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How Does Bail Work?

by Lindsay Chambers

Bail allows a person accused of a crime to be released from custody while awaiting trial. It is not a fine or a punishment, but a deposit made to ensure defendants report to all scheduled court appearances. The process and implications of posting bail can be complex, so let’s explore how the system works and what you should expect if you or a loved one needs bail.

Understanding Bail

Bail allows for the temporary release of a person awaiting trial on criminal charges, under the condition that they will return for their court dates. The defendant or someone acting on their behalf must deposit the full bail amount with the court clerk or arresting agency. The amount varies, influenced primarily by the severity of the charges and set according to schedules in each California county.

After the defendant posts bail, they are free to leave custody with the expectation that they will attend all their court appearances. If the defendant honors this commitment, they will receive a full refund of their bail, usually within 60 to 90 days following the resolution of the case. However, if the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail becomes forfeit, and a judge may issue a warrant for their arrest.

Sometimes, if the offense is minor or non-violent, a judge may decide to release a defendant on their own recognizance. These cases do not require bail; instead, the defendant must pledge to make all future court appearances.

Conditions of Bail

If you post bail on someone else’s behalf, you are the cosigner. In this role, you take responsibility for the defendant, promising that they will appear in court as scheduled. If they fail to appear, you could be liable.

Judges in California have the discretion to set conditions for bail, considering the defendant’s criminal history and the specifics of their case. Even if a defendant does not have to post bail, they may still need to comply with various requirements:

  • Regular online, phone or in-person check-ins with a probation officer or designated agency.
  • Specific restrictions or prohibitions on travel or driving.
  • Wearing an electronic monitoring device.
  • Installing an ignition interlock on their vehicle.
  • Remaining under house arrest except for specific approved activities.
  • Surrendering all weapons to law enforcement.
  • Completing an accredited mental health or substance abuse treatment program.

Seeking Legal Guidance in Orange County

California’s court system can be daunting, requiring a seasoned attorney’s advice. With over four decades of experience in criminal defense, Ronald Brower can provide the knowledgeable guidance you need to understand your rights and obligations when posting bail for yourself or a loved one.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower for a consultation if you have questions about bail-related issues in California. We can help you manage the intricacies of the bail process, ensuring the best possible outcome for your case.

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