One of the common questions in my business is: Should I bail him/her out?
My answer is always the same – It depends. There are some basic rules of thumb I employ when deciding to advise bailing out a client.
Now is the right time to post bail when:
- The client will be deported if he/she is not bailed immediately.
- The client will earn more money while out on bail than the cost of the bailbond.
- The client will lose a good job that he will be able to keep if he bails out.
- The client has children or dependants he/she must support.
- The client will suffer a substantial financial loss if he/she remains in custody: such as losing a home, or significant business transaction (See No. 2)
- The client must get out of custody in order to assist in his legal defense.
- Your lawyer tells you to bail out.
- You are in a position to post cash bail.
- You get a great deal on bail.
- The client seeks to flee the jurisdiction (just kidding).
The holidays are a tough time to be in jail. Inmates are often scared while they are in custody and put a great deal of pressure on family members to post bail, especially this time of year. Most of us have never been in jail and don’t understand the difficult time that inmates in local jails can actually face. Inmates are often threatened while in custody, pressured to do things they wouldn’t normally do, and certainly subjected to deplorable conditions in jail.
Inmates in Los Angeles and other county jails are often “tested” by other inmates. Especially when they first arrive in jail, inmates try to push each other and see what they can get away with. I recently had a client tell me that two inmates approached him and tried to take his lunch. My client had to forcibly take his plate back. This may seem ridiculous to the unknowing. Just give up the tray, right? Wrong. The rest of us we know that when we let fellow inmates get away with a little thing, like take a lunch from us, what comes next will likely to be much worse.
From such fear come the many phone calls begging for bail. Parents and family members who are not familiar with the criminal justice system often try to scrape together every nickel they have to post bail and then have no money left to hire an attorney or pay for the cost of a private investigator or expert witness, or pay their rent or mortgage.
I always suggest talking to your lawyer BEFORE posting bail. Maybe bail can be reduced, maybe the case can be settled, or maybe the defendant can stick it out in custody and that money can be used to hire a lawyer or at least for living expenses after the client is released from custody. Remember, inmates accrue credit for the time they are in custody before the case is over. That credit can greatly reduce a sentence in a case. This is what we can “time served”.
Now back to my list: Failing to bail an immigrant is usually devastating to an inmate. We always try to bail non-citizen clients as soon as possible and before they reach county jail. Beyond that, the list basically comes down to money and other life necessities like caring for children or family. Can you find someone else to take care of your kids/parents?
If you are in a position to post cash bail and won’t need the money for weeks or more likely months to come, go ahead and post. Your lawyer can help you handle this and you don’t have to pay anyone for the service. Just remember that posting cash bail means the entire bail amount gets deposited with the sheriff who holds onto it until the case is over. Thus, if your bail is $20,000 (the average bond amount in LA) you must give the sheriff cash or a cashier’s check in that amount to be held until the case is over. Once the case is over and the bail is exonerated, the full amount is returned to the depositor after 6 to 8 weeks.
For many people bail is a luxury and not a necessity. However, common sense should be employed in making bail decisions. Again, talk to your lawyer. Remember that the lawyer does not have any personal stake in the bail decision, thus he can give you a non-biased opinion about whether or not to spend the money on bail.
Next, if posting bail would deprive a client of any part of his legal defense, then it sounds like a bad idea. In some cases, even private lawyers can get experts or investigators appointed by the court. However, these experts and investigators are working for lower fees, have more clients and often don’t have the time to dedicate to a proper legal defense. It’s kind of like the difference between a public attorney and a private attorney. There are many great public defenders around. However, they are all overworked, carry huge caseloads and don’t have the time that someone like I have to devote to a single client.
Finally, remember one of my regular warnings: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Bail is set by law and controlled by the Department of Insurance. Bail can legally be 10 percent of the bail amount or 8 percent in some cases. I limited few bondsman are even authorized to post bail at 7 percent but this is rare. Anything less than that is not legal and any bondsman offering less than that should be viewed with extreme caution. Some lawyers work with a regular bondsman and can advise you on the law. If your criminal defense lawyer is not familiar with bail, you likely have the wrong lawyer. If your lawyer pressures you to use a particular bail bondsman, you likely have the wrong lawyer as well as the wrong bondsman.
If you have questions about whether or not to post bail, motions to reduce bail or exonerate bail, Penal Code Section 1275 holds or any other criminal defense or DUI question, call me:
Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my sites for more info: