Ending up in jail is a scary experience. If you are like most people, you will want to get out of there as quickly as possible! Doing this requires the use of bail bonds. This is the system under California state law that allows a person to be released from incarceration, usually at the county jail, while they fight the charges that they are facing. If you are located in the city or the county of Los Angeles, Bail Bonds is the bondsman that can help you or someone you love to get out right away.
What is Bail?
The California legal system presumes that a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. This means that they have the right to fight any charges by appearing in a court of law, usually before a jury of their peers, to contest the allegations presented by the district attorney (otherwise known as the DA). They may do this while not being incarcerated. However, California Penal Code has a way to ensure that said person will appear in court and not flee from their legal proceedings.
This system is known as bail. The money and/or collateral that the defendant provides is insurance against them opting out of their court appearances. The amount of bail can vary considerably based on the type of crime, the specifics of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, and the likelihood that the defendant is a flight risk. This refers to how likely it is that the defendant will flee the area to not attend their legal proceedings.
Arrest and Incarceration
If the defendant is alleged to have committed a crime, they will be arrested by law enforcement. For a crime committed in Los Angeles or the surrounding county, this will most likely be by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) or the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The LASD is the law enforcement body that runs the long-term jails in Los Angeles County, and if a defendant remains in custody following their arraignment (they were denied or unable to post bail), then they will be transferred to the custody of the LASD.
There are various smaller holding facilities that the LAPD operates. Depending on where the defendant was arrested, the severity of the crime, and whether they have any special needs (like protective custody, where they must be kept away from other inmates), they may be sent to one of these smaller facilities. These facilities are used to house defendants awaiting a trial for shorter periods of time.
The most widely used are the Hollywood substation and the Downtown substation. The former is located at 1358 North Wilcox Avenue, near the corner of Sunset and Vine in the Hollywood neighborhood. The latter is located at 180 North Los Angeles Street in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.
The LASD operates the major correctional facilities in the county. Once a defendant is found guilty at a trial, they will be sent here to serve out their sentence. These include Men’s Central Jail located at 441 Bauchet Street and Twin Towers Correctional Facility located at 535 Alameda Street. Both of these are located in Downtown Los Angeles.
What Happens During the Booking Process?
Once the defendant is arrested and before they appear before the judge, they must be booked into the county jail or one of the several substations operated by the LAPD. In most cases, they will be placed in a large holding cell, usually with anywhere from 10 to 30 other inmates, while awaiting the booking process. Because jails are horrifically overcrowded, this is frequently the most traumatic part of the process and it is important to stay cool and collected during this time. At its worst, this process can take hours to complete.
The first step is to record the name of the suspect and their alleged crime. These records are all digitized now, meaning that a booking officer will manually input all the vital information into their computer database.
A mugshot will also be taken. This is to help the officers of the court identify the suspect for any future reason, including the potential that they flee their court proceedings. The suspect will also be searched and their possessions will be taken into the custody of the police. These will all be returned upon their release unless it is contraband or evidence of further crimes (like narcotics or a weapon). The suspect may also be strip-searched, even for a relatively minor crime.
The officers will also check for any outstanding warrants as well as known gang affiliations. In certain cases, they may be required to provide a DNA sample. The suspect will then have to wait until the judge is ready to see them for their bail hearing.
What Happens at a Bail Hearing?
The amount of bail is determined by the presiding judge at a bail hearing. This is usually the first contact that a defendant has with the court over their alleged crimes. There are four possible outcomes of a bail hearing:
- The judge grants an OR release. This means that the judge releases the defendant on their own recognizance. This is the outcome of bail hearings when the judge determines that the defendant is not a threat to public safety and that their crime is not serious and/or violent. This legal right is protected in the California Constitution under Article 1, Section 12(C).
- The judge requires the defendant to post bail. This is some sum of money or amount of collateral that is forfeitable in the event that the defendant does not attend their court hearings. Their continued cooperation is necessary in order for them to receive that money back.
- The judge releases the defendant under conditions that are different than the payment of bail. This sometimes occurs in very low-level misdemeanors or first-time offenses. The most frequent result of this is that judge issues a citation and a further court date for the defendant to appear. However, if the defendant fails to comply with these instructions, a bench warrant will be issued further along in the proceedings.
- The judge denies bails and/or release. This is the case if the alleged crime is a serious felony and/or violent offense. This is also possible if the defendant has an extensive criminal history or has skipped bail in the past. Finally, the judge may deny bail if they deem it likely that the defendant may harm or menace potential witnesses in an upcoming trial.
The precise amounts of bail vary from case to case. There is an overall bail schedule that gives rough estimates of the bail amounts that the defendant should expect to pay. For example, the felony bail schedule for Los Angeles lists amounts ranging anywhere from $20,000 for mild offenses to $5,000,000 for the gravest offenses. It is important to remember that this does not include any bail amounts for misdemeanor offenses, which are considerably lower than those for felonies.
If the judge allows the defendant to post bail, there are three different ways the defendant can actually post said bail.
The first option, under California Penal Code Section 1269, is via cash. Because most bail amounts are in the $10,000 to $100,000 range, it is highly unlikely that a defendant will have the requisite amount of cash on their physical person. They may post a cashier’s check or even use a credit card in certain jurisdictions, although cash is the easiest and most convenient way to post the bail.
This is a fully refundable amount of money as long as the defendant attends every one of their court hearings. Many trials last for an extended period of time, meaning that the cash used to post said bail will be completely unavailable to the defendant until the conclusion of their criminal proceedings. Furthermore, that cash amount is forfeited if the defendant fails to uphold their end of the bargain by appearing in court. This is explicitly codified under California Penal Code Section 1305.
Once the case is concluded, it usually takes Los Angeles county anywhere from six (6) to twelve (12) weeks to return the cash.
Under California Penal Code Section 1276, the defendant may post the amount of bail through a bail bond. This is the most common way to post bail as the vast majority of people do not carry thousands of dollars in cash on their person.
This bail bond is essentially a legal agreement between the defendant and a bail bond agent. These agents, also known as surety bail bondsmen, are licensed by the state of California to perform a service for the Los Angeles courts.
A bail bond works by specifying that the defendant pays the agent a nonrefundable premium. This is usually 10% of the bail set by the judge at the bail hearing. Frequently, Los Angeles bail bondsmen will reduce the premium to 8% if the defendant is referred to them by an attorney. The defendant will also be required to post some form of collateral for the bail amount that the agent will pay on their behalf. This is some valuable asset that the defendant owns, like a house or a car.
If the defendant flees bail, then the bail bondsman forfeits the money they posted for your bail. This means that the bail bondsman has a personal financial incentive to ensure that the defendant makes all their court appearances. Most bail bond agents also double as bounty hunters to track down and arrest defendants who have skipped on their bail.
The final way to post a bail amount is via the defendant’s equity interest in some piece of property under California Penal Code Section 1276.5). The value of the said piece of property must be twice the bail amount. If the bail is set at $50,000, then the property must be valued for at least $100,000.
This property bond is paid directly to the court. In order for the piece of property to be posted as a bond, it must have all liens disclosed and undergone professional appraisal. If the defendant fails to appear for their hearings, then the Los Angeles court will place a lien on the real estate and foreclose it to recover the amount of bail that was forfeited by the fleeing defendant.
What Happens if the Defendant Fails to Appear in Court?
If the defendant does not attend their court hearings, they will be slapped with what is known as a failure to appear (commonly abbreviated to FTA). This means that the bonds are forfeited and that a bench warrant will be issued for the arrest of the defendant. A bench warrant is the same as any other arrest warrant.
Furthermore, if a third party posted the cash bail on the defendant’s behalf and they skipped on their court appearances, then that third party will be granted one hundred eighty (180) days to locate the defendant. The third party can then call the police to have him arrested due to a bench warrant being issued for their failure to appear in court. If that period of time passes and the defendant is still at large, the full amount of the bail will be forfeited forever to the county and state.
However, if the defendant re-appears before the end of the one hundred eighty (180) days with a legitimate reason for their absence, then the court may exonerate the bond. Reasons may include:
- Some kind of disability.
- Serious injury and/or illness, including being in a hospital.
- Mental illness and/or a psychotic break, including being held in a mental institution or psych ward.
- Being incarcerated in a different jurisdiction.
In order to successfully argue for any of these reasons, the defendant will have to provide relevant documentation and prove that they were not just skipping on their legal obligations.
Find A Bail Bonds Near Me
If you or someone you know has been arrested and is stuck in a jail cell, you will need the help of a bail bond company immediately. No one wants to stay in that situation a minute longer than is absolutely necessary! If you have been arrested in Los Angeles and need help fast, then call Bail Bonds at 323-579-1415.