Bail process in San Francisco
Defendants arrested in San Francisco are brought to County Jail 1, part of the San Francisco County Jail system. County Jail 1 is where intake and booking takes place, while there are 5 other facilities where defendants can be housed in the area. For most misdemeanors and some less serious felony crimes, bail can be determined immediately from the San Francisco County bail schedule, which is available online. After booking, defendants can begin the bail process themselves or call a friend or relative or bail bond agent for assistance.
Types of jail release in San Francisco.
- Own recognizance. This option is reserved for defendants with little or no previous criminal history who are arrested for crimes that do not involve violence or a minor. It can be helpful to have an experienced criminal defense attorney to argue for an OR release. No bail is set and no money is required from the defendant. Instead, the defendant signs an agreement promising to show up for all scheduled court hearings.
- Cash bond. The fastest way to be released from jail is for a defendant to post a cash bond. However, that requires that the entire amount of the bail be paid. Payment can be made by the defendant or a co-signer, and at the end of the trial, the money is returned – minus court fees and costs.
- Surety bond. For defendants who do not have the money to pay for bail in cash, a surety bond is the most common option. Under California law, bail bond agents can charge up to 10 percent of the bail amount – that fee is nonrefundable. In practice some bail bond companies charge 8 percent under certain circumstances.
- Property bond. This option is not seen often because it is time-consuming and involves granting San Francisco officials a lien on personal property. There is considerable paperwork required for a property bond, including an appraisal to prove the value of the property and proof that the defendant has sufficient equity in the property to cover the cost of bail. Property bonds are most common when the bail amount is very high.
How bail is set
While court officials can set bail for any case – whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony – San Francisco County has a bail schedule that is used for most misdemeanors and less serious felonies. Under that schedule, for example, misdemeanor vehicle theft is $5,000, the same as misdemeanor burglary. Felony bail amounts can be much higher. For example, identity theft is $40,000 and aggravated arson is $1 million. An attorney can request a hearing asking for a reduction in bail.
Bond costs and options
Many bail bond agents charge a 10 percent premium for providing a surety bond. In exchange for 10 percent of the bail amount, the agent guarantees the entire amount of the bail to the court. If you are a military veteran or have hired an attorney, it’s usually possible to find a bail bond company that will charge 8 percent. It is illegal for any company to charge more than 10 percent.