Bail process in Washington, D.C.
Defendants arrested Washington, D.C., are generally taken to the Correctional Treatment Facility – more commonly known as the DC Jail. Unless the arrest is a serious felony, or a defendant is considered dangerous, 85 percent of all defendants are released without having to pay any money. After the booking process has been completed, all defendants are interviewed by the Pre-Trial Services Agency. Jail release decisions by statute cannot take more than 24 hours and rely on a computer analysis that takes into account up to 70 different factors. Statistics from the past 5 years show that 88 percent of released defendants are not re-arrested. Of those that are, only 1 percent are accused of a crime of violence. In about 12 percent of cases, monetary bond – usually cash bail – is ordered. This can be paid by the defendant or a co-signer.
Types of jail release in Washington, D.C.
- Signature bond. The D.C. bail system is designed for the majority of defendants to be released without being required to pay any money. A defendant signs an agreement promising to return for all scheduled court hearings. Conditions may be attached to the release – such as weekly appointments or phone calls with a Pre-Trial Services worker, drug testing and stay-away orders.
- Cash bond. When a secured pre-trial release is ordered, cash bond is most commonly used by D.C. court officials. The defendant, or co-signer, is required to pay the entire amount of the cash bond and the bulk of that amount is returned at the end of the case, as long as the defendant as fulfilled all jail release conditions.
- Citation release. For the least serious misdemeanors, defendants are allowed to pay a ticket that sets a date to return to court. Under this option, a defendant is not brought to jail for intake and booking. Instead, the defendant receives a ticket from an officer and is immediately released.
- Surety bond. This option is rarely used in Washington, D.C., and is generally reserved for more serious crimes. Defendants should expect to pay 10 percent of the amount of bail as the nonrefundable premium to a bail bond agent. In the most serious crimes in D.C., defendants are held without bond.
How bail is set
Unlike many jurisdictions, there is no bail schedule in Washington, D.C. because financial bail is only used in a minority of all cases. In those case, the judge makes a decision after receiving a report from the Pre-Trial Services Agency recommending that signature release is not the best or safest option. For nearly 9 out of 10 defendants in Washington, D.C., there is no cost to be released from trial after arrest.
Bond costs and options
Since surety bonds are used in so few cases in Washington, D.C., that not only saves money for the D.C. court system but for defendants, as well. Defendants released on a signature bond can utilize the money they have for any required drug testing or educational classes, to get a vehicle released from custody or to hire a criminal defense lawyer.