Lets Start with the Arrest
To keep things in perspective, let’s start with the arrest to better understand how a bail bond becomes involved. When a person is suspected of committing a serious crime they are placed under arrest by a law enforcement officer such as a Sacramento County Sheriff, or a Sacramento Policeman, etc.
The arrestee is then normally taken to the Sacramento County Main Jail where they are booked and held until one of the following happens:
- The arrestee gets released on their own recognizance (referred to as an O.R release, see below);
- Or, they Post Bail (typically either Cash Bail or a Bail Bond, see below);
- Or, they wait to appear for their arraignment;
- Or, they wait for their trial verdict to be determined
The Booking Process
During the booking process a Sacramento County Sheriff official will do the following:
- Get the arrestee’s personal information such as name, birth date, and a physical description;
- Make a report about the suspect’s alleged crime;
- Conduct a background search to determine if the suspect has a criminal background;
- Obtain photographs, fingerprints, and perform a search of the suspect;
- Collects and confiscates all personal property of the suspect (wallet, purse, keys, etc), these are returned when the suspect is released from jail;
- The suspect is then placed in a holding cell, or a jail cell, and now becomes an inmate.
After being booked, and depending on the seriousness of the charges, an inmate (arrestee) may or may not be eligible to be released from Sacramento jail before their trial date, as noted below.
After booking, some persons arrested for relatively minor offenses who are considered to be a low flight risk, and without a previous criminal record, may simply be given a written citation and then released from jail on their own recognizance (O.R. release). This is essentially a signed promise to appear in court on a future date. This release of course does not involve a bail bond.
Other Release Considerations
Several considerations are used to determine if someone is allowed to be released from jail before their trial. If the suspect is charged with a very serious crime they will likely not have the option of being released from jail, often referred to as “held without bail”. The bailable status of an inmate can be viewed by doing an inmate search to view their information. The Court may want them to remain in jail through their court trial. Because the Court sees the more serious offenders as a higher flight risk, or a serious risk to society. If a suspect feels that they may get a long jail sentence for the crime they committed, they may be more inclined to become a fugitive and hide from the law if they are released before their trial.
Release on Bail
Therefore, if an arrestee is not given an “O.R. release”, or is not “held without bail”, then they can likely be released from jail in advance of the trial by “posting bail”.
Posting bail is essentially a promise to the Court that is backed up by a financial commitment that the arrestee will make all their scheduled court appearances until their guilt or innocence is determined in court. There are different ways to post bail as described below.
The Bail Schedule
After the booking process, the inmate will have his or her bail amount determined by the Sacramento County Bail Schedule. The bail schedule basically shows all the various crimes, and each crime has a bail amount (in dollars) associated with it. So, the bail amount for each crime the inmate was charged is added up, that is the bail amount the inmate needs to be released from jail before the trail (pre-trial release).
The more severe crimes have a higher bail amount. Very serious crimes have “no bail”, meaning the Court does not want that inmate released under any circumstances until the trial determines guilt or innocence.
The Jail Cashier
The Sacramento Main Jail has a cashier that is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The jail cashier is the person that collects the bail money on behalf of the Sacramento County Court. The jail cashier will accept three different forms of payment to be used for an inmates bail.
Three Forms Of Bail Payment
The three different forms of payment for bail are: cash; cashier’s check; or a bail bond, these are explained below.
1. Cash Bail – If “cash” is used for bail then 100% of the bail amount must be paid in cash to the Jail’s cashier office in order for that inmate to get released from jail before the trial. If the inmate (or someone on their behalf) pays the full cash bail amount then they are released before the trial date. However if the inmate does not show up for the scheduled court appearances then he/she can lose all of the cash bail to the court.
However, if the inmate attends all court appearance as scheduled then all the cash bail money will be returned to the inmate except for a small administrative fee. Not everyone has this available cash on hand so this can be difficult to pay the full bail in cash.
2. Cashier’s Check Bail– This is very similar to the cash bail except that 100% of the bail amount is paid to the Jail Cashier with a cashier’s check. The cashier’s check (from a bank) is made payable to the Sacramento County Superior Court. The Sacramento County jail will not release the inmate until it can verify funds with the bank that the cashier’s check was drawn from. This verification process can take hours or even days depending on the time of day, and the day of the week that is bank is open. So, this can delay the release from jail.
3. Bail Bond – Most people do not have enough cash available for 100% of a bail amount, so a bail bond is a very common way to bail someone out of jail. A bail bond costs a maximum of 10% of whatever the bail amount is. So, if bail for an inmate is set by the court at $100,000 then a bail bond would cost $10,000.
The 10% cost of the bail bond is not refundable, it is kept by the bail bondsman to help pay for their expenses and services. In exchange for the 10% bail bond amount, the bail bondsman has made a promise to the County Court that the bail bondsman will guarantee to pay the County Court 100% of the bail amount if the inmate does not show up for his/her court appearances.
A bail bond can be thought of like buying an insurance policy, where the bail bond (i.e. insurance policy) will provide coverage up to the full bail amount and the “policy premium” costs 10% of that bail value. Similar to “car insurance”, you pay a premium for a certain maximum dollar coverage if a certain “event” happens. So with a bail bond, if the inmate does not show up for their court appearances, then the bail bondsman is obligated to pay the Court the full bail amount. But then the bail bondsman will expect full reimbursement from the inmate and or the cosigner that obtained the bail bond.
If the inmate attends all required court appearances as scheduled then the person who obtains the bail bond (Inmate or cosigner) still does not get their 10% bail bond amount returned. The bondsman keeps that 10% bond amount in exchange for their services. Similarly, if you have accident insurance but never get into an accident, you do not get your insurance premiums back.
However, if the inmate (or a cosigner who signs on behalf of the inmate) get a bail bond and is released from jail, but the inmate “fails to appear” in court (referred to as FTA) then the judge will forfeit the inmates bail and may will issue a bench warrant for the inmates arrest.
Likewise, if all cash was paid for bail and the inmate “fails to appear” for the court dates then none of the bail cash will be returned, the Court keeps it. If a bail bond was posted then the bail bond company will be required to pay the court the full bail amount and then the bail bond company will seek reimbursement from the inmate and the cosigner. Of course any collateral that was used to guarantee the bail is also at risk if the inmate (now likely considered a fugitive) does not make the scheduled court appearance.
So if you think that an inmate could be a flight risk if released, then think twice about making a financial obligation to help secure their release on bail, because your cash or collateral is at risk of being lost if the inmate does not make the required court appearance(s).
And be sure to work with a reputable and licensed bail bondsman in Sacramento with a good reputation. Know what you are agreeing to, and if you do not understand something in the bail agreement be sure to get an explanation so you clearly understand the terms that you are agreeing to.
Of course we are available for you 24 hours a day at (916) 238-6936. If you have any questions or need additional information about helping your friend or loved one getting released from jail give us a call, we would be happy to help.