The Austin Bail Bonds Guide

Table of Contents

  • What is an Austin Bail Bond
  • Three Ways to Satisfy an Austin Bail Bond
  • How to Get Someone Out of Jail with an Austin Bail Bond
  • Austin Pretrial Services Provides Better Alternative to Bail Bonds
  • Free Pretrial Release Over Paying an Austin Bail Bondsman
  • Why Pay for an Austin Bail Bondsman When You Can Get Out for Free
  • Austin Tries to Prevent Getting Sued for Oppressive Bail Bonds
  • Who Doesn’t Qualify for a Personal Bond

What is an Austin Bail Bond?

A bond is the amount of money set by the judge at the jail to make sure they will show up to court. The Austin bail bond amount is supposed to act as a security deposit so that people fear losing it enough so that they are motivated to go to court. Currently, in 2020, the judges at the jail go through this process to set an Austin bail bond amount.

Here is the arrest timeline to give an overview of the Austin bail bond process. After someone is arrested, the police officer drives your loved one down to the Downtown jail, officially called the jail. The booking room in the Downtown jail is called Central Booking. This is where they go first to get booked in. The booking process includes getting their mugshot taken by the Sheriff’s guards and fingerprinting for the Texas Department of Public Safety arrest records. In addition, they get their belongings inventoried and they get a chance to jot down three phone numbers from their cell phone. Soon after this booking process is complete, your loved one is allowed to use a free phone in the Downtown jail to make a call to you. If you don’t pick up, they will be allowed to use another paid phone to make a call to you. You won’t know that they are calling you, just an automated message that you are receiving a phone call from an inmate from the jail.

About 2 hours after they arrive at the jail, Pretrial Services, an office with the Probation Department, will come to interview your loved one for a financial workup and for a personal bond, one of the three ways to satisfy an Austin bail bond. The purpose of a financial workup is to set a bond that correlates with your income level. This way, it equalizes the Austin bail bond amount among the rich, the poor, and anyone in between. The rationale behind this approach is that the Austin bail bond amount is supposed to incentivize arrestees to come back to court. And that it balances them coming back to court, but also is something they can afford to pay to get out of jail.

The financial worksheet is based on the following information:

Financial Information
Employer:
Position/How Long:

Income Information
Your Salary:
Spouse’s Salary:
SSI/SSDI:
TANF:
Child Support:
Social Security Check:
Other Government Check:
Other Monthly Income:
Savings/401K Balance:
TOTAL MONTHLY INCOME:

Necessary Monthly Living Expenses
Rent/Mortgage Payment:
Utilities (gas, electric, etc.):
Transportation:
Make/Model/Year:
Clothes/Food:
Day Care/Child Care:
Medical Expenses:
Court-Ordered Monies:
Child Support:
TOTAL MONTHLY EXPENSES:

Non-Exempt Asset Information
Cash on Hand (self and spouse):
Amount in Checking Account:
Value of Real Property (land):
Value of Stocks, Bonds, Investments, Other Assets:
TOTAL NONEXEMPT ASSETS:

What is the most money you could reasonably pay to get out of jail within 24 hours after your arrest, including any contributions from family and friends?

This financial workup must be provided to the judge at the jail before the magistration hearing can take place. Magistration is the hearing where the judge brings your loved one along with up to twenty other people and reads them their charge and their Austin bail bond amount and the different ways to satisfy the Austin bail bond amount. They will also explain the right to an attorney and that they will get a court-appointed lawyer if they can’t afford one.

Three Ways to Satisfy an Austin Bail Bond

If your loved one got arrested, you probably feel a lot of anxiety because you feel helpless, like there is nothing you can do to help them get out of jail.

But the good news is you can help your loved one get out of jail by helping them get an Austin Bail Bond set as quickly as possible.

There are three ways to satisfy this bond amount:

PERSONAL BOND

The first way to satisfy an Austin Bail Bond is with a Personal Bond. For people with little to no criminal history, you may qualify for a personal bond, which is how to get out of jail sooner by promising to the court you will show up for all your court dates and follow all conditions set by a judge.

Only Pretrial Services or an Attorney may submit a request for release on personal bond to a judge. And only a judge can approve release on a personal bond. Without a lawyer, this process can take up to 2 days or never. With a lawyer, we speed this process up to a matter of hours. It’s because we can go talk directly to the judge and present the personal bond to them any day of the week, any time of day.

This is the only way to satisfy an Austin Bail Bond where you also get a lawyer. Two birds. One stone.

BAIL BONDSMAN

The second way to satisfy a Bail Bond is with an Austin Bail Bondsman. An Austin Bail Bondsman will require you to sign over your land and property to them in case you don’t show up to court because they will have to pay your full bail bond.

This typically costs between $500-$1000 for common charges like DWI or Family Violence.

Once you get out of jail, you never get this money back. And it does not get applied towards the cost of a lawyer.

PAY IT IN FULL

The third way to satisfy a Bail Bond is with a Cash Bond. You always have the option to pay the full bail bond amount in person at the front desk of the jail by cash or money order. When their case is completely over, the money will be returned to them, regardless of who paid it.

How to Get Someone Out of Jail with an Austin Bail Bond

“Hello, you have a collect call from an inmate at the jail. To accept the charges…”

1 in 200 people get arrested in Austin, so you will receive at least one of these calls from a family member or a friend. No one thinks this will happen to them until it actually happens to them. So having a backup phone number in case this happens is just smart. Saving our phone number in your phone is free. Best case scenario, you will never need it. But if you do, you already have a solution for how your family or friend can get out of jail. We are on call 24 hours a day at our dedicated Jail Release number 512-222-8722.

But it is also important to know what to do when a loved one is arrested and how to satisfy an Austin Bail Bond to get them out of the jail.

Step 1: Accept the Call

You want to pick up the phone call even if you don’t know who it is because it could be your family member or your friend. Their first few phone calls are free but their next phone calls will be collect calls paid by you.

It’s important to tell them to discuss only what is needed to get out of the jail or who to call to help them satisfy an Austin Bail Bond. The phone call is recorded by the Jail and can be listened to by the prosecutor later on. For a DWI, this is not the time to ask them how much they drank or what they did to get pulled over or how they did on field sobriety tests.

Ask them if they’ve seen the judge yet, and what their Bail Bond is set at. The Sheriff’s Office controls the jail and the booking information. This is the link to search their bond amount and their release status.

Step 2: Call a Lawyer or Austin Bail Bondsman

There are three options to satisfy a Bail Bond.

If you want to pay the Bail Bond in full. Go to the jail’s bonding office located at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center 509 W 11th St. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can walk right up between 8am-12am.

But in the middle of the night between 12am-8am, you have to go to the jail otherwise known as the jail located at 500 W 10th St, and ring the buzzer to let the guards know you want to pay your loved one’s Austin Bail Bond in cash. This option is risky because this cash is their security for showing up for court. If they don’t show up, your money’s gone and Travis County gets to keep your money. But if they show up to court like they’re supposed to and they finish their case by dismissal or punishment, you get your money back minus a $50 administration fee.

The second option to satisfy a Bail Bond is to pay an Austin Bail Bondsman about 10-15% of the Bail Bond. This is bond insurance. Once your loved one gets out of jail, the Bail Bondsman has earned their money and performed the service you hired them to do.

The third option to satisfy an Austin Bail Bond is with a Personal Bond. This can be performed by the Pretrial Services staff or can be expedited by a Lawyer. The Pretrial Services Department will talk to a judge about your release, but there are very stringent criteria to be approved for a Personal Bond through them.

You must live in Austin. You must have family ties who also live in town. You must have a steady job locally as well. And you must not have any pending charges against you. In 2020, Pretrial Services was granted authorization for the automatic release of people for certain types of cases, for example, a person’s first DWI or any non-violent offenses. But this does not apply to anyone who has a second DWI or any violent offenses like Assault Family Violence or Harassment. In addition, during the coronavirus crisis, the Texas governor set an executive order banning anyone who has previously been convicted of an assault case or currently has a pending assault case from being disqualified from being released on a Personal Bond.

a Lawyer is a great remedy for things like this when the Jail doesn’t automatically release your loved one. We are the better alternative to an Austin Bail Bondsman. We charge the same amount as an Austin Bail Bondsman does. But we don’t require you to co-sign.

In addition, we work with the judges day in and day out. There are 15 judges who work at the jail. We have gotten our clients out of jail with every single one of those 15 judges. Normally, your loved one has to wait around for the jail guards to pull them along with 20 other people to see the judge at the jail at the same time to get their charge and bond amount read to them. During this process, the judge at the jail only talks at them and doesn’t give your loved one a chance to tell their side of the story. However, once we’re hired to get your loved one out, we go see the judge directly to tell your loved one’s side of the story and advocate their release.

Step 3: Wait for Release

After their release gets posted by an Austin Bail Bondsman or a Lawyer, the jail takes between 2-6 hours to process their release. The reason it takes so long is because the Jail has many tasks they must handle, from booking someone in, to escorting someone from their jail cell to an attorney visitation room, to grabbing their belongings for their release. They will have an opportunity to call you from a free phone in the lobby if they don’t have their cell phone when they get out.

The lobby number will be 512-854-0000.

The parking right next to the jail is paid parking Monday to Sunday from 8am-6pm.

500 W 10th St

But on Saturday and Sunday, it is rarely enforced. Once your loved one gets out, the jail will tell them the address of the Tow Truck Place where they towed their car.

Austin Pretrial Services Provides Better Alternative to Bail Bonds

Getting arrested can feel like the end of the world. Instead of focusing on being arrested, once an Austin bail bond has been set, the focus should turn to getting out, getting back to normal, and fighting the charge against you. There are options to get released, such as a personal bond, cash bond, or surety bond. Austin Pretrial Services will help you get a personal bond, and that is a much better alternative than paying a bail bonding company.

A personal bond is the way to get released from jail for free. A surety bond requires a percentage of the bail bond be paid prior to release. This may seem like a no-brainer, but of course, the free way is always better than having to pay! No matter how someone gets released from jail, he or she is required to come back to court, and not having to pay an Austin bail bond will make life that much easier.

Between 1990 and 2004, a study of felony defendants in seventy-five of the largest counties in the United States showed that higher percentages of people were released faster through non-financial ways over their financial counterparts. This showed true whether it took a day, a week, or a month to get released. This is another potential benefit of being granted a personal bond. While there is no guarantee of how quickly someone will get released, Pretrial Services has usually finished their investigations as to whether a person qualifies for a personal bond before an arrestee even sees a judge to find out their bail bond amount. Once magistration is over, Pretrial Services is able to process these bonds right away, whereas the calls to a bail bondsman wouldn’t even start until now. You can’t call a bail bondsman to help pay your bail until you know what it is first.

Pretrial Services is a neutral party in the criminal justice system. They care about helping you get out of jail, and they care about making sure you come back to court. They don’t want to see you forfeit your Austin bail bond by missing a court date. There are conditions and services through Pretrial Services that help you stay on top of your responsibilities. Unlike a bail bonding company, who has skin in the game and only cares about the financial aspect of a bail bond, Pretrial Services’ mission is one of positivity and balance per their statement of purpose. Knowing that their goal to “uphold the constitutional principles of the presumption of innocence and the right against excessive bail for pretrial defendants” should only magnify how they provide the better alternative to a surety bond.

Free Pretrial Release Over Paying an Austin Bail Bondsman

If you have never been arrested before in Austin, it is rare that you have the knowledge you need to understand the options you have to get released. After you have been booked into jail, there may be jail or court staff that explain these ways. If not, once you are taken to see the magistrate judge, he or she will tell you what you are being charged with, let you know your bond amount, and explain the ways you can be released. At that point, you will probably have already been interviewed by a Pretrial Services officer and even had the opportunity to make a phone call or two. It is a scary time, and to already have the facts on how to get released will put you at an advantage to make the best decision for your situation.

There are technically four ways to get released from jail once a bail bond has been set by a judge. The bond amount is set based on the offense that you have been charged with and your financial ability to realistically pay that amount. The first option to get released from jail is to pay the full amount of the bail bond which is known as a cash bond. That will release you to come back to court to take care of your case. Something to also keep in mind is that misdemeanor cases can take six months to a year to be finalized. As long as you make every single court appearance, the cash bond you paid to get released will be given back to you. If you miss a court date, a bond forfeiture warrant will be issued for your arrest and you will lose all of the money you paid to get released. This cash bond is insurance or surety that you will come back to all of your court dates.

Another way to get released after being arrested is by being granted a personal bond. As mentioned above, a Pretrial Services officer will interview you to see if you qualify for this type of release. A personal bond is an agreement or promise, you make with the court to return to all of your court dates. If granted, you will not have to pay your bail bond, just a small administrative fee to Pretrial Services. After you have been interviewed, your loved ones can call Pretrial Services to see if you qualify for this bond, which is very helpful in making a decision. This is the free way to get released and a very popular choice. Like a cash bond though, if you miss a court date, you will be issued a bond forfeiture warrant for your arrest.

The third way to get released is with the help of a lawyer. With new policies that have been rolled out through Travis County Pretrial Services, there are many situations where personal bonds will be granted automatically and you won’t have to pay your bail bond. Sometimes, however, there may be situations where this is not the case. An attorney can help you get a personal bond that you might not qualify for otherwise. An attorney can also help you get released a little quicker by seeing the judge before you do. Your attorney can waive your magistration, speeding up the process to get out, which can be a lengthy one. Keep in mind you will need an attorney to help you with your case, and some might put the release costs they charge towards their overall fees. It might be beneficial to make those early phone calls to an attorney or have your family member do that for you. Getting quotes and asking about representation are important parts of these conversations as well.

The last way to get released from jail is with a surety bond through a bail bonding business. These businesses will charge you a percentage of your bail bond (10%-30% depending on the business – calling a few to get quotes is also a good idea). Once you pay them, they put up your bail bond to the court and you can get released. This is not a faster way to get released. You still need to see the judge first, who will give you your bond amount. Then you can start calling bail bonding businesses. Depending on the business, and how fast you or your loved one can pay them, will affect how long it will take to get released. And if you miss a court date on a surety bond release through a bail bondsman, a bond forfeiture warrant will be issued for your arrest, and you run the risk of having your bond revoked by the business.

The decision that you make to get released from jail will be between you and your family. Having all of the facts can help you make the best choice for your particular situation. Unfortunately, when you are arrested, you and your loved ones can feel like you are in the dark. Having everyone informed about the options for release can make it all a little bit easier.

Why Pay for an Austin Bail Bondsman When You Can Get Out for Free?

People who are arrested have a few different ways they can get released once their bail bond is set so they can get back to their lives as quickly as possible. Paying the full amount of the bail bond, also known as a cash bond, is one way to get released. Another way is called a personal bond, which is the free way to get released. And lastly, a bail bondsman can charge a percentage of the bail bond amount, releasing someone on a surety bond. This begs the question, why pay for an Austin bail bondsman when you can get out for free?

It is common knowledge that paying a bail bondsman is the way to get out of jail. Even if you have no experience with being arrested, this is something you probably already know. In fact, the rest of Texas uses bail bonding businesses as the traditional way to get out of jail. The average person wouldn’t know that they can get out of jail for free with a personal bond. With all of the costs that come with being arrested and going to court, not having to pay the bail bond amount can help significantly during a difficult and stressful time.

People are kept in the dark as they are getting arrested, being booked into jail and waiting to see a judge. Sometimes a person doesn’t even know what they got arrested for until the judge tells them hours after they have been booked into jail. However, a Pretrial Services officer will usually be the first person who will actually give any kind of explanation on the bail bond and release process. These are the people who come to talk to people shortly after they have been booked in, even before they go in front of a judge. They are the ones who should explain more about what is happening and the ways to get released. They want to help people get out for free so they don’t have to pay their bail bond amount.

In the past, the Pretrial Services officer couldn’t give someone a definitive answer of being granted a personal bond because an investigation needed to take place first. Now, with Go Bonds, more people qualify, and they don’t have to pay their bail bond to get released. This is much easier for Pretrial to give people a confident answer they are going to automatically get out for free. Family members can also call Pretrial to check on the status of a personal bond. It is in someone’s best interest to find that out before signing a contract and paying the 10-30% of the bail bond to a bail bondsman.

It would benefit people who get booked into jail to have this information right away. Just as much as the arrestees are in the dark about the bail bonds process, their families are as well. Usually, it’s the loved ones on the outside who have to help their family member get released. Maybe a pamphlet for the different ways to get out of jail would be useful for people. People get this information during magistration, but they should get this information right when they are booked in. Because that is when they get their free phone calls and collect calls, so why wouldn’t they already be telling their family about the different options on getting out of jail?

The sheriff’s office has a webpage, but it doesn’t help people decide which option to choose. It doesn’t go into detail about the different ways to get released. Maybe if a video was included on the website explaining these ways, that would help everyone involved in this situation to be more informed about the best option. For most people, the free way, through a personal bond would be the first choice. Not everyone will qualify for a personal bond though, so the next best option is paying the entire bail bond amount through a cash bond, especially if someone can afford to do so. This money will be returned once the case is over and all court appearances have been attended. And the last resort should be going through a bail bondsman. This is money that will never be seen again, and hiring one doesn’t have any other real benefits in the bail bonding process.

Austin Tries to Prevent Getting Sued for Oppressive Bail Bonds

If you take a look at our country’s bail bond system, Austin specifically, there is something very clear – it doesn’t work. It all too often punishes technically innocent people who can’t afford to pay a bond amount, keeping them in jail to wait out their case, or worse, forcing them to plead guilty to something they didn’t do. Bail amounts should be based on two things, the alleged crime and the person’s ability to pay a reasonable amount to get released. Keeping a person in jail for a non-violent misdemeanor because they can’t afford to pay their bond means the risk of mental health issues, job loss, or unfortunately in some cases, loss of life.

For years, Harris County has been litigating bail bond reform, finding that the poorer population charged with misdemeanors were being held in jail because they couldn’t make bond. Austin is less than 3 hours away from Harris County. A pending multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by plaintiffs who spent multiple days in jail for petty offenses has sparked a change in Harris County. It has created a new policy of automatic release for the majority of defendants accused of these low-level crimes, with no money involved. Other cities across the nation, including Austin, are following suit, deeming oppressive bail bonds to be unconstitutional. Rather than just setting a bond amount, the courts are using risk assessments to determine the public’s safety along with the likelihood of someone returning to court to determine release. What a defendant can reasonably afford to pay is also a deciding factor when it comes to release.

Austin is not far behind in the bail bond reform movement. Austin bail bonds, like so many other cities, have not been on the fair side of the spectrum, with bond amounts set so high that even paying a bail bondsman would be a financial hardship, if not an impossibility. In light of the lawsuit in Harris County, Austin has changed its policy in determining bond amounts to prevent their county from an eventual lawsuit for their own oppressive bail bonds.

Bail bonds in Austin are now being determined by the financial information obtained from Pretrial Services at the time of arrest. Austin bail bond amounts are set based on this information as well as the level of the alleged crime. Pretrial Services in Austin have even gone a step further with pre-approved personal recognizance bonds for certain Class A and B Misdemeanors that wouldn’t require an attorney’s assistance or bail bonding business for a person (regardless of financial means) to get released.

Austin’s bail bond modifications are trying to catch up with the parts of the country that seem to be making positive changes when it comes to bail bond reform. While it is likely they are doing this because they do not want a lawsuit in their future, hopefully, it also is reassurance that they want to be part of a bail system that treats all people accused of a low level crime fairly. Reasonable bail bonds give people the chance to still live their lives while ensuring them their constitutional right for them to fight their case.

Who Doesn’t Qualify for a Personal Bond

Pretrial Services interviews every eligible person who gets arrested and booked into jail to determine if he or she qualifies for a personal recognizance bond. A personal bond is one of the ways someone can get released after an arrest. If a person qualifies for a personal bond, they do not have to hire an Austin bail bondsman to get them out. A personal bond release is an agreement with the court that says as long as the arrestee shows up for every single court date, he or she will not have to pay the bail bond. It is the free way to get released (minus a small administrative fee) and the best option for most people, especially those who do not have the means to pay their bail bond.

Up until recent bail bond reforms, a personal bond was not a guarantee, even for minor offenses. It was based on a full investigation that included proof of a steady address from reliable references. Now if someone is booked into jail for a non-violent Class A or Class B Misdemeanor, there is a much higher likelihood of being granted a personal bond automatically, regardless of the above-mentioned factors. These pre-approved personal bonds are called Go Bonds. They are based on the charge – first time DWI, Driving Without a Valid License, and Possession of Marijuana to name a few. A criminal history background check is still required for this type of personal bond, but as long as that does not present any issues, release is automatically granted.

There are some reasons a personal bond would be taken out of the Go Bond distinction, and a full investigation by Pretrial Services would be required. Some other ways in which someone would not automatically qualify for a personal bond is by being on probation or parole, having an ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or out-of-county hold, having a pending case, or an assault charge. There is also an issue when it comes to a second DWI charge with a prior conviction within five years. These are also not distinguished as Go Bonds, but with a full investigation, they could still be considered for a judge’s approval for a personal bond. If someone is not eligible for a personal bond, they need to hire an Austin bail bondsman to get out of jail.

Normally, a violent offense would require a full investigation by Pretrial Services, and depending on the charge and other mitigating factors, a personal bond could be considered. On the standing order from Governor Abbot signed on March 13th, 2020, persons charged with a violent offense are currently not eligible for a personal bond. Along with that, persons with a violent charge conviction in their history are also not eligible for a personal bond for any offense for which they have been arrested (non-violent or violent). Again, these would disqualify the person for a personal bond, and would require them to hire an Austin bail bondsman.

Per Article 17.03 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, “that no authority should release on personal bond any person previously convicted of a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence, or any person currently arrested for such a crime that is supported by probable cause.” The only means of release at this point would be to hire an attorney, hire an Austin bail bondsman or pay the full amount of the bail bond.

The new system for personal bonds is a step in the right direction in helping people get released from jail for free to fight their case. This is a big step from the traditional Austin bail bondsman that dominates the bail bond system throughout TX. Although not everyone qualifies for a personal bond, it is much easier to receive one than ever before, and hopefully, this will continue to evolve into helping even more people get released from jail based on their promise to come back to court.

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