Bail & Bail Bonds on a DUI Charge

Most people don’t go around expecting a DUI. They don’t have a DUI nest egg in their bank accounts, and are often living paycheck to paycheck. The average DUI bail costs $1,000 for the first offense. For a second or third, it can be $5,000 or more. So how does someone get out of jail to go back to work, defend their case, see their families, without that kind of cash on their bank statements?


Own Recognizance (OR) Release from Jail


If you’re lucky, bail might be $0. Typically for first-timers, those hapless drivers with no prior DUIs or other charges, the police officer might allow you to go home without paying anything. You will sign a contract promising to show for all court dates, and you most likely won’t be allowed to take a vacation until the proceedings are over. Being released on your own recognizance (O.R.) depends on several factors, though:


  • Past criminal history
  • Seriousness of the DUI (no significant speeding or intoxication, reckless driving, etc.)
  • Community or family ties


But if you’re denied release without bail and you don’t have $1,000 - $5,000 lying around? That’s where bail bondsmen come in to help people arrested for DUI.


Bail Bondsmen: Best Friends and Bounty Hunters

A bail bonding agency can usually be contracted to take on the cost of the bail for a small percentage fee. For a DUI, this fee is usually about 10%, sometimes as low as 5%, but never more than approximately 15%, depending on the laws of your state, county, and city.

Because the bail bond agency takes on a certain amount of responsibility for your showing up to hearings, trial dates, etc throughout the criminal investigation and possible trial., they often require some collateral as well as the fee to ensure that the bond is repaid. This collateral (something you own that would be forfeited in the event you don’t show up to court) can take a number of forms:


  • A title for a vehicle
  • .A credit-card charge
  • A deed for property or a mortgage


Before handing over your fee and your collateral, call a few lawyers and ask them for bonding agency recommendations. Then call the agencies themselves and compare their rates and policies. Also make sure they have explained exactly how their collateral and fee policies work before you give them a car or cash.


Note: All this is if you are able to do so, and if you can’t because you’re incarcerated or a loved one is in jail, that’s perfectly understandable.


The End of the Bail Bond Process

Assuming you show up at all court dates, the court will usually refund the bail money. This money, originally paid by the bondsman or bonding agency, will return to them, and they will keep the percentage fee you paid up front. After that, any pledged acollateral documents or property will be returned.


If, for some reason, your obligations have not been met—you decided on a trip to the Caymans instead of attending the sentencing hearing, for instance—the collateral would be forfeit. Anyone who has seen Ben Affleck in Smokin’ Aces or Dog the Bounty Hunter knows an adventurous bondsman might track you down to protect his investment. Others will just take your house or other collateral if there’s enough value in it.


The Aggravated DUI Snag

Most DUIs, especially first time offenders, are misdemeanor offenses. These are treated more lightly by courts and lawyers, and though they are harrowing and expensive, an aggravated charge carries far worse penalties.


Aggravated DUI counts as a felony charge in 43 of 50 states. The states that do not elevate the charge to a felony are these: Washington D.C., Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Washington State. However, authorities in these states can find other ways of stacking charges if the offense is serious enough.


A DUI / DWI can be bumped from a misdemeanor up to felony for any of these reasons:


  • Minors (aka kids) in the car at the time of the offense
  • Prior charges in the last 5 years, especially other DUIs
  • Not having auto insurance
  • Driving with aSuspended/revoked license
  • You were driving a school bus, delivery truck, or other commercial vehicle
  • Prior reckless homicide convictions
  • Driving in a school zone
  • Someone died or was injured as a result of an accident with you


Bail becomes complicated in these circumstances. Depending on the details of the case, bail could be set anywhere from $20,000 to the judge refusing your right to be bailed out – i.e. If bail is granted, the process would be the same as described above, with zeroes added to the dollar amounts.


By Richard Jacobs

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