When someone is arrested and taken to jail their first concern is how they can get out. Several things must happen before the authorities release an individual from jail. The process typically involves a “booking” process and a bail hearing that determines whether the person arrested may be released pending trial and set the bail amount. Once the accused has “posted bail” themselves or through a bail bond agent they are released. This section provides articles describing the arrest, booking, and bail process, with helpful information describing how bail bonds work, how amounts are determined, and how they can help to secure a person's release from jail.
An arrest occurs when a person has been taken into police custody and is no longer free to leave or move about. When and how an arrest takes place is very important. Obviously, someone who has been handcuffed and read their rights knows they have been arrested, but not everyone who is arrested is handcuffed or explicitly told that they are under arrest. Whether or not the proper procedure is followed may determine the admissibility of evidence or even result in the case being dropped. Learn more about the arrest process, the basis for a legal arrest, challenges to unlawful arrests, the rights of those arrested and other relevant issues.
After an arrest a police officer will begin the "booking" process. This is an administrative process in which the police collect the suspect's personal information and organize evidence relating to the alleged crime. The officer will record evidence, observations and statements about the alleged crime, fingerprint and photograph the suspect, conduct a criminal background check, collect the suspect’s personal property for storage until release, and place the suspect in a holding cell.
The purpose of bail is to ensure that an individual accused of a crime that is released into the community will willingly return for future court hearings and not commit new crimes, intimidate victims and witnesses, or flee to another jurisdiction. Those accused of minor crimes may simply be cited and released, but all others arrested and charged with crimes will have an opportunity to argue for their release at a bail hearing.
At the bail hearing a judge or magistrate examines the alleged crime, the accused’s criminal background, connections within the community, financial resources, and length of residence in order to determine whether releasing the suspect would pose a threat to the safety of the community and whether the suspect is likely to appear at future hearings. Someone who poses a threat to the community may be held without bail. Likewise, someone who is a flight risk may be held without bail. Concerns about these and other factors also impact the amount of bail required.
More serious crimes typically result in a higher bail amount. Wealthy individuals may also face higher bail amounts to ensure that the bond represents a significant amount to the party paying. On the other hand, if the alleged crime is not serious, the accused can show evidence that they pose no risk to the community, and are likely to appear at future court hearings they may be released “on personal recognizance” without having to post bail.
Other conditions may be placed upon release including limits on travel, court ordered drug and alcohol abstinence or testing, periodic checks by an authority and restrictions on contact with victims or witnesses. Learn more about bail, factors considered in determining bail, and the conditions under which bail may be denied.
At this early stage the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is helpful. If a bail amount is set that the accused cannot immediately produce a bail bond agent may also be necessary to ensure their release. Learn more about bail bond agents and find criminal defense attorneys in your area.