Johnny Got Arrested the 1st Time – Bail Tales

 You may be trying to get Johnny out of jail as soon as possible right now.  You’re probably wondering what has happened up to this point and why.

When Will His Bail Get Set?

In some circumstances, bail could have been pre-set by a judge for everyone charged with the same crime in that jail.

If not, Johnny should have an opportunity to see a magistrate within 48 hours of his arrest. The magistrate will advise Johnny he has basic rights and will set a bail amount after talking briefly with Johnny. A magistrate can be any judge or justice of the peace.

Magistration is Legally Important, as well as Practical

The idea behind the right to be magistrated is to provide the accused with an impartial person, not his accusers or law enforcement, after he has been deprived of his freedom. The magistrate should examine basic proof offered to justify Johnny’s arrest with probable cause.  Such proof is typically a sworn complaint.

The magistrate is supposed to be detached from those holding the accused. It also gives protection against being held indefinitely without any review of the charges.  You may have to wait for the magistrate to see Johnny before you know how much the bail will be.

Why is His Bail So High?

The accused has the right to a “reasonable” bail, but there is no strict number required by law.  It basically is supposed to be high enough to reasonably secure his presence for trial, but it isn’t supposed to be so high as to punish him.  

In practice, bail is often set so high the accused has literally no chance of being released because he doesn’t have enough money.  Highly publicized cases and very serious cases are the most common types involving outlandish bail requirements.  Effectively, those defendants are punished based solely on the accusations against them.

In my opinion, our system is severely broken and should not require cash bail.  In fact, cash bail is under fire in some states.  It may even become obsolete.

I hope Texas stops requiring cash bail.  Many people wind up paying so much just to get out of jail they are unable to afford to defend themselves in court.  Sometimes, an entire family’s life savings and all their property is lost to post bail.  The entire system coerces the weakest and poorest people, and there is no good reason to continue cash bail.

However, right now, we have to deal with the reality of Johnny’s situation and try to get him out of jai.

Does He Have to do More Than Pay?  What’s next?

 Bail often comes with strings.  The community is also considered when setting bail.  Conditions of release may be mandatory in certain types of cases like domestic violence and driving while intoxicated.  Other conditions can be up to the individual magistrate or presiding judge.  

Examples of conditions of bail include staying away from an alleged “victim”, wearing an ankle monitor, or submission to pretrial services.  It is critical to follow the conditions of bail. Failure to do so could result in the accused having his bail revoked and being re-arrested.

 “Pretrial Supervision”

If the magistrate requires Johnny to report to “pretrial supervision” (PTS) as a condition of bail, this should happen as soon as he is told to do it. The PTS officer will likely gather information from Johnny about his home, his close contacts, and his background.  

Much like cash bail, I believe pretrial supervision should end.  From a practical standpoint, there is little to no difference between pretrial supervision and probation imposed after conviction.  However, Johnny should comply because failure to could mean he goes back to jail.

Johnny may be asked to take some written tests.  Those tests are usually diagnostics, meaning they are meant to diagnose Johnny’s needs for future supervision. Some counties use PTS extensively, while others use it sparingly, if at all. Consider it “luck of the draw”, so to speak.

Work Closely with A Criminal Defense Attorney

Throughout the process, it is important to know what to do.  You may have many people telling you what you need to do, but few people are in a better position to guide you than Johnny’s lawyer.