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Bail Has Been Set on a Loved One – What Should You Do?

Alvine Weidenaar, Criminal

Were you informed that a family member has been arrested, taken into custody, and bail was set by the judge? If so, it’s important to know what options you have. Being informed about the process you should follow for posting bail is essential to help your loved one in this situation. The more you know, the faster you can have them released. 

Bail Defined

Bail is the money someone who is arrested (the defendant) must pay to be released from jail. It functions as a type of collateral that ensures the defendant returns to court for all their court dates and the remainder of their criminal case. 

How Is Bail Paid?

When someone is arrested, there’s a possibility that the judge will set a cash bail. For this, there are a few payment options you can use:

  • Pay cash
  • Use a cashier’s check
  • Use a money order for up to $1,000 (you have the option to pay with several money orders if needed)
  • Sometimes credit card payments are accepted

If you plan to pay with cash, you must cover the full amount of bail that the judge set. Also, after the bail is set, the person who pays the bail can pay it at the courthouse right after their loved one’s arraignment. It’s important to let the court staff know that bail is being paid at the courthouse to try to prevent the defendant from going to jail. 

If you can’t pay the bail in cash right away, you can pay bail in person at some Department of Correction facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is true no matter where the defendant is held. 

Can You Pay Bail with a Credit Card?

The only time you can pay bail with a credit card is if the judge states on the record that this is an option. If this is possible, you can pay bail in person or if specific conditions have been met online. 

Can You Pay Bail Online?

While you can pay bail online, there are some conditions to doing this:

  • The judge must state on the record that the bail can be paid with a credit card. 
  • No surety conditions can be placed on the judge that requires proof the bail was provided by a legitimate source.
  • The bail information for the defendant has to be logged into the DOC online system before the credit card payment is accepted. 

After you have met these conditions, you can pay bail by phone or on your computer. You can pay online while the individual is still at the courthouse; however, to do this, you must remember that the process of entering information into the DOC system can take a while. Because of this, it is not unusual that defendants will be sent to jail before your online payment is processed. 

How to Pay Bail Online

If you meet the conditions, paying the bill online is a process. This process includes the following steps:

Navigate to the DOC’s Portal for Looking Up Inmates

You can search using the inmate’s name (first and last), their identification number (if you have it), or their case and book number. After you find the person you are searching for, if an online bill payment is possible, you will see the “Pay Bail” button in blue at the bottom of the page. This will take you to the payment portal. If the “Pay Bail” is still gray when you are on the page, then it means online bail payment isn’t an option. 

Enter Your Information 

If the button is blue, then you can move forward with the online payment. To do this, click the button and enter your personal information. This includes your name, billing address, and payment information. It’s possible to use several credit cards from a few different people (if needed) to pay the full amount. Remember, though, that all payments must be made within 24 hours of the initial one. 

Important Tips to Remember When Paying Bail Online

When paying online, there are a few things to know. One is that there will be a two percent fee for using a credit card to pay bail online. Also, you can’t use personal checks to pay bail. 

If you are paying bail for someone with another case, a hold, or a warrant, they may not be released until the other issues are handled. Before authorizing payment, you will be asked if you want the payment processed even if the person has other conditions that make keep them from being released. At this point, DOC will check for the conditions mentioned above after the payment is authorized. 

You also need to remember that if the person you paid bail for doesn’t attend their scheduled court appearances, the bail can be revoked. 

What Options Do You Have if You Can’t Afford to Pay the Full Bail Amount?

It isn’t uncommon that you won’t be able to afford all the bail amount that is set. This is when you may want to consider using a bail bond company. 

When you use a bail bondsman, the company will create a surety contract. This agrees that you are liable for the entire bail amount if the defendant does not attend their court dates. The amount charged for your bond depends on the agency and bondsman. 

If you decide to use a bail bond company, be sure they have a good reputation. 

What Are Unsecured or Partially Secured Bonds?

A partially secured bond is one that requires a payment to be made upfront for the person to be released. After a judge has signed off on a partially secured bond, you will pay the amount. This type of bond is 100% refundable if the defendant goes to court on their set dates. 

Unsecured bonds don’t require you to pay anything upfront. The person must promise they pay the amount the bond is for if the defendant doesn’t return to court on the scheduled dates. 

For unsecured bonds and partially secured bonds, you must have obligors sign off on them. Paperwork is needed for this, and it is necessary for you to swear in front of a judge that the information you have given is accurate and true. 

What Will Happen with Your Money After the Case is Over?

After your loved one’s criminal case is over, you can receive a refund for a cash bail. The refund is available even if the person is convicted of the crime they were charged with. This assumes that the defendant when to all their scheduled court dates while their case was active. Usually, the refund will be mailed to the initial address you gave when the bail was paid, and this process takes around eight weeks. 

If you don’t receive your refund within this amount of time, it’s a good idea to contact the DOC for more information. 

What Happens if a Defendant Doesn’t Go Back to Court?

If the defendant doesn’t return to court or if they violate the release terms, they can forfeit the bail you paid. If the defendant posted a bond, which is money that was posted for them, usually by a bail company, then the company will forfeit the money. 

If you have questions or need help, it’s a good idea to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. This legal professional can review your loved one’s situation and case and help you figure out the right steps to take to get them out of jail. While this process can be complex, with the help of on of our attorneys, it is easier to understand. 

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