How to Post Bail in Alabama: 5 Things to Know
Under Alabama law, anyone 18 or older can co-sign a bail agreement on behalf of a person who has been arrested. However, that’s a signature that shouldn’t be given without considerable thought. If the defendant doesn’t show up for all scheduled court appearances – or doesn’t follow conditions that can be imposed by the court – the co-signor owes the entire amount of the bail to the bail bond company. Alabama adds even more to the bill: the reasonable costs incurred by the bail bond company to locate the defendant, such as travel and long-distance phone calls. If you find yourself in jail in Alabama, here are 5 things everyone should know about the bail process.
1. Four Ways to Get Out of Jail
Cash bond – The cash does not have to come from the defendant. Instead, it can come from a friend or family member. The entire amount of the bond must be paid, and if the defendant shows up to all court appearances, all is returned minus court fees and administrative charges. In Alabama, that includes a $35 filing fee and 3.5 percent of the face value of bond, or $100, whichever is greater. For a felony, the charge is 3.5 percent of the value of the bond, or a minimum of $150.
Surety bond – This is a contractual agreement between the defendant, or a guarantor, and the bail bond company. Paying for a $10,000 or $20,000 bond all in cash can be difficult or impossible for many people. By paying a 15 percent premium instead, the bail bond company guarantees the rest to the court and may or may not require a defendant or indemnitor to put up collateral.
Property bond – It’s possible to allow the court to put a lien on property – whether it’s land, a home or jewelry – as a way to post bail. Alabama law requires that the equity in the property must at least be 2 ½ times the amount of the bail set in the case. Because of the paperwork involved, this process is the slowest of the four ways to get out of jail before trial.
Personal recognizance – Alabama law has a presumption in favor of allowing a defendant to sign an agreement to show up for all court appearances without posting any security unless the court finds that such a release does not “reasonably assure defendants appearance” or the defendant poses a “real and present danger” to others. The defendant must pay $25 fee to be released on personal recognizance.
2. How to Get Bail
State law includes a recommended bail schedule with ranges for various crimes. For example, the range for a DUI is $1,000 to $7,500 while a Class A felony requires a bail between $10,000 and $60,000. Judges have considerable discretion, though they must reveal in the record the reason for straying from the state bail guidelines. A defendant can post bail after the intake process, which includes fingerprinting. At that time, the defendant can also call a family member or friend to post bail or contact a local bail bond company.
3. What Will Bail Cost?
The premium set by state law is 10 percent. There are also other fees and administrative charges. Any bond, including a cash bond, includes a $35 filing fee. Someone released on personal recognizance must pay a $25 fee. For misdemeanors, the fee is no less than $50 or 3.5 percent of the face value of the bond. For felonies, the same 3.5 percent fee is in place. The minimum charge is $150 and the maximum fee is $750.
4. How Long Will I Stay in Jail?
The process can move very quickly – a matter of a couple of hours or less – if a cash bond is involved and the crime is a misdemeanor with a preset bond schedule. In some cases, the process can take longer – particularly when the arrest occurs late at night or on weekends. Also, if the crime is serious enough, bail will be set by a Circuit Court judge during an initial appearance. State law says someone arrested when no warrant is involved must make an initial appearance – when bond can be set – within 48 hours.
5. What if I Miss a Court Appearance?
Under Alabama law, the court will issue a bench warrant for violating the bail agreement – which is a separate triable offense. In addition, the defendant will be re-arrested on the original charge. The indemnitor on the bond – either the defendant or someone who signed on behalf of the defendant – will be required to pay the entire amount of the bond to the bail bondsmen. The bail bond agent has arrest powers to bring in the defendant in an attempt to avoid paying the entire amount of the bond that was guaranteed to the court.
The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney.