How Bonds Work in Texas
After people are arrested, the first thing they want to know is when they will be released. The state of Texas typically requires that an alleged offender post some type of bond as collateral for his or her release.
There are multiple types of bonds that vary by amounts and situations. A person can have the best chance of a quick release with the lowest possible bond amount by having qualified legal representation as soon as he or she has been arrested or learns that a warrant has been issued for his or her arrest.
Houston Bonds Lawyer
If you have been arrested in Texas, you will want to immediately contact an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney. Matt Horak helps people all over the greater Houston area who have been charged with criminal offenses.
Horak Law represents clients in Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Harris County, Liberty County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, and Waller County. Call our firm today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to schedule a free, confidential consultation that will let us review your case.
Overview of Bonds in Harris County
- What kinds of bonds are there in Texas?
- How is the amount of the bond determined?
- Does a person have any options for excessively high bond amounts?
- What happens to the money paid for a bond?
There are three kinds of bonds that may be posted in order for a person to be released from custody:
- Cash Bonds — A cash bond is the full amount of money that must be paid by the alleged offender in order to be released from imprisonment. These bonds need to be paid by cash, money order, or cashier’s check.
- Surety Bonds — Also known as “bail bonds,” these are paid by a third party bail bonding company approved by the county. Such companies charge a fee that is typically a fraction (often between 10 and 20 percent) of the total bail and post the bond on behalf of the alleged offender with the assurance to the court that the alleged offender will be present for any future court dates.
- Personal Bonds or Pretrial Release Bonds — Also known as a bond of personal recognizance, this type of bond does not require any cash payment or surety, although the county may charge a fee of about $20 or three percent of the bail amount. An alleged offender is released based on his or her promise to show up for all future court dates.
A judge considers several factors when deciding what amount of money to set for bail, including:
- Severity of Alleged Crime — Non-violent crimes in which an alleged offender poses a low level of threat to the community can result in a lower bail amount, but violent crimes can lead to a judge setting the bail amount very high or deciding not to grant bail altogether.
- Prior Criminal History — An alleged offender with no criminal history is much more likely to receive a lower bail amount than a person who has previous been convicted of previous criminal offenses. If the judge believes the alleged offender poses a risk to others in the community, bail may be denied.
- “Flight Risk” — This term refers to the alleged offender’s likelihood of returning for subsequent court appearances. If the judge believes that a person is more likely to not show up for scheduled court appearances, he or she may set the bail amount very high in order to ensure that the alleged offender has a financial incentive to return to court.
- Ability to Post Bail — A judge may take an alleged offender’s employment and general financial situation into consideration when setting a bail amount. A judge may sympathize with a low-risk alleged offender who has limited financial means to pay a bond.
State laws regarding bail can be found in Chapter 17 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The following limits are established under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 17.033 for alleged offenders who are arrested without warrants and have not had a magistrate determine whether probable cause exists to believe that the people committed the offenses:
- Misdemeanor — Up to $5,000, not later than the 24th hour after the person's arrest
- Felony — Up to $10,000, not later than the 48th hour after the person's arrest
If the alleged offender is unable to obtain a surety for the bond or deposit money in the amount of the bond in either one of the above cases, that person must be released on personal bond. However, a magistrate can postpone an alleged offender’s release for up to 72 hours after the person's arrest if the state’s attorney files an application stating the reason that a magistrate has not determined whether probable cause exists.
Bail amounts can sometimes be excessive, and a criminal defense lawyer is required to discuss issues about bail with the District Attorney’s Office. If the two parties can reach an agreement about the bail amount or conditions involved, the court will typically approve the agreement and sign off on the related order. However, there may be times in which an agreement cannot be reached, and an alleged offender has two options:
- Motion for Bond Reduction — Also known as a Motion for Reduction of Bail, a defense attorney files this motion and sets a hearing with a district judge. This hearing often involves little more than a judge reading the offense report submitted by the prosecutor and the defense providing evidence of an alleged offender’s financial limitations, lack of flight risk, and/or lack of risk to the community.
- Writ of Habeas Corpus — As noted in Chapter 11 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the writ of habeas corpus is “the remedy to be used when any person is restrained in his liberty.” This is another option in which a criminal defense attorney files an application for writ of habeas corpus if the bond amount set by the judge is excessive or a person has been unlawfully detained or imprisoned. Unlike Motions for Bond Reduction, this motion can allow a defense lawyer to gain additional information from the prosecutor and get a different judge to exercise control in regards to the alleged offender’s case, but it can also create a civil case that will need to be carried along with the criminal file until the case reaches its final disposition.
Again, the idea of a bond in Texas is that paying the amount required for release from imprisonment will help guarantee that an alleged offender returns for all scheduled court appearances. What happens to the money you spend on a bond depends on the type of bond you use and whether you appear in court:
- Refunds — For cash bonds, you will be refunded the amount of the bond upon the conclusion of your case so long as you have satisfied all the conditions of the bond. Depending on the county, there may be certain non-refundable fees associated with the bond. In cases of surety bonds, the bonds will be refunded to the bonding company that paid the amounts, but the fees people paid to third parties are non-refundable.
- Forfeitures — With cash bonds, the court can order a bond to be forfeited if the alleged offender fails to appear in court. The alleged offender can offer an explanation for as to why he or she failed to appear in order to avoid forfeiting the bond. In surety bonds, the third party will forfeit the bonds they paid and they can also have the opportunity to explain whether mitigating factors contributed to the alleged offender’s failure to appear in court. A bonding company may also take steps to locate and apprehend an alleged offender if he or she has fled the county.
Horak Law - A Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston Texas
Horak Law helps clients with all issues throughout the criminal process. Our firm provides legal representation for clients in Houston and surrounding areas like Conroe, Spring, Missouri City, Galveston, Pasadena, Sugar Land, Pearland, League City, The Woodlands, and Richmond-Rosenberg.
Matt Horak is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston, TX, who will aggressively fight for the most favorable outcome to your case. Call him at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 today to let him provide a thorough evaluation of your case during a free legal consultation.