telephone, with little inquiry into the individual's background to determine whether the detainee is likely to appear in court and with virtually no verification of information provided by the detainee. Since no money or bond is posted to secure the detainee's appearance in court, he or she faces no personal economic hardship from his or her conscious failure to appear.

Citation Release

This procedure, known as the "Cite Out", involves the issuance of a citation by the arresting officer to the arrestee, informing the arrestee that he or she must appear at an appointed court date.

The "Cite Out" usually occurs immediately after an individual is arrested. The arrestee may never be placed in custody, and like the own recognizance release, such an arrestee's appearance in court depends exclusively upon the integrity of the alleged felon and his or her voluntarily returning to court.

Preparing to Meet With a Criminal Defense Attorney

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Preparing to Meet With a Criminal Defense Attorney

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