Is Jail Release Important?

FW Cops Find 100 Pairs of Underwear and 20,000 Child Pornography PicturesPretrial release is obviously important from a personal perspective. It’s also important from a legal perspective. The presumption of innocence is one of the bedrock principles of the American justice system. If the defendant remains in jail, that presumption of innocence essentially becomes a presumption of guilt.

If the defendant is in jail, a trial is usually not a realistic option. Even if the court moves things up, the defendant must sit in jail for several weeks before the trial date arrives. Most people cannot be away from their free world responsibilities for that long. Additionally, the expedited calendar gives your lawyer little preparation time.

So, most people who are in jail accept plea agreements just to “get it over with.” Tarrant County prosecutors know about this pressure, so their plea bargain offers are usually very unfavorable.

Immediate Release

Prompt pretrial release is the best way to reverse these dynamics and give a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney the best possible chance to beat the case in court. Most Tarrant County arrestees have three get out of jail options.

Tarrant County has a fairly extensive pretrial release mechanism. Generally, if the defendant has no criminal record and is charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor, OR (Own Recognizance) release may be available. If the defendant promises to appear at trial and be a good person, the sheriff releases the defendant.

Even if there is no hearing, an attorney can advocate for you at this stage. If the defendant has a lawyer, the review board sees that the defendant takes the case seriously.

Posting cash bail is a good option as well. Nearly all offenses, even serious felonies, have presumptive bail amounts. The sheriff usually calculates this amount based on the defendant’s criminal history as well as the severity of the offense. Bail is like a security deposit. After the case is resolved, the defendant gets most of the bail money back. The county always charges a “processing fee.”

However, the amount may be a problem. For most people, $700 or $800 might as well be $7 or $8 million. They simply do not have access to that amount of cash.

A bail bond is usually the third option. For about a 10 or 15 percent premium, a bail bond company will deliver a surety bond to the sheriff. The premium is nonrefundable, but it is a lot cheaper than cash bail.

Regardless of the type of release, the defendant must follow certain conditions. Common bail conditions include remaining in the county, checking in with a bail bond or other agent, and avoiding future legal trouble.

Bail Reduction Hearing

If the defendant cannot obtain immediate release, a judge usually reviews the case within forty-eight hours. During the arraignment, the judge formally tells the defendant the full nature of the criminal charges. The judge may also reconsider bail, based on a number of factors, including:

  • Defendant’s ties to the community,
  • Amount of money the defendant can pay,
  • Severity of the offense,
  • Amount of evidence against the defendant,
  • Threat to the community if the defendant is released (i.e. has the defendant threatened crime victims or witnesses), and
  • Defendant’s ability to flee the jurisdiction.

At the arraignment, an attorney can introduce evidence and make legal arguments. So, there is a very good chance that the judge will at least reduce the bail amount.

Pretrial release is important for both legal and personal reasons. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Home and jail visits are available.