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How Does Bail Work?


If you’re charged with a crime in Southern California, getting out of jail may or may not be easily done. While many suspects arrested for misdemeanors are released “on their own recognizance” (O.R.), posting bail may be the only option of getting out of jail for suspects who are charged with felonies.

Bail is an amount of money that is deposited with the court to ensure that a defendant shows up for all court proceedings. The amount of bail depends on the seriousness of the crime, but is also at the judge’s decretion. The defendant posts bail with, and he/she will then be released from custody. If a defendant fails to show up in court, he/she forfeits the money to the court.

Defendants have the option to pay their bail in cash; however, many are not able to do this. That is where the bail company comes in.

The following are the most common types of bail:

  • Cash bail – This means that the defendant pays the full amount of bail in cash—or even by check or credit card.
  • Surety bond – The most common form of bail, this can be used if the defendant cannot afford to pay his/her bail. Typically a friend or relative of the defendant contacts a bail bondsman, who is backed by a surety company, and pledges to pay the whole bond amount. In return, the bail bondsman charges the client a 10 percent premium and collects some form of collateral (e.g. title to a house, pink slip to a car, jewelry, or an asset of substantial value).
  • Property bond – In some cases, a defendant can use property as collateral. If this occurs, the court obtains a lien on the property in the amount of bail. Failure to attend a court hearing means losing the home.

For more information, contact our Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney at Appel & Morse today.

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