If a bond amount has been set, there are two ways a defendant can get out of jail. The first is to pay the full amount of the bond. However, this is usually very costly. Even the most routine cases can carry bonds in excess of $20,000. If a defendant opts to post his own bond, he would be required to post the full amount. The advantage in doing this is that a defendant gets most of his/her money back at the conclusion of the case. However, if it is determined that the defendant violated the bond conditions set by the court, the bond could be revoked in its entirety. Additionally, unless you have surplus of money available, the practical use of your money would be to hire an experienced criminal attorney and for your defense.
The second way of posting a bond is using a bondsman. A bondsman will charge a fee for their services which is usually a percentage of the total bond amount. The general practice is 10 percent. I work with bail companies who I will call when a client calls my office after being arrested. They provide my clients less than 10 percent, and because they are working with my clients, a payment plan is also an option.
How do I hire an attorney? How much should I pay? What qualifications should I look for?
The next step is to hire an attorney. In the criminal arena, an attorney will be retained by the court if you cannot afford to hire your own attorney. They are called state and federal public defenders. For most people, hiring an attorney is a new concept, especially a criminal defense attorney. Since the stakes are so high, making a mistake may mean being incarcerated and a criminal conviction.
If you are arrested then charged with a criminal offense, there is a real likelihood that you could end up in jail or prison. But there are other consequences, including but not limited to, costly fines, suspension of your driver’s license, mandatory counseling, lifetime sex registration, deportation. To prevent such outcomes, it is critical that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who is skilled in both negotiations and trial work.
With so much on the line, you do not want to make a mistake. People often hire the first attorneys that they see in the yellow pages or the internet or hire the cheapest one. Remember the adage! You get what you pay for.
I have had so many clients that come in after they have been convicted and I immediately see the mistakes of the prior attorney. Some are losing their professional licenses (nursing, real estate), in removal proceedings (deportation), or cannot get their case expunged since the offense they pled to a charge that is not within the court’s purview to expunge.
These are just some examples that I personally have seen my clients experience. But one of the worst acts an attorney made is when he pled his client to a misdemeanor sexual offense with a lifetime sex registration terms. I say this is a horrible act since if this client is late one day in registering he will be facing a felony charge and likely a felony conviction. I cite these examples to emphasize that hiring the right attorney is critical.
I understand that especially during these times of recession, money is not to be squandered, but I must emphasize that hiring a criminal defense attorney that knows the system will help you obtain a reduced charge or even a dismissal. Let us be honest, like most things in life, those who know the “system” (the prosecutors, judges, probation officers, court clerks) will probably get a better deal.
Just last week, I had obtained a dismissal on a client’s criminal case after calling the prosecutor’s bluff. I knew the vital witness will not be available to testify if it goes to trial. Even with an offer from the prosecutor that after a completion of counseling, the case would be dismissed, I held out for an outright dismissal and succeeded. I knew that from the start, the prosecutor will not be able to meet her burden of proof and requested that the case be dismissed. With the trust of my client in my skills, he allowed me to strategically plan the case so a dismissal could be obtained.
As for what an attorney will charge you, every attorney and case is different. Beware of the attorney who charges you an unusually low fee. Chances are, he is just doing this to get you as a client then devote minimal time and energy to your case. You do not want a criminal defense attorney who appears one or two times in your case and then pleads you guilty.