Bail process in Houston.
Nothing can happen until a person has been booked and processed into a jail facility in Houston. At that point, the individual usually learns the amount of bail from a schedule that includes the costs of virtually all misdemeanor crimes and many less serious felonies. The defendant can either decide to pay the bail amount in cash or to contact a relative or loved one to act as a co-signer. For more serious felonies, the bail amount isn't available until after a bond hearing. For the most serious crimes, or for defendants with lengthy criminal records, bail may not be available in Houston.
Types of bail available.
For most defendants, there are three options when it comes to posting bond to be released from jail. They are:
- Cash bond. There are two situations in which a cash bond is used. The first is when a defendant has the money – or can get money from a relative or friend – to pay the entire amount of the bond. Unlike a surety bond, a cash bond must cover the entire bond set in court. The court holds the money while the defendant’s case is active and return the cash as long as the defendant showed up for all court hearings. It does not matter whether the defendant was guilty or not guilty. A second type of cash bond can be required by a judge. It may be ordered when a defendant failed to pay a fine in a previous case or is considered a flight risk.
- Surety bond. Often, defendants are not able to afford cash bonds, or prefer to use their resources to pay for their legal defense. A surety bond is a contract between a bail bond company, the defendant and the court. The bail bond company agrees to put up the entire amount of the bond in exchange for the defendant paying 10 percent of the bond amount up front. As long as the defendant shows up for all court hearings, no additional money is needed. When a defendant misses a court hearing, the bond is forfeited and the agreement requires the defendant – as well as any co-signers – to pay the entire amount of the bond to the court.
- Personal recognizance. Often referred to as an OR release, a judge can allow a defendant to be released from jail without putting up any money or security. In general, this only is available in misdemeanor cases and not in cases involving violence or drugs. It is often quite helpful to have an experience criminal attorney argue for an OR release on the behalf of a defendant.
Requirements for co-signers.
The first requirement is to get as much information as possible from the defendant, including the name of the jail, the crime, an arrest number or any other jail identification information. That is necessary to either put up a cash bond or to contact a bail bond company to request a surety bond. Most companies will require that co-signers provide financial information and prove they are established residents of the county. In some cases, collateral – anything from a credit card, to property – may be required depending on the co-signer’s financial situation and the amount of the bond.
Bond costs and time required to post bond.
The time spent in jail waiting to be released on bond depends on a number of factors in Houston. One of the most important factors is where the defendant is being housed. If it is the Houston City Jail, a defendant arrested for a misdemeanor with no complications can be released anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours after being arrested. However, the process is more involved in county jails, because there are more inmates. Harris County Jail is one of the largest jails in the country, and criminal lawyers estimate it can often take 24 hours or longer to complete the bail process – longer if a separate bond hearing must be held. The cost for a surety bond in Harris County is 10 percent of the amount of bail. That money is the cost of doing business and is not returned at the end of the case.