The majority of Georgians have never been arrested for a crime. Therefore, the issue of “bonding out of jail” has probably not come to the attention of most people in our community. However, there are thousands of Georgians who have had to deal with having a friend, family member, or loved one being arrested and addressing the issue of bond.
The following provides a nutshell explanation about the issue of bond which is almost always the very first problem to address in a criminal prosecution.
Oftentimes, the accused will be given a pre-set bond after the arrest and booking procedures are complete. This typically happens in cases where the arrest is for a non-violent misdemeanor such as a DUI or other less serious offense.
If a pre-set bond is not available, the accused’s first opportunity to get out of jail will be at a first appearance hearing. This is a hearing conducted by a magistrate judge who will inform the accused of his rights in a criminal case. Additionally, the judge may consider setting a bond in some felony cases if the accused does not have any probation, parole, or other types of law enforcement holds.
If there is no pre-set bond and the magistrate judge does not set a bond, then the accused will sit in jail until the case comes up for trial or a bond is set at a later date. This can sometimes be a very long time.
At this point, the accused will usually find a lawyer to assist him or her in filing a motion for bond before a superior court judge.
This bond motion will set the stage for a bond hearing. While procedures and local rules differ slightly from county to county, the superior court will be authorized to set bond if the judge determines that the accused:
(1) Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required;
(2) Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, or to the community, or to any property in the community;
(3) Poses no significant risk of committing any felonies pending trial; and
(4) Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.
While these four determinations are used as the criteria for the judge in the bond hearing, the foremost consideration when setting a bond is the probability that the accused, if freed, will appear for trial.
One of the most important steps that the accused can make is to secure the attendance of witnesses who can testify about the accused and address the above mentioned criteria in an organized, tactical manner. This step cannot be overemphasized. Disorganized and unprepared bond hearings are almost always a disaster for the accused.
If a bond is set after the hearing, the family and/or friends of the accused must either make a property bond or seek the services of a reputable professional bonding company.
Sometimes, the judge will deny bond for one or more legal reasons. It is important to not give up if this happens. Sometimes the denial of bond can be a blessing in disguise. An example of this is when a person is going to have to serve some jail time anyway. It is always best to get this time out of the way in the beginning.
Additionally, if the accused is denied bond and is not indicted by a grand jury within 90 days, the accused will be entitled to bond under most circumstances. Emergency bond motions are filed and heard in these scenarios.
Bond hearings take place every day of the business week across the state. These hearings often set the tone in criminal cases, determine the local jail populations, and touch the personal lives of many good people.