There is no constitutional right to bail, and Georgia has a law that declares about 20 different crimes that are “bail restricted offenses.” If you are charged with one of those crimes, you cannot be released on your own recognizance, also known as a signature bond. These crimes are among the most serious felonies in the state and include rape, armed robbery, aggravated sexual battery and trafficking cocaine or marijuana. A Superior Court judge – the highest court in the state – must set your bond, or decide there should be no bond in your case. For less serious felonies and misdemeanors, bail will be set. If you need to post bail in Georgia, here are five things you should know.
1. Four Ways to Get Out of Jail
Cash bond – This is the simplest way and usually the fastest way to get out of jail. If an offender has enough cash to pay the entire amount of the bond, it may be possible to be released from jail in a matter of hours. Many courts in Georgia will accept credit cards, as well as money orders and traveler’s checks. Any adult who is 18 years old or older can post a cash bond on behalf of himself or another person in the state.
Property bond – Under Georgia law, the owner of the property must have equity in the property equal to or greater than twice the amount of the bond. So, if the bond for a burglary is $25,000, it doesn’t matter if the home that is part of a property bond is worth $100,000. What is crucial is the amount owed on that property. If that amount is $50,000 or less, the property bond will be accepted.
Surety bond – An offender can either contact a bail bond agent from jail or call a friend or relative to arrange for bond to be posted, once the amount of the bond has been determined. Whoever posts the bond will also have to pay for administrative and court fees, including a local county fee of $10.
Signature bond – Also known in Georgia as own recognizance, or OR. Under state law, the factors to be considered by judges in deciding whether a defendant can be released on his or her signature includes the nature of the charge, any criminal history and the connection to the county where the arrest occurred. A judge can require an offender released on OR to report to a county-run pre-trial release program to ensure that any conditions of the OR are being met.
2. How to Get Bail
Courts in Georgia are allowed to create preset bonds. That makes it simpler and faster to post bond and get out of jail after being arrested for mostly misdemeanors. Many courts do so for DUI arrests when there is no accident involved and the driver doesn’t have a long history of previous drunken driving arrests. With a preset bail, it’s possible to post bond – either with cash or with the help of a bail bondsman – without having to wait for a court appearance.
3. What Will Bail Cost?
Lawmakers in Georgia have determined that when the bail for a crime is up to $10,000, the cost of the bail is up to 12 percent of that figure. For crimes with bonds in excess of $10,000, bail bond companies can charge a fee of up to 15 percent. That does not stop a bail bond company in Georgia from charging less than either of those amounts, though in practice, it is unusual to see a fee below 10 percent.
4. How Long Will I Stay in Jail
An offender must be brought in front of a judge for an initial appearance – known as an arraignment in many other states – within 48 hours if the arrest did not involve a warrant. When a warrant is involved, the offender must see a judge for a first appearance within 72 hours.
In practice, the length of time in jail before being allowed to post bond depends on the crime involved. For more serious penalties, only a Superior Court judge can set bail. An offender’s first appearance before a local judge would then include the time for a hearing in Superior Court. In that situation, an offender could expect to spend at least a day and up to two full days in jail.
However, if the offense is a less serious misdemeanor and the court has a preset bond amount for that crime, the process of posting bail could take only a few hours. For defendants charged with drunken driving, state law allows jailers to detained drivers up to 6 hours to ensure they are sober when released.
5. What if I Miss a Court Appearance
A defendant signs an agreement when released on OR, or after posting bail, to show up for all court appearances. Missing a court appearance leads to the immediate revocation of the bail and the court will issue an arrest warrant. A bail revocation also is possible if there were conditions attached to the release – such as staying away from a named individual in a domestic violence case.
The bail bond company will be required to pay the entire amount of the bond to the court, and in turn, will seek to recover that amount from whoever posted the bail. Many Georgia bail bond companies will send out investigators – known as bounty hunters – to find the defendant. In that case, a judge can decide that the bail bond company does not have to repay the full amount of the bond. Under Georgia law, whoever posted the bail must repay the bail bond company for its legitimate expenses in searching for and arresting the defendant.
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The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice you should visit an attorney.