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How Does Bail Work in California?

Posted in Criminal Defense on May 27, 2020

If you or somebody you love has been charged with and arrested for allegedly committing a crime, your first thought is how to post bail. After all, you want to get out to be able to fight these charges against you. Bail is cash, a bond, or property that an arrested person will give the court to ensure that they will appear when they are ordered to do so for future hearings or proceedings in their case. If the person facing charges fails to show up, and the court will get to keep the bail and issue a warrant for the person’s arrest.

It is important to understand how the bail process works, beginning from the moment a person is arrested to the time the charges against them are settled. If you need experienced legal assistance, contact Riverside criminal attorney Graham Donath, he will protect your rights and help you find the best solution for your situation. Call our Riverside office today to schedule a free consultation at (951) 667-5293.

How is Bail Set?

The total amount of bail required is set in various ways and typically depends on the crime involved. Every county in California has its own bail schedules that set forth the amount of bail required for each crime. Ultimately, the judge has discretion when setting a bail amount, allowing them to deviate from the schedule depending on the criminal history of the person involved, whether the person is a flight risk, and other specific factors relating to their case.

How is Bail Paid?

Bail in California can be paid in a few different ways.

  • Cash bail. This means that the bail is paid in full to the clerk of court or the arresting agency. This is typically done so through cash, money order, check, cashier’s check, etc.
  • Bail bond. This is the most common way to pay bail because most people do not have the means to pay cash bail. A bail bond takes about 20 minutes to receive, and a person will be working with a person called a bail bondsman who will post the full bail in exchange for a non-refundable premium (maximum of 10% under California law). For example, if a person’s total bail is $100,000, you may have to pay up to $10,000 to the bail bondsman, who will then post the full bail for your release.
  • Property collateral. In these cases, this means that you allow the court to place a lien on your property in lieu of paying cash or working with a bail bondsman.

What if a Person Does Not Appear in Court?

The point of posting bail is to ensure that a person charged with a crime will show up for future court appearances. If a person charged with a crime fails to appear in court, the judge will forfeit bail and likely issue a bench warrant for their arrest. If a person paid a cash bail, none of it will be returned. If a person worked with a bail bondsman, the bond company will seek reimbursement or a cosigner.

In some cases, the court may vacate or exonerate the bond if you appear within 180 days of the notice of bail forfeiture and provide a satisfactory reason as to why you did not appear previously.

What Happens When The Case is Over?

When the case is resolved, the court will typically exonerate the bail. If a cash bail was paid, it will be refunded to the person who made the payment. If a person used a bail bondsman, they will not receive any of their premium back. If property collateral was used, the lien will be removed from the property.

The future of bail in California

California voters will hold a referendum concerning bail in November 2020. They will decide whether or not to put Senate Bill 10 into effect, which would supersede any of the information we discussed above and significantly overhaul the California bail system. SB 10 would remove the ability to pay as a condition of release, something advocates have been discussing for years.