DUI Bail & Bonds
You thought you were fine driving home after a few happy hour beers. After all, you didn’t feel drunk. Then you hit that DUI checkpoint and it all went downhill from there. Now that you’ve been arrested, your first concern is obvious -- how do you get out of jail? Often you’ll have to pay money in the form of bail or a bond in order to get released. Here is a quick overview of the bail and bond process in DUI cases.
What Is Bail?
After you’ve been booked into jail on DUI charges, the next step is arranging your release. The authorities’ main concern is that, after you are released, you appear in court later. In some cases, you can get released on your own recognizance, meaning the court trusts you to show up on your own. Other times, the court wants a financial guarantee that you will appear at your court dates.
Bail is a process through which an arrested suspect pays a set amount of money to obtain release from police custody, usually after booking. As a condition of release, the suspect promises to appear in court for all scheduled criminal proceedings -- including arraignment, preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and the trial itself. If the suspect fails to appear in court as scheduled, he or she will be subject to immediate arrest, and any bail amount paid will be forfeited.
How Is Bail Set?
The bail amount for a DUI charge can be pre-determined through a "bail schedule,” and you may be able to obtain your release by paying bail immediately after booking. If not, a judge may make a bail decision at a separate bail hearing or at the arraignment. At this time, the judge may use the bail schedule or he or she may set a different monetary figure based on:
- Your DUI record and driving history;
- The seriousness of your DUI offense, in terms of injury to others; and/or
- Your ties to family, community, and employment (which indicate whether you are likely to appear in court).
You can appeal a bail decision, but they are rarely changed or overturned.
If You Cannot Afford Bail: Bonds and Bond Agencies
You (or your friends and family) may put up the full bail amount as set by the court, or a "bond" may be posted in lieu of the full amount. A bond is a written guarantee that the full bail amount will be paid in the event that you fail to appear as promised. A bond is usually obtained through a bail bond agency that typically charges a fee in exchange for posting the bond (usually about ten percent of the bail amount). Bail bond agencies may also demand additional collateral before posting a bond, as the agency will be responsible for paying the full bail if the suspect "jumps bail" and fails to appear as promised.
The penalties for failing to appear as required after release can be severe, including a fine, imprisonment, or both. Federal law provides that any term of imprisonment for failure to appear must run consecutively (meaning additionally) to any other criminal sentence.
Finding yourself in jail on DUI charges can be a frightening experience. If you have been arrested or charged with DUI, or you want to be sure of your rights in case such an event occurs, you can consult with an experienced DUI attorney where you live (note that DUI laws can vary significantly between jurisdictions). You can also find more introductory articles on this topic in FindLaw’s DUI section.