Getting Out of Jail

Having a friend or loved one arrested is often a frightening and stressful experience.

Anyone arrested on a DWI or assault charge is usually arrested without a warrant. In order to get out of jail they first must see a judge. The judge will set the amount of their bond. Finally the accused will have the opportunity to post the bond. There are several types of bonds that can be posted. Travis County is unique in that is has a Pretrial Services office in the jail. Pretrial Services interviews every person arrested to determine if they qualify for a personal bond. Personal bond is a bond that does not require any money to be paid prior to the person being released from jail; the arrested person signs the bond, promising to pay the money only if they fail to appear in court. Pretrial Services’ number is 512-854-9381. Everyone should first try to get released on a personal bond. It is a free service provided by Travis County.

Once a person is released on the personal bond, they are then required to pay an administrative fee of $20.00 to Pretrial Services. If there are conditions to the bond, the person must abide by those conditions and can be required to pay a slightly higher fee for that service. However, all of that is paid after the person is out of jail. Some of the conditions that may be attached to a bond include alcohol/drug assessment and classes, anger management classes, an Ignition Interlock Device for the person’s vehicle, and others. If these conditions are not followed, the judge can order the bond revoked and the person returned to jail.

If the person does not qualify for a personal bond, then they can post a surety bond through a bail bond company or pay the full cash amount of the bond. Cash bonds are refunded to the defendant once the case is resolved (either by dismissal, acquittal, or conviction), but are held by Travis County until that point. Since most cases take approximately 6 months to be resolved, this can be a long wait. Furthermore, Travis County takes a percentage of the cash bond to cover administrative costs and this amount is non-refundable regardless of the outcome.

The money paid to a bail bondsman or an attorney is nonrefundable. Bail bondsmen in Austin typically charge between 10-20% of the bond amount and they may want someone to guarantee the full amount of the bond. They may require collateral to hold that equals the amount of the bond. The money must be paid to the bondsman before the person is released from jail. The list of approved bondsman is at the jail, or in the yellow pages under bail. Some attorneys act as bail bondsmen and post surety bonds. BEWARE if you pay such an attorney, they must represent the person in court or the bond can be set aside and the defendant will go back to jail. Some attorneys charge a fee to help defendants expedite personal bond. This is often not necessary. The personal bond process takes several hours whether the person has an attorney or not. Pretrial Services is a free service provided by Travis County.

Sometimes, Pretrial Services denies the defendant a personal bond but says that they will reconsider that denial if the person hires an attorney. At that point, it does make sense to hire an attorney to help obtain the personal bond.

(Travis County formerly permitted a lawyer to obtain a jail release in the middle of the night, otherwise known as a Hobby Release. With the availability of judges 24 hours a day at the Travis County Jail, the Hobby Release is no longer available.)

Contact Betty Blackwell, a Board Certified Texas Criminal Lawyer, 24 hours a day for more information on getting a loved one out of jail.

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