How Does The Bail Process Work In Texas?
Once arrested, you may be released from jail on bail (also called bond). If you are arrested on an arrest warrant, generally bail has been set at the time that the warrant was issued, therefore, whatever judge signed off on the warrant with all those facts for the police to arrest you on that warrant, that judge has already set bond on that warrant. There are a couple of exceptions to where you are not allowed to bond out in Texas, or where they can deny your bond. The most common is somebody that is already on a felony probation, and there is an allegation, or allegations, that they have violated the terms and conditions of their probation.
Everybody calls it probation, but the law calls it community supervision, which is the same thing, and if there is an allegation that you violated your felony community supervision, the court is allowed to deny your bond pending the outcome of the Motion to Revoke. For most arrests that happen on a weekend night, your DWIs, drug arrests, things of that nature, the process is that once the officer takes you to jail, the officer must complete a probable cause affidavit for the Judge stating why you were arrested. Then, usually after several hours, you appear before a magistrate judge. That magistrate judge has two jobs. Number one, they review the arrest affidavit (probable cause affidavit) after police have filed it to be sure there was enough evidence to arrest you. If the Magistrate believes that there is, the same Magistrate will normally set bail.
It is very much within the discretion of that judge as to how much they want to set, and what amounts they want to set. Obviously, with a misdemeanor, it is usually considered a less serious crime, so bond or bail amounts are set lower, around the $1,000 to $3,500 mark. With felonies, the bond amounts are set higher, anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. With a murder case, it may be set at one million or more. That is how the amounts are determined. You have a couple of different options for making bail. One, you can post a cash bond. What that means is you, or someone you know comes in and posts bond. If you have a $1,000 bond, they will put up $1,000 with the Sherriff for your release from the jail, and that $1,000 guarantees that you will show up in court when you are supposed to.
If you do not show up in court, the judge can forfeit that bail, and you do not get the money back. They will also issue another warrant for your arrest.
What is more common, however, is people go through a bonding agent or a bail bondsman. You call them, and when you call them, they come down and put up money on your behalf. They agree then that they will bring you to court, and they are liable for the full amount of your bond. However, they do not charge you the full $1,000. Most of the bond companies now charge around ten percent of the bond amount, some more, some a little less.
When you pay your money to the bonding company, they make your bond, and they insure that you will show to court when needed. If you do not pay your bondsman or stay in touch with them, they can ask the court to allow them to bring you back in, and surrender that bond and put you back in jail. The court can forfeit that bond, and then the bondsman is then responsible for the full amount, and in either one of those situations, another warrant is issued for your arrest. If you use the cash bond scenario, once your case is disposed of, then you are entitled to get your money back from the county. Usually a processing fee allows the county to keep a small amount of the money you originally posted with the Sheriff, but then they will cut a check back to you for the remainder of the cash you put up.
If you use a bail bondsman, anything you pay the bail bondsman, the bail bondsman keeps. That was what you paid them for providing their services at that point, and the fact that they agreed to take on the liability for you.
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What Happens After Someone Gets Out Of Jail In Texas?
When someone is released from jail in Texas, in a ballpark timeline, it is tough to give, because every case is unique, every county is unique, every DA, or county attorney is unique in how they handle cases. Essentially, after a person is arrested they go to jail. Just because the police put you in jail does not mean you have committed a crime. It means they have reason to believe that you have, but it does not mean that you actually did. What happens next is the police report goes to the prosecutor whether that is the district attorney, or county attorney, depending on felony, misdemeanor, or which jurisdiction you reside in. The prosecutor gets the report and reviews the report. They make a decision based on what is in the police report, videos, statements and anything else they may be provided.
The prosecutor says you know what? We either think yes, there is enough here to go forward, or not enough evidence. If they say no, they reject the charge, tell the judge they are not going to file anything, tell the jail that, and the case is over at that point. If they say yes, they feel like there is enough here, they will begin the process of putting together an official charging instrument to bring an official charge. For a misdemeanor, that charging instrument is called an Information in Texas. For a felony, the prosecutor would seek an Indictment by presenting information to a grand jury. The grand jury will then issue either a true bill which means the grand jury believes there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed or the person alleged to have committed that crime is the right person.
Alternatively, the Grand Jury issues what is called a no bill, in which the case goes away at that point, unless further evidence is provided later.
Once a formal charge is filed, either by Information on a misdemeanor, or Indictment on a felony, most courts will use a docketing system. This requires a negotiation conference between the prosecutor, and the defense attorney, who is representing the citizen who has been accused of committing the crime. Some courts call them status conferences, some call them plea negotiation conferences, but generally, there is at least one of those for every court in this area. What is routinely referred to as docket call is not an actual docket call for trial settings. When you have those conferences, and negotiations, typically the DA’s office or the county attorney will make some type of offer a day or two before.
When you negotiate those offers that are made, you try to see if you can get the case dismissed, or the offer reduced, or changed. Alternatively, you tell the court judge, we have spoken to the DA. We are not agreeing on anything. In addition, as I said, sometimes that agreement can be if my client will do A, B, and C, then the prosecutor will dismiss the case. Sometimes there just isn’t an agreement so we need a trial setting. At that point, the case will get what is called a pre-trial setting, and that is really, when the client has to start showing up in court every time there is a pre-trial setting. When you have pre-trial settings, then you start filing motions, and make requests to the court to make rulings on these issues.
You can try to suppress statements, or keep evidence out, and find out if there are going to be experts involved, and what everyone thinks the expert’s testimony is going to be. Challenging the credentials of those experts if you need to is also done at pre-trial hearings sometimes. After that, you will receive a trial setting. As far as how fast this process works, cases can go to trial in six months or shorter from my experience, however, that is rare. Most cases generally get to trial around the nine months to year mark, maybe as long as two years. If you know somebody that has not been released and is sitting in jail through this whole process, his or her case is going to take priority on the trial docket versus somebody that has been released and is out on bond. No one wants people sitting in jail when there is a chance that they have not done anything that rises to the level of that crime. Everyone is presumed to be innocent and it is up to the prosecutor to prove otherwise.
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