Prompt jail release is an often-overlooked component of a successful criminal defense. Without jail release, the presumption of innocence basically becomes a presumption of guilt. Incarcerated defendants cannot meaningfully participate in their own defenses, and they may accept unfavorable plea bargain offers to get things over with.
So, the Eighth Amendment guarantees reasonable bail in criminal cases. Here in Tarrant County, reasonable bail usually means one of three things.
For over two hundred years, the cash bail system was about the only jail release alternative in the United States. But recently, critics have attacked this system, arguing that it adversely affects poor and minority defendants. As a result, some jurisdictions, including California, have eliminated the cash bail system.
The Tarrant County cash bail system is still alive and well. However, because of the mounting criticism, an alternative may be available. If the defendant is charged with a nonviolent crime, like drug possession, pretrial release may be available. That's especially true if the defendant has no prior criminal record.
Own Recognizance (OR) release is essentially a promise to appear in court at a later date. The arrest becomes more like a traffic ticket. Other conditions of bail, which are outlined below, are usually limited.
Obviously, pretrial release is only available in limited situations. Furthermore, a review board must examine the case and make a decision. This process could take several days, and a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney may or may not be able to advocate for the defendant.
Typically, the Tarrant County Sheriff sets a presumptive bail amount based on the severity of the offense and the defendant's criminal record. Generally, this amount is about $750 for a misdemeanor and $1,500 for a state jail or third-degree felony. For more serious felonies, the amount may be considerably higher.
If the defendant successfully complies with all bail conditions, the judge discharges the obligation when the case is resolved, and the defendant gets most of the money back. Conditions vary, but they generally include:
No arrests while out on bail,
Remaining within the county,
Keeping the county informed of address, telephone number, or other changes, and
Attending all required court dates, even if they are just procedural settings.
Some Tarrant County judges require defendants to appear each time the case is on the pretrial docket. Other judges only require defendants to appear at final settings.
To many people, a thousand dollars might as well be a million dollars. In these cases, a surety bond, which is like an insurance policy, may be a good option. Most bonding companies charge about a 15 percent premium to underwrite a bail bond.
In cash bonds, the person putting up the money assumes the risk. If the defendant jumps bail, the county keeps the money. Bail bonds are different. The bonding company assumes the risk. If the defendant jumps bail, the company must either produce the defendant or pay the face amount.
Bail bond conditions are usually like cash bond conditions. Some companies impose additional requirements, like regular, in-person check-ins.
Jail release jump starts a successful defense. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.