Pretrial release is important for a number of reasons. Obviously, people who are incarcerated cannot work, go to school, or spend time with their families. Furthermore, these individuals cannot participate in their own defenses, at least in any meaningful way. Finally, many Tarrant County jurors presume that if the defendant is in jail, the defendant must have done something wrong. They are not supposed to think that way, but there it is.
So, the Eighth Amendment guarantees reasonable pretrial release availability in criminal cases. Ever since before America was a nation, financial security has been about the only pretrial release mechanism. But many people criticize this system. They claim, perhaps rightfully so, that it discriminates against poor people.
As a result, some jurisdictions have either done away with the financial security system altogether or at least substantially modified it. Tarrant County falls into that latter category. Most people must post cash bail or a security bond to get out of jail, but there are alternatives.
Initial Pretrial Release Conditions
Shortly after defendants are booked into jail, the Tarrant County Sherriff's Office usually sets an initial bail amount. That amount varies, but it is usually around $500 for a misdemeanor, $1,500 for a state jail or third degree felony, and a lot more than that for a first or second degree felony. Initial bail usually does not happen in capital felony cases.
The defendant may pay the entire bail amount in cash and obtain release. When the case is resolved, the defendant receives the money back, minus a processing fee.
Alternatively, the defendant may go to an attorney or a bonding company and obtain a surety bond. Felony bonds are usually 10 percent of the bail amount; misdemeanor bonds are usually about $150. There are significant strings attached. If the defendant violates the attorney or bonding company's conditions, which could include things like periodic reporting, the attorney or company could go "off the bond." At that point, the defendant would be rearrested. Moreover, the bond fee is nonrefundable.
Bail Reduction/Pretrial Release
If the defendant cannot make bail or post a bond, an attorney can demand a bail reduction hearing. At this hearing, the judge will consider a number of factors, including:
· Severity of the offense,
· Defendant's criminal history,
· Strength of the evidence,
· Defendant's risk of flight, and
· Threat to the community.
The judge may also consider additional conditions. For example, a judge may order an ignition interlock device as a condition of bail in a DWI manslaughter case.
Tarrant County also has a pretrial release program, pursuant to Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 17. Alternative release is available in misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. The pretrial release officer evaluates the case using basically the same factors as discussed above. If approved, the defendant will be released after paying a $20 processing fee. Reporting and other conditions may apply as well.
Pretrial release is an important component of a criminal case. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Convenient payment plans are available.