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Understanding Bails and Bonds

Los Angeles Bail Attorney

Let Us Help You Get Out of Jail

"We'll help you get out of jail and stay out of jail after you have been arrested." – Ken Lewis, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Most people charged with state or federal crimes in the Los Angeles area are entitled to bail. The judge sets bail at an amount that is meant to guarantee that defendants appear in court after they have been released. Posting bail is like making a security deposit – as long as the defendant shows up in court when required, the bail is returned; if he or she does not, the court keeps the money.

Can anyone be released on bail?

The decision to release a person on bail is up to the judge. In a California criminal case, the judge has a number of options: release the suspect on his or her own recognizance (an "OR release" where no bail is posted); set bail; or decline to set bail, which results in the suspect remaining in jail until the conclusion of the case. Some crimes are not bailable in California, e.g., crimes that are punishable by death.

There are a number of ways to post bail, including: the defendant, his friends or his family can write a check for the full bail amount; they can hire a bail bondsman to post a bail bond by paying a fee and giving him collateral, or, in a federal case, they can sign a promise to pay the bail, or if required, put up collateral directly, such as a house. When bail is posted with the court, the defendant is released from jail.

If the defendant makes all scheduled court appearances until the case is over, the bail is returned to whoever posted the bail. If, however, the defendant does not appear or flees the jurisdiction, the court keeps the bail and issues an arrest warrant. Bail is also available during the appeal process.

The criteria the court uses in determining whether to allow the defendant's release on bail is similar for state, federal and appellate court cases; however, the processes for each venue vary considerably. The more experienced an attorney is in representing clients in these various courts, the more likely the defendant will get the best representation and advice during the bail process.

For more than thirty years, attorney Ken Lewis has successfully defended clients in all California and Federal Courts. He has argued numerous criminal appeals. He is well versed in the bail and bond processes in each of these courts.

Contact the Law Office of Kenneth H. Lewis & Associates today to schedule an appointment with a skilled Los Angeles bail attorney.

According to California Penal Code 1275, in setting, reducing, or denying bail, the judge must take a number of factors into consideration, including:

  • The danger the defendant poses to the public.
  • The seriousness of the crime.
  • The defendant's previous criminal record.
  • Flight risk.

Public safety, however, must be the primary consideration.

How does the judge decide on the bail amount?

Every county in California has a bail schedule that criminal court judges can use in setting bail amounts. The judge can use the bail schedule or can set bail at a higher or lower level depending on the factors listed in the previous paragraph, including any recommendations by law enforcement. Counsel, such as Ken Lewis, can have a bail hearing set and argue for an OR release, or a lower bail. It is critical to have an experienced lawyer argue your case at this point.

How does a bail bond work?

When the bail amount is more than the accused or his or her family or friends can afford, a bail bond can be used to bail the defendant out of jail. In this case, a bail bond company posts bail with a surety bond. In essence, the bond company is guarantying that the bond amount will be paid if the defendant fails to appear. Bail bonds typically cost 10% of the bail amount and the defendant or the co-signer must agree to pay the bail amount in full if the defendant fails to appear in court.

Even if the case is dismissed or the defendant makes all of his or her court appearances, the 10% fee is not returned. Some Los Angeles bail bond companies issue bail bonds for federal crimes and appeals. The non-refundable fee for a federal bail bond is generally 15% of the bail amount and the fee for an appeal is generally 20% of the bail amount.

How is federal bail set?

Unlike state cases, the federal courts do not use a bail schedule. Instead, the defendant is interviewed by a Pretrial Services Officer, who investigates the defendant's criminal history, employment, family, community ties and financial background and then makes bail recommendations to the judge. The United States Attorney will also make its own recommendations.

The judge then makes the bail determination. If the defendant is considered a flight risk (e.g., a non-citizen involved in a major narcotics case) or a danger to the community (e.g., a person with an extensive criminal record or a person who is involved in organized crime or gang activities) bail will most likely be denied.

What is an appearance bond?

In federal court, an "appearance bond" is posted for the release of the defendant as a means to secure his/her appearance in court. The appearance bond is ordered by the Court. The bond can be secured or unsecured. Secured bonds can be entirely or partially secured with a variety of items, including: cash, property, collateral (titles to automobiles, stock notes, bonds, etc.) or bail bonds. If the appearance bond is unsecured, the defendant and co-signer(s), if any, must agree in writing to pay the full amount of the bail if the defendant fails to keep all their court appearances.

How can I stay out of jail during the appeal of my conviction?

A judge can grant bail after a conviction ("bond on appeal"), so long as the conviction is not for an offense punishable by death. Much like being released by posting bail in the original criminal proceeding, posting bail for an appeal allows a defendant to stay out of jail while the appeal is being decided.

In most cases, the court will weigh various factors in making its bail determination, including: flight risk, danger to others, whether the appeal is being filed for the purpose of delay and whether the appeal is likely to result in a reversal. If the defendant fails to appear or fails to surrender if the appeal is denied the court keeps the bail. Both the trial court and the court of appeal have the power to grant bail on appeal.

Law Offices of Kenneth H. Lewis Can Help You Stay Out of Jail on Bail

Getting bailed out of jail can be complicated and expensive. Hiring a bail bond company to post bail before consulting an attorney might not be in the defendant's best interest. For example, bail amounts can be reduced and sometimes judges will agree to allow the release of the defendant without posting bail.

When a bond company is hired, once the defendant is released, the fee paid is gone for forever, even when a case is dismissed or an appeal is successful. Additionally, some bond companies charge lower than average fees; but they can be hard to find.

At the Law Office of Kenneth H. Lewis & Associates, we having been helping people stay out of jail on bail for over 42 years. Call today to benefit from our track record of success in defending individuals in the California state, federal and appellate courts.

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