San Antonio Federal Pretrial Release and Texas Bail Bonds.

After police arrest a person for a crime, the next question becomes:  “How do I get out of jail?”  The answer depends on if it’s a state or federal crime.  Furthermore, both the state and federal system provide a constitutional right to bond out of jail.    

Critically, money is the clear difference between state and federal pretrial release.  To explain, if it’s a state crime, then the person will post a bond.  In other words, in Bexar County, Texas state court a person pays money to get out of jail.  State lawmakers call this the cash-bail system.

Conversely, if it’s a federal charge, then the person must go to federal court and request a bond from a magistrate.  Additionally, federal law requires judges to make two decisions in a federal case. 

First, they must make sure the person arrested will go to court.  Second, they must make sure the person arrested will not be a danger to the community while he or she is out on bond.  Thus, a person must show he or she will show up to court and not cause any more problems while out on bond.    

Finally, Texas recently made changes to its state-bail system with SB 6.  This new law is called the Damon Allen Act.  And starting in 2022, the Texas state-bail system will more closely mirror the federal-bail system.  But the new state-bail system will place a bigger burden on anyone arrested for a violent crime.  

How do San Antonio, Texas Bail-Bond companies work? 

In San Antonio, there are plenty of bail-bond companies that are licensed to write bail bonds.  This gives people arrested for a crime plenty of options.  In this situation, the best strategy is to call around to find the best rate or payment plan that fits your budget. 

Also, the common practice is for people to pay 10% of the bond amount.  For example, if the bond is $1,000.00, then the person pays $100.00 to get out of jail.  And the bond amount will depend on the type of case. 

Namely, the fees will be less for low-level crimes.  As an example, a person arrested for a first-time DWI or DUI case will likely get a low bond.  But if the person is arrested for a second-time DWI or if the BAC is high, then the judge may order the driver to get a device on his car.  The device measures the driver’s breath test on a regular basis.  Judges call this a bond condition.      

On the other hand, a person arrested for a more serious crime like aggravated assault, a gun case, or a drug charge, will pay a higher bond fee.   Put differently, the bond amount will depend on how serious the criminal charge is.   

In addition, these bond fees are non-refundable.  This means if the criminal case gets dismissed, the bondsman keeps the fee.  That’s how they make money. But there is another option available in Bexar County, Texas.  They can post a cash bond. 

What is a cash bond?  

A cash bond is when a person pays the full amount of the bond to the court.  Therefore, if the bond is $1,000.00, then the person deposits this cash amount with the court.  Once the case is over, the person can request a refund

The upside to a cash bond is the person gets a full refund when the case is over.  The downside is that many people cannot pay the full bond amount.  Especially with serious crimes that carry high bail fees. 

Nonetheless, this option is available.  And in some cases, this may be the best option for a person who has the ability to post a cash bond. 

Do judges put conditions on a bond?    

As we mentioned above, a judge may set conditions on the bond apart from the fee.  In DWI cases, the judge may order a person to install a breath-test machine in the car while the case is pending.  Or in a family-violence case, the judge may order the person to stay away from the victim or get a GPS ankle monitor.   

The judge may also require a person to report weekly to a pretrial-services officer or provide random drug tests.  Lastly, the judge may set no conditions at all.  This is the best case scenario for most people.  This means the person only has to worry about going to court.  The conditions will depend on both the judge and the case.   

What happens if I violate a condition of my bond in state court?

Bond violations are common.  But they cause real headaches for both the person and his or her attorney.  When a person breaks the bond conditions, the pretrial officer will notify the judge.  At this point, the judge must make a decision.  The judge can increase the bond amount, revoke the bond, or order add  additional conditions. 

If the judge increases the bond amount, then the person will be re-arrested and will need to bond out at the higher fee.  But if the judge revokes the bond, then the person will not be able to bond out. 

Incidentally, this is when a person is remanded without bond (RWOB).  Because there is no bond set, then a person cannot post a bond.  As a result, the person will wait in jail until his or her case is resolved.  Judges remand people without bond about 10 percent of the time in state court.

What happens if I violate a condition of my bond in federal court?

18 USC 3148 outlines the bond revocation process in federal court.  If a person breaks the bond conditions in a federal case, then the government will file a motion with the court and ask that the person’s bond be revoked.  Next, a judge will issue an arrest warrant for the person.  After the person is arrested, the court will schedule a bond-revocation hearing. 

At the bond-revocation hearing, the judge will make several findings, including:

  1. Is there probable cause to believe the person broke a federal, state, or local law while he or she was on pretrial release?; or
  2. Is there clear and convincing evidence the person broke any of the other conditions of his or her pretrial release.

Additionally, the judge must answer two related questions:

  1. Are there any conditions of pretrial release that will ensure the person will not run or make the community unsafe?; or
  2. Will the person follow the rules while he or she is on bond?

In short, bond-revocation hearings are an uphill climb.  It is possible to stay on bond even if you break the rules.  But this is rare.  In many cases, if a person breaks the bond rules, then the judge will send him to jail.  This means the person must sit in jail until his case is resolved.    

Ultimately, clients break the bond conditions for one of three reasons.  First, they fail a drug test.  Second, they fail to report to a pretrial officer.  Third, police arrest them for a new crime.  If this happens, then a judge will most likely pull that person’s bond. 

This is a harsh result.  For this reason, a client should always follow the bond rules so he can fight his or her case from the outside.       

Can a lawyer post my bond in State Court?

Yes.  But it may not be a good idea.  Here’s why.  Lawyers are allowed to post bonds for their clients.  But the law also requires the lawyer to represent the client in the criminal case that he or she posted a bond for.  This can be a great deal for the client. 

There are many honorable defense attorneys who genuinely want to help their clients out.  They provide a great service to the client by offering a lower price for both the bond fee and the attorney’s fees.  They will also work with their clients on payment plans if their clients get into financial trouble. 

Unfortunately, this system can cause harsh results.  If the client does not pay the lawyer the agreed upon fees, then the lawyer can get off the case and go off bond.  Stated another way, the client loses both his attorney and his bond.  That means the judge will issue a warrant for his or her arrest.  Consequently, the client will have to bond out again and then find a new lawyer. 

In sum, lawyers can post bonds for clients.  And in many cases, this can provide a great value to the client.  But a person thinking about this option should also consider the risks discussed above.

I am remanded without bond (RWOB).  How do I get a bond set in my state criminal case?

One issue that reoccurs in state court is that judges often don’t set a bond when they issue an arrest warrant.  There are many reasons for this.  One example is an arrest for a probation violation.  In these types of cases, judges frequently remand a person without bond (RWOB).

Regardless, if a person is remanded without bond, then he or she can hire an attorney to help.  The attorney will file a motion to set a bond amount.  If the judge approves the request, then the person can then bond out of jail. 

But if the judge refuses to set a bond or sets it too high, then the person may file a writ of habeas corpus requesting either a bond be set or the bond amount be reduced.    

What happens at a federal preliminary hearing after you are arrest for a drug or gun charge?

A preliminary hearing is where a judge determines if there is probable cause to believe a person committed a crime.  Examples of common crimes in San Antonio, Texas include first-time alien smuggling, drug cases, gun cases, and aiding or abetting these crimes. Probable cause is a low-evidence hurdle for the government.  But these prelim hearings are useful to the defense. 

It gives them an idea of how strong or weak the government’s case is.  Above all, it helps the client see what they are up against.   

As an aside, sometimes the government gets an indictment before the person is arrested.  In these cases, there will not be a preliminary hearing.  This is because a grand jury already found probable cause that the person committed a crime. 

This does not mean the person is guilty.  It only means there is enough evidence for the case to continue.  This is the outcome in most criminal cases.  For this reason, many people waive the prelim hearing.            

How do Federal-Detention Hearings work?  

The Bail Reform Act governs federal-detention hearings.  It is how people bond out of jail in federal court.  But it is totally different from the Texas bail bond system.   

Notably, the federal system usually does not require a person to post a cash bond to get out of jail.  This is one of the main differences between the state and federal bail systems.

Instead of posting a bond, a person needs to show the following to get out on bond in a federal criminal case:

  1. He or she will appear in court for all future court dates;
  2. The person will follow all pretrial conditions of release;
  3. The person will not be a danger to the community;
  4. In some cases, the person must rebut the presumption for pretrial detention; and 
  5. The person must have legal status to be in the United States.  

Equally important, the magistrate will require a third-party (3P) custodian to sign an agreement that says the 3P will be responsible for paying a specific cash amount if the person arrested does not appear in court as directed.

The 3P custodian should be a responsible person in the community who holds a steady job, is a U.S. Citizen or LPR, does not have criminal history and is not currently facing criminal charges, and has an otherwise stable life.

San Antonio State and Federal Pretrial Release Defense Attorney.  

Getting out of jail is the top priority after police arrest a person for a crime.  But the bail process will depend on whether the person is charged with either a state or federal crime. 

In any event, anyone arrested for a crime should speak with a qualified-defense attorney to discuss his or her options. 

The right attorney can guide you through the process and help increase your chances of getting out on bond.  And that is the best case scenario in any criminal case, getting a bond so you can fight your case from the outside.      

San Antonio Defense Attorney Genaro Cortez.

Phone: 210-733-7575.