If you need the help of a bail bond agent in Texas, you may wonder about the expertise of the agent you chose and about the industry in general. The state has a number of laws in place to ensure that Texas bail bond agents are knowledgeable and serious about bail bond work as a career. All prospective agents must first complete at least a 1-year apprenticeship with a licensed bail bond agent for no less than 30 hours per week. The applicant must perform the duties of a bail bond agent during that year and receive a minimum of 8 hours of in-person classes on criminal law or bail bond law. The courses, as well as 8 hours a year of continuing legal education, must be approved by the state. Finally, the cost to apply for a bail bond license is $500 and requires three letters of recommendation.
If you need to post bail in Texas, here are 5 important things to keep in mind:
1. 4 Ways to Get Out of Jail
Personal recognizance – It is most common for first-time offenders of non-violent crimes to be given the opportunity to be released on their own promise to return for all court hearings. This is most common with any of a variety of pre-trial diversion programs offered throughout the state. Court officials will first check for any prior offenses and determine if the defendant has a connection to the area with a job or family.
Cash bond – The smallest bonds in Texas – reserved for misdemeanors with no aggravating circumstances – can be $1,000 or less. Some defendants are able to pay for the entire bail amount set for a misdemeanor, or get financial help from a co-signer. The money is paid to the court and the defendant or co-signer receives most of that money back, as long as there is no bail violation, with the exception of minor court costs and fees.
Security bond – A bail bond agent is often hired when the bail is too much for a defendant, even with the help of a co-signer, to afford. The advantage of using a bail bond agent is that the defendant can be released from jail by paying 10 percent of the total amount of bail to the agent. A co-signer can help with some or all of that cost. Of course, the major risk is that the defendant will not show up for all court appearances. If a bail forfeiture goes through, the defendant and any co-signer are responsible for paying the entire amount of the bail to the agent.
Property bond - This option is not seen often, but offers a way for defendants with high bail amounts to post bond. The property must be located in the state and there must be paperwork to establish the ownership of the property, the assessed value and whether there are any liens on the property. The court will get title to the property and can begin foreclosure proceedings in the event the defendant does not show up for all court hearings.
2. How to Get Bail
The process starts wherever the defendant is in jail, whether it is a small, local jail or a larger county facility. The defendant can do it all – either by posting a cash bond or by contacting a bail bond company or a relative or friend who can post bond or contact a bail agent. First, the booking process following arrest must be completed.
3. What Will Bail Cost?
The main cost comes if a bail bond company is hired. A 10 percent premium is commonly charged, however, for smaller bail amounts the premium very likely will be 15 percent. That doesn’t include any fees or court costs. The bail premium in Texas cannot be less than 10 percent or more than 15 percent. There is no charge for a cash bond since no bail bond agent is involved. However, there are fees and costs associated with that process that are deducted from any money that is returned to a defendant or co-signer.
4. How Long Will I Stay in Jail?
The booking and bail process can be completed in as little as 2 to 3 hours, according to bail bond agents, as long as there is a preset bail amount for the offense involved. That’s normally the case with most misdemeanors. Cash bonds offer the quickest release time followed by surety bonds and personal recognizance release. The wait to be released is longer in county jails, as opposed to local police stations, because there are many more defendants involved. Magistrates are required to be available for initial hearings at least once every day during the year, including holidays. It’s possible on a weekend or holiday to be arrested after that on hearing and have to wait overnight to post bail.
5. What if I Miss a Court Appearance?
The court can order that a defendant’s bail for forfeited for any violation of bail – whether it’s missing a court appearance or violating another condition of bail. Failure to appear is a separate crime, and the court will issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest on that charge. If a surety bond was involved, the court retains the entire amount of the bail from the bail bond agent, who then pursues the recovery of that expense from the defendant or a co-signer. Many bail bond companies will hire a bond recovery agent to locate and bring the defendant back to court.
The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice you should visit an attorney.