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Frederick R. Remer
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Bail is often the key to release after arrest

While California residents wait for their opportunity to vote on whether to eliminate the bail system, your loved one may be facing the question of bail at this moment. If you have a family member who was recently arrested and is now awaiting a hearing to determine bail, you may have questions about the process and what you can expect.

Your primary concern may be getting your family member out of jail and safely home. However, there are several steps you must take to reach that goal. One of them is to ensure the judge orders a reasonable amount of bail and that you have the means to post it.

Understanding bail

Bail is like insurance. You give the court money as a promise that your loved one will return for the next scheduled court appearance. If your loved one shows up, you get your bail back. If not, the court keeps your money and probably issues a warrant for you family member's arrest. He or she will probably end up behind bars again.

In some cases, the jurisdiction has already predetermined the amount of bail for certain offenses, so you can simply pay it and your loved one can go home. In other cases, the nature of the offense requires your loved one to appear before a judge who sets the bail amount. If your loved one was arrested on a Friday or over the weekend, he or she may have to sit in a cell until the courts open on Monday.

How much is too much?

The U.S. Constitution prohibits courts from setting bail that is excessive. Bail is not punishment, and it is not supposed to be a source of revenue for the government. Nevertheless, some judges set bail high intentionally to prevent drug dealers or those who have committed violent crimes from being able to afford it. You may find that even a reasonable amount of bail is too high to pay, but you have other alternatives, including:

  • Relinquishing ownership of real estate
  • Selling valuables, such as jewelry
  • Offering the title to a vehicle
  • Purchasing a bond

Bonds can be expensive since you pay the bondsman about 10% of the bail plus whatever fees he or she demands. It is best to avoid using a bail bond if you can. This can mean fighting for a lower bail or seeking the release of your loved one on his or her own recognizance. With the help of a skilled attorney, you may have a better chance of achieving that goal.

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