Getting Out On Bail In New York
Fatma Khaled Freelance writer
The state started a new bail reform policy in January to reduce the number of people jailed while awaiting trial because they can’t afford to pay bail. The reform intended to reduce the jailed population by at least 40% by eliminating cash bails, according to Court Watchers.
Cash bail is no longer permitted. Most people accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies are being released while their cases are being processed in court. New York judges have the option to set cash bail for those who committed serious crimes such as sex offenses and witness tampering.
While the original reform was praised by Governor Andrew Cuomo, it came under scrutiny by criminal justice reformers who feared that this would increase the number of criminals on the streets. In July, the law was amended to include more situations where judges can set cash bail, decide on other conditions of pretrial release and have more discretion in setting bail.
Who qualifies for bail in New York
New York’s jail population decreased from 20,000 by the end of 2019 to 15,000 during the first three months of 2020 when the law went into effect. According to latest data on bail in New York, around 105, 161 cases were released without bail.
Your loved one would be eligible for bail if he/she/they meet one of the following 15 new bail-eligible categories of felonies that were added to the original bail criteria in New York:
- Second degree burglary- charged when entering a house
- Sex trafficking
- Money laundering in support of terrorism in the third of fourth degree
- Promotion of sexual performance involving a child
- Crime that allegedly caused a person’s death
- Criminal injustice committed against a defendant’s family member or household
- Vehicular assault if the first degree and aggravated vehicular assault
- Third degree assault and arson committed in part of a hate crime
- Aggravated assault against a person/s less than 11 years of age and possession of a weapon on a school campus
- First degree of grand larceny, enterprise corruption, and money laundering
- Failure to register as a sex offender or endangering a child’s welfare when one is designated a level three sex offender
- Bail jumping in the third, second, or first degrees or escape in the third, second, first degrees.
- Any felony offense committee during probation or post-release supervision
- Any felony committed by a persistent felony offender
- Any felony committed involving harm to person or property while having pending charges on another felony that is also committed involving harm to person or property.
If you or your loved one can’t afford to pay bail, there are other options. One of those options is a bail bond where you can get a bond company to pay the city the amount of the bond in case your loved one failed to attend set court dates. When a bail bond company agrees to post a bond for the accused, it guarantees this person’s presence in court.
To get a bond, you will need to apply for one from a bail bond agency. By signing the bail bond, you are pledging that the defendant will make appearances and if they failed to appear then he/she/they will pay the full face value of the bond.
The cost of a bond is generally broken into two parts premium in which the fee is set by New York State law and is generally around 10% of the bond amount and the second part is the collateral taken which will be refunded at the end of the case as long as the defendant commits to the terms of the bond. Setting collateral sometimes is required by a judge and in other cases it is required by the bondsman to alleviate risk.
The next step after paying the total upfront cost of the bond is to sign the agreements, accepting liability for the full value of the bond if the defendant doesn’t appear in court.
You can find New York bail bondsmen in offices located nearby local criminal courthouses or you can search for the right agent online. Many of the licensed bondsman who can post a bail bond in New York can be found on this list of agents posted by the state’s Department of Financial Services.
Steps to posting bail
If your loved one has been arrested in New York, he/she/they are likely to be brought to one of the Houses of Detention located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan or Queens. They will usually go through the regular procedures before being held and that includes fingerprinting, photograph and paperwork. You may begin the process of posting bail following those procedures.
If your loved ones committed a misdemeanor, you don’t have to wait for a bond hearing because judges rely on the bail schedule. However, if they committed a felony you will need to post bail yourself in which you will be called a surety or deal with a local bail bond company. Here are some ways in which you can pay bail:
- A surety bond (also called a secured appearance bond) in which you will be required to post property that is at least equal to twice the value of the bail, but some courts accept partial secured bonds which is 10% of the total amount of the bond.
- Unsecured bond which is an agreement where you or your loved ones promise to pay full amount of bail if required; these agreements need to be approved by court and often require proof of income and assets.
- Cash bail which you can pay online at the NYC Department of Corrections website and choosing the “Inmate Lookup Service” option. You can only do this on days in which your loved ones don’t have a court date and when the court sets credit card bail. You should also expect to be charged a 2% processing fee while paying bail online. Your loved one however may not be released in case he/she/they have a warrant, hold, or an additional case until those issues are resolved.
- Pay at the Courthouse to the court clerk if you and your loved ones are present which will prevent them from being transferred to jail.
- In a jail facility where you can pay bail 24/7 but personal checks are not accepted. You can use a bank check which will be made out to the New York City Department of Correction or your loved one can post bail form their own jail commissary account.
How a lawyer can help
Posting bail for someone is not as daunting as it may seem, but hiring a lawyer will help you properly navigate the process. Here are some ways a lawyer can help you post bail:
- More bail options: If the judge at the arraignment sets a cash-only bail—which means you can’t use a bail bondsman—a lawyer can take a writ of habeas corpus (a civil action petition) to appeal the availability of only one form of bail.
- Real property value assessment: If you plan to use a piece of property with the city for bail, a lawyer could help you figure out the assessed value of your property or the value that the city uses to calculate your taxes for that property.
- Arguing for “no bail”: a criminal defense attorney can argue for no bail or a reduced bail for the defendant in court based on a number of factors, including nature of charges, criminal history, and the defendant’s record of missing court dates, among other factors
- Bail reduction hearing: If your loved one has been arraigned and a bail has been set in New York courts, a bail reduction hearing is also possible. The reduction is determined based on whether new information came to light or a change in circumstances which could be discussed with a lawyer who will later fill an application to the court to have a bail hearing and present the new information.
Knowing what to say at a hearing can make a big difference on how a judge rules. Hiring a lawyer to represent your loved one at the hearing can increase your chances of getting the request granted by a judge.
Court Buddy is here to connect you with an experienced and trusted lawyer who can help you at an affordable rate. The company assists with the management of your case and lawyer relationship. Your lawyer will assess your legal issue in a timely and confidential manner, explain why you need or do not need a lawyer, and only charge you for the legal services performed and associated out of pocket fees.