Bail process in New Orleans. The Orleans Parish Prison is the only prison within Orleans Parish, although other jails and detention centers are located in the other six parishes that make up the metropolitan New Orleans area. The bail process cannot begin until a defendant has been booked and processed. At that point, the defendant can call a potential co-signer or contact a bail bond company. When a misdemeanor is involved, the amount of bail is usually immediately set from a bond schedule. A hearing is necessary to set bail for most felonies, which can extend the process from just a few hours to a day or longer.
Types of Bail in New Orleans. There are five bail options for defendants in New Orleans They include:
- Personal recognizance. A defendant, usually represented by a criminal attorney, can request release on personal recognizance. This is the same as a signature release. The defendant pays no money, but signs an agreement promising to show up for all scheduled court hearings. This release is usually reserved for first-time defendants arrested for non-violent misdemeanors.
- Cash bond. The benefit of a cash bond is that there is no significant charge that must be paid to a bail bond agent or the court – other than fairly minor court fees and costs. However, a cash bond must cover the entire amount of bail. Doing so may drain a defendant of money that could be better spent on a criminal defense attorney. Co-signers can post cash bonds on behalf of defendants.
- Commercial bond. Many defendants cannot afford to pay the total amount of bail in cash, making this the most common option. A bail bond agent will charge only a percentage of total amount of bail – 13 percent in Orleans Parish – and the defendant or co-signer enters into a legal agreement with the bail bond agent. The fee is not returned, and if the defendant does not meet all bail conditions, the agent can sue the defendant or co-signer for the entire amount.
- PSBU. The personal security bond undertaking is similar to a PR release because no bond must be posted. However, this option involves a third party acting on behalf of a defendant, who will be financial liable in the event the defendant does not show up for all scheduled court hearings.
- Property bond. This option is the most time-consuming because significant paperwork is required to first identify and prove ownership of the property and then confirm that there is significant equity to cover the total amount of the bail. Often, a property bond will take two to three days to complete, but may be the only option when an extremely expensive bail is involved.
How bail is set. There is a pre-set bail schedule that is used on a regular basis for misdemeanors so that the amount of a defendant’s bail is almost immediately available. However, when a more serious crime is involved, a hearing must be held to determine bail. The court will consider a variety of factors and the process extends the amount of time a defendant must remain in jail before being released on bail. A criminal defense attorney is invaluable to request a PR release or to request a bail reduction hearing to try to reduce a bail amount that a defendant cannot afford.
Bond costs and options. There is no charge for a PR release. However, all other bail options come with a cost, even the PSBU, which requires a $200 fee. With cash bail, the entire amount of bail must be paid, together with a $44 fee for the first charge and $30 for any additional charges. A commercial bond requires the payment of a 13 percent premium to the bail bond agent, which is the cost of doing business.