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Posting Cash Bail in California Criminal Cases

If I Google the word “bail” or “jail” or “arrested”, I get thousands of returns for bail bondsmen throughout the state of California and across the country. Very quickly I can figure out that if I need to post bail, the most common way to do it is to call a bail bondsman. I pay them a fee of about 10% (sometimes less) for them to post the bond and I secure my freedom.

I liken this to buying an insurance policy. We buy insurance in case there is some sort of big trouble in the future and if such trouble occurs, the insurance company pays for it. In bail, the bond company posts the bail bond or insurance policy for the entire amount of the bail and charges the client 10%. This way, the client doesn’t have to put up all of the money to stay out of jail. If the client doesn’t go back to court, the bond company is on the hook for the entire amount of the bail. Ultimately the bondsman will try and collect this money from the client.

That being said, we are here to talk about cash bail. And, with the average bail amount in Los Angeles County just over $20,000 that would be a lot of cash to put up in order to secure your release. But what if you or someone close to you has the cash?

Cash bail is perfectly acceptable in California courts. Posting cash bail will actually save you money provided you make all of your court appearances and won’t need the money while your case is pending. The way cash bail works is very simple: You get arrested and bail gets set. Let’s assume your bail amount is $26,000, just enough so that the sheriff will not give you a citation and release you to come back to court. Once bail is set, you will need certified funds (cash or cashier’s check) made out to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. You take the money to the Sheriff’s main jail and “post” it with the Sheriff and you will be released from custody pending the outcome of your case or some other change in circumstances.

When your case is over, whether by way of sentencing or dismissal or otherwise, bail will be “exonerated” or done away with and no longer required by the court. At this time, if you have a bail bond posted, there is no longer any liability by the bond company. If you have posted cash bail, the sheriff will be notified and he will process a full refund of your bail and send you a check in 6 to 8 weeks.

There are no tricks here or games, and there is no need to employ a bail bondsman when posting cash bail. Please note that some bond companies may offer to charge you money to post cash bail. This is not necessary as anyone can post cash bail, or simply ask a competent criminal defense lawyer and he will be able to guide you through the process.

I do have a few simple warnings for anyone seeking to post cash bail. First, you won’t get the money back until well after the case is over. This could be many months in complex cases or at least a few months in simple cases. Next, you won’t be able to access the money for any reason while it is posted for bail. So make sure you won’t need the money while the case is pending. Finally, don’t take the money out of retirement account or sell stocks at a loss or otherwise do anything that costs you too much money just to post cash. Taking money out of an IRA or 401K could cost you 40 or 50% of what you take out. This may be substantially more than the cost of a bail bondsman.

If you have questions about posting cash bail, bail bonds or any other criminal defense questions, call a lawyer who knows his way around the criminal justice system, Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or email me at: