Bail process in St. Louis
When someone is arrested in St. Louis County, they are taken to the local Police Department and then often to the St. Louis County Jail in nearby Clayton. After the intake and booking process has been completed, defendants are given the opportunity to make a phone call to begin the jail release process. If the arrest was for a misdemeanor, the bail can usually be determined immediately from a county bail schedule. Any adult can act as co-signer for a defendant.
Types of jail release in St. Louis
- Personal recognizance. In relatively limited situations, a defendant will be released from jail based only on a promise to return for all scheduled court hearings in the case. Court officials have total discretion in deciding who qualifies for a release on personal recognizance, and in virtually all cases, it is someone with no previous criminal record who has been arrested for a relatively minor crime.
- Cash bond. All defendants have the right to post their own bond. However, this can only be done by paying the entire amount of the bail. The benefit to posting cash bond is that most of the money is returned at the end of the case, as long as all release stipulations have been met.
- 10 percent bond. Courts can decide to allow a defendant to pay 10 percent of the bail amount to the court to be released from jail. This option is normally not given for serious crimes and allows a defendant to avoid the premium payment to a bail bond agent. Most of the money is return, minus some court fees and costs, at the end of the case – as long as the defendant doesn’t skip bail.
- Surety bond. Under a surety bond, a defendant hires a bail bond agent and pays 10 percent of the total amount of the bail to the agent. In return, the agent guarantees the entire amount to the court and the defendant is under the supervision of the bail bond agent.
- Property bond. This option is rarely seen because it is complicated and takes much longer than any other bail option. The defendant can only use property that is located in Missouri, and state law does not allow a defendant to pledge real estate he or she owns. The court requires a lien on the property and paperwork that proves both the ownership, value and the existence of sufficient equity to cover any bail obligations.
Under the surety bail option, Missouri law says anyone 18 and older can be a co-signer for another person – whether they are related or not. It is not a legal requirement that a defendant have a co-signer in order to receive a surety bond. In practice, however, many St. Louis bail bond companies require a co-signer as protection in the event the defendant does not violates a condition of bail. In that case, the co-signer and defendant are both responsible to reimburse the bail bond company for the entire amount of the bail. Co-signers must have lived in the area for some time, have good credit, and generally will be asked to come up with collateral to guarantee the cost of bail.
Bond costs and options
There is no set premium rate in Missouri for bail bond companies. Instead, individual companies must file their bail schedules with the Department of Insurance, and then must follow that schedule fairly and evenly with all clients. In practice, most St. Louis bail bond companies charge a 10 percent nonrefundable premium.