Bail Bonds, Bond Hearings, Preliminary Hearings, and First Appearances
Will Kelbaugh has handled hundreds of bond hearings for clients. He works with his clients and their families to thoroughly prepare so that clients are presented in the best possible light, and have the best chance to be released on bond. If your loved one is in jail, call the Kelbaugh Firm to discuss your options.
Getting out of jail on bond as soon as possible is probably the most important thing anyone who is charged with a crime can do. Aside from minimizing the impact to a person's job and family, getting out of jail quickly improves a person's chances of achieving the best possible outcome in their case. Being in jail means that a person's phone calls will be listened to by prosecutors and it makes it more difficult for a person to assist their attorney in defending their case. Perhaps worst, it increases pressure on a person to get out of jail by pleading guilty regardless of whether they are guilty, usually with a less favorable plea deal than can be achieved if a person is out of jail on bond.
Types of Bail Bonds
Being released on bond allows a person to wait for their court appearances outside of jail. All bonds are essentially a promise, with different types of assurance, that a person will return to court when they are summoned. There are several types of bonds on which people can be released from jail, including surety bonds, cash bonds, property bonds, and signature or "OR" bonds. Most judges set "normal" bonds that can be posted with cash, a "surety," or property.
As an example, let's suppose that a judge sets a $10,000 normal bond for a person accused of possessing meth. That person's family can post the bond in three different ways. First, using a cash bond, the family could pay $10,000 cash, plus various fees, to the sheriff of county where the person is in jail. After the case is resolved, the family can get almost all of that cash returned to them. One problem with a cash bond is that many people cannot afford to pay the amount of cash required be without access to that cash until the case is resolved.
A second option is a surety bond. A surety bond means that a person's family uses a bonding company, or bail bondsman. The bail bondsman is teh surety. The family pays a percentage of the total bond to the bonding company, usually between 10% and 15%. 15% is the maximum allowed by law, under OCGA 17-6-30. Otherwise, the exact percentage is determined by the individual bonding company. Different bonding companies charge different percentages and require different types of documentation to be provided by the person posting the bond. Usually, the amount paid to a bonding company is not returned to the family when the case is resolved. One benefit of using a bonding company is that a person's family does not have to provide the full amount of the bond in cash.
A third option is a property bond. The exact rules for property bonds differ by county, but the basic idea is that a person posts the title to real estate that they own, rather than cash.
Finally, judges can grant "signature bonds," bonds that do not require a person to post any money or property, but only promise to come back to court and comply with any conditions imposed by the judge. These types of bonds are known by various names including own recognizance bonds, OR bonds, SOR bonds, signature bonds, personal recognizance bonds, or SOB bonds. The prevalence of signature bonds vary widely by county. Signature bonds are more common for less serious offenses.
When Will a Person Receive a Bond
The exact timing of when a person receives a bond varies by county and depends on the charge against the person. For the least serious charges, a person will frequently receive a bond as soon as they are booked into the county jail. For more serious charges, the first appearance hearing is usually the first time that a judge will consider whether to grant a bond, the amount of bond, and any conditions of bond. The first appearance hearing must take place within 48 hours for an arrest without a warrant, and within 72 hours for an arrest based on a warrant. Sometimes the judge at a first appearance hearing will not grant a bond, although a person is eligible for a bond. The next opportunity for a person to be granted a bond is usually at the preliminary hearing. For certain extremely serious charges, listed in OCGA 17-6-1, such as murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, aggravated stalking, and other very serious charges, only a Superior court judge can grant a bond. Usually an attorney must file a motion for bond in Superior Court before a hearing can be scheduled to determine if a judge will grant a bond for those extremely serious charges listed in OCGA 17-6-1.
How Does a Judge Determine Whether to Grant Bond
For almost all misdemeanors, people are entitled to a bond. When judges can choose to grant or deny a bond, judges must consider four factors, frequently known as the Ayala factors, which are listed in OCGA 17-6-1(e)(1). Those factors are: (1) risk of fleeing the jurisdiction and failing to appear in court, (2) danger to persons and property in the community, (3) risk of committing a felony pending trial, and (4) risk of intimidating witnesses or obstructing justice.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
A preliminary hearing is also known as a commitment hearing. The purpose of the hearing is for a judge to determine if there is probably cause to suspect the guilt of the accused. If the judge finds that there is probable cause, then the case against the accused person is "bound over" to the court where the case will be adjudicated, either Superior Court or State Court. Probable cause is a much lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The preliminary hearing usually takes place within a couple of weeks of a person's arrest. The preliminary hearing may sometimes be used to request a bond, request a lower bond, or request a change in the bond conditions that were previously imposed.