While a surety bond, which requires the help of a bail bond agent, is commonly used in Rhode Island, state law requires courts to first consider either personal recognizance or “the least restrictive” bond that will ensure that the defendant appears in court and does not create any safety issues in the community. In fact, Rhode Island says cash bonds and surety bonds only can be used when one of three conditions exists: the court is “reasonably satisfied” the defendant will not appear, the court believes the defendant will commit other criminal acts or the defendant has previously violated probation or parole or has outstanding criminal warrants. Here are five things to know in Rhode Island if you are arrested and want to post bail.
1. Four Ways to Get Out of Jail
Personal recognizance – This involves the defendant signing an agreement promising to return for any and all court hearings. Rhode Island law sets out a preference for offenders to be released on personal recognizance. A judge should only steer away from the “presumption” of personal recognizance when it seems likely the defendant would not show up in court or the release would compromise public safety. Judges are urged to consider “a release on conditions.” House arrest is a common condition for an offender, as is an order to stay from a victim, in order to be released on personal recognizance.
Cash bond – Cash is the easiest of the three ways to post bail. Many courts in Rhode Island will accept a credit card as well as cash or a certified check. The cash can be put up by the offender or an adult acting on behalf of the offender, known as an indemnitor. With a cash bond, the entire amount of the bond must be posted. That amount, minus court fees and administrative charges, is then returned to whoever posted the bail. The main benefit of a cash bond is that no fee is paid to a bail bond company.
Surety bond – Signing for a surety bond with a bail bond agent is a common way to post bail in Rhode Island for offenders without enough cash. The bond is like an agreement to pay in the future. The offender, or an adult acting on behalf of the offender, can pay a percentage of the bond and sign a surety bond. For a $5,000 bond, the premium set out in state law is 10 percent. The offender pays $500 and the bail bond company, backed by an insurance company, guarantees the entire $5,000. If the offender shows up for all court hearings, the bail bond agent only charges court fees and administrative costs. If the defendant violates the conditions of bail, the bail bond agent will enforce the agreement to pay in the future with the defendant or an indemnitor.
Property bond – A defendant, or an adult acting on his or her behalf, can arrange for a property bond with a bail bond company. The bondsman fills out an Affidavit for Bail form that verifies all information on ownership and value of the property, as well as the amount of the bail in the case. The court is granted a lien on the property.
2. How to Get Bail
Rhode Island has guidelines to help judges set bail in cases. For example, bail for a misdemeanor should generally not exceed $1,000. If a judge sets bail above the guidelines, reasons for departing from the guidelines must be included in the court record. A defendant can post bail by paying cash or using a credit card. If the defendant doesn’t have enough cash, any adult 18 years or older, known as an indemnitor, can post bail on his or her behalf. The defendant can enter into an agreement with a bail bondsman to post the bail. The bondsman often will require some sort of collateral to cover the cost of the bail, in the event the defendant doesn’t show up for a scheduled court hearing.
3. What Will Bail Cost?
If a bail bond company is involved, state law allows for a charge of 10 percent of the total amount of the bond. In addition, an offender must also pay a $25 administrative fee in Rhode Island as well as court fees. If bail is set at $1,000 and the defendant does not have the cash, a bail bond company will guarantee the payment of the bail to the court. The defendant pays the bail bondsman 10 percent, or $100 in this situation, plus court and administrative costs. A cash or property bail must be equal to the entire amount of the bail set in the case,
4. How Long Will I Stay in Jail?
That often depends on the time of the day or week of the arrest and the crime involved. A defendant arrested late at night likely will have to wait at least until the morning to be brought to an arraignment. On a weekend, the first appearance with a bail commissioner could come Monday morning, though it is possible the commissioner will come to the police station to hold an arraignment for a fee. Rhode Island law requires that a defendant have an initial appearance within 24 hours, or within 48 hours if arrested on the weekend.
For more serious crimes, it often takes a day or two for bail to be set because more serious arraignments are typically scheduled in court and not held at the local police station
5. What if I Miss a Court Appearance?
Any defendant released on personal recognizance or bail agrees to “keep the peace and be of good behavior.” Failure to show up in court will lead to revocation of the bail or personal recognizance agreement. Whoever signed the bail agreement will have to pay the full amount to the bail bond company unless the defendant is later arrested or returns and the bail revocation is reversed. Meanwhile, if bail is revoked, Rhode Island law allows a defendant to remain in jail up to 3 months awaiting trial without bail.
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