What To Do If A Loved One Can’t Make Bail
Katie Lyon Student – University of California, Berkeley
Thomas Rüdesheim from Pixabay
If your loved one has been arrested, you may be navigating how to arrange for bail.
Bail is the price tag judges impose on someone’s release from jail before the person's court date. Bail is used to increase the likelihood that they will return to court for his/her/their trial.
If your loved one shows up for the court date, the money will be returned in full. Otherwise, you'll lose it (and your loved one will be in even bigger trouble).
It's hard to scrounge up money, especially during these difficult times. A 2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that there are nearly half a million people sitting in jails across the country, awaiting trial. They were either denied the opportunity to post bail, or simply couldn't get the money together.
If your loved one cannot afford to pay bail, they may be forced to spend months or years in jail awaiting trial.
Many who are unable to pay turn to bail bond companies. They loan out the money for bail. But you pay for it. They charge a fee of around 10% of the total bail cost.
The good news is that bail bonds are not your only option. There are some alternatives which can help your loved one avoid the months in jail awaiting trial.
Attempt to get bail lowered or removed through a bail hearing.
If the bail is too high for you to pay, you may want to work toward getting bail lowered or removed entirely. This is done through a bail hearing.
If you formally request a bail hearing, you can be given the chance to have bail lowered. A hearing will not be granted automatically, however, and you may want to hire a lawyer to help you through the process.
A few of the factors that may impact a judge’s decision about whether to lower or remove bail include:
- Financial state
- Employment status
- The alleged crime
- Past court appearances and criminal history
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. At Court Buddy, our rates start at $249.
After the hearing:
- Your loved one may be granted own-recognizance (OR) release, where you pay nothing and the person is released on your assurance that he/she/they will return to court for trial
- The bail may be lowered
- The person may be allowed to post bail, if he/she/they were initially denied the opportunity.
- The judge can refuse the request.
Utilize Bail Relief programs
If your bail hearing was unsuccessful and you were unable to get bail sufficiently reduced, you may want to turn to a bail relief program.
A number of organizations exist to combat the systemic incarceration fueled by the US’ cash bail system. These programs utilize a revolving bail fund to pay for the release of those sitting in jail awaiting trial, who remain in jail due to their inability to pay.
The Bail Project is one of the national organizations posting bail for people who cannot afford it. If your loved one is being held in one of the 22 cities supported by The Bail Project, you can sign up to see if you qualify to have bail posted by them.
Additionally, the National Bail Fund Network through Community Justice Exchange has compiled a list, categorized both by subject and state, to help you find a community bail fund that may be available for your loved one’s case.
Fundraise online or in person
Many have turned to online fundraising tools like GoFundMe in an attempt to raise the necessary money for bail, or even just to pay the bail bond fee.
If you attempt to post bail in its entirety through community fundraising, experts suggest that you reassure contributors they only be loaning you the money. Return their money after the trial date.