Table of Contents
- How Does Magistration Work in Austin
- Magistrate Judges Set Austin Bail Bonds
- The Biggest Myth With a Court-Appointed Lawyer
How Does Magistration Work in Austin?
There is a court proceeding that everyone must attend before they can get released if they are arrested. This is called a magistration hearing. This may be an unfamiliar word to many people, but it is the initial hearing, or arraignment, of someone who gets booked into jail. There is a magistrate judge in the jail seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.
Let’s start with the arrest. A lot of times, the person arrested is with their family member or a friend at the scene. The family member always asks the officer how do I get my loved one out of jail. The police officer is the first person to give a mini-magistration rundown on the basic steps towards getting out of jail. The first step is seeing a judge and then you can help post a bail bond. Most of the time, this is as much detail as the officer gives. They don’t explain all the different options on posting a bail bond. This is one example of how people are kept in the dark for 6-12 hours before they see the judge who explains this process to them. In most jurisdictions, posting a cash bail bond is ironically the cheapest way to get out of jail because all of it is refundable if the person shows up to all court dates. But traditionally, people still think of Austin bail bondsman as the way to get out of jail.
A police officer has twenty-four hours to turn in paperwork to the jail and have their arrestee see a judge for a misdemeanor charge, or they have to release them. It is forty-eight hours for a felony charge. The magistrate judge will be the one most likely to determine if there was enough probable cause for an arrest and agree to sign the probable cause affidavit. This judge also sets the bail bond and any conditions someone will have to follow once released. Magistrate judges can issue arrest and search warrants as well, and they arraign defendants.
Once the paperwork is in order and the bail bond has been set, the magistration hearing can take place. The bail bonds process is very refined. Pretrial Services will fill out a financial workup before the judge sets a bond amount. This is to achieve an equitable bail bond for each person based on their individual financial circumstance. This creates a system that is oppressive towards people who can’t afford their bail bonds.
Magistration usually takes place in a large group, where the judge will first give everyone their rights. Then he or she will explain the ways in which to get released from jail. Lastly, the judge will call on each individual person in the room one by one, informing them of their charge, bail bond and any conditions that will be in place upon release. The judge will also ask if they are able to afford an attorney or would like to request that one be appointed to them by the court., receiving a court appointed attorney is based on income and financial assistance factors.
After being magistrated, people can now work on getting released from the jail. The only way someone can refrain from going to this proceeding is by hiring an attorney before it happens. An attorney can go to the judge and waive magistration once a probable cause affidavit is signed, speeding up the release process., once someone has been magistrated, the jail will update their website with the person’s name, charge, bond amount, and what kind of bond they need to get released: Cash, Surety, or Any Type Bond. Any Type Bond includes cash bail bond, surety bond, and personal bond.
Magistrate Judges Set Austin Bail Bonds
We are one of the few cities in Texas that allows for Lawyers to get people out of jail instead of Austin Bail Bondsman. The only reason this is possible is because the city has judges at the jail 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. As a result, our city has the most efficient magistration process in Texas.
Municipal Court is the court that staffs the magistrate judges at the jail. There are two kinds of magistrates, Associate Judges and Substitute Judges. Associate Judges are full-time employees. They work at the Municipal Court doing traffic ticket trials and Class C trials. But part of their duties involves working at the jail. Associate Judges are part-time independent contractors and are allowed to practice law outside of being a judge.
(2018-2021 Term) Municipal Court Judges
|Associate Judges||Substitute Judges|
|Michael Coffey||Ferdinand Clervi|
|Barbara Garcia||Kelly Evans|
|Alfred Jenkins||Belinda Herrera|
|Patrick McNelis||Stanley Kerr|
|Mitchell Solomon||Evelyn McKee|
|George Thomas||Ronald Meyerson|
|Stephen Vigorito||Ryan Turner|
|Christyne Harris Schultz|
The first job of the magistrates is to be the gatekeeper for arrests. An arrest affidavit must meet probable cause to be legally valid. There are stricter judges and there are more lenient judges on this burden of proof.
The second job of the magistrates is to set an Austin Bail Bond that is appropriate for the specific offense for the specific person to make sure they will come back to court. In the past, some people have the opinion that the magistrates set Austin Bail Bond artificially high as an incentive to hire a lawyer. Because Lawyers don’t have to personally insure the arrestee’s appearance in court, there is no financial stake, and Lawyers can take someone’s case for lower than a similar Austin Bail Bondsman would charge to get someone out of jail. So it’s an undeniable no brainer to hire a lawyer to get out of jail. You get out of jail AND you get that applied towards your legal representation.
The third job of the magistrates is to tell the arrestee what their charge is and their Austin Bail Bond. In addition, the magistrate also tells people that they have the right to a lawyer and if they cannot afford one, the court will appoint them one.
The Biggest Myth With a Court-Appointed Lawyer
During magistration, the judge will tell your loved one that they have the right to a lawyer and that if they cannot afford one, they will be appointed one.
The biggest myth is that a court-appointed lawyer will come to visit them and represent them immediately. The arrestees will not even be assigned a court-appointed lawyer until a week later. Then they will have a court date set a month later. Most times, the first time a person meets their court-appointed lawyer is right before the court starts to talk for a few minutes about how they will get out quickly if they plead guilty.
Most people in Austin can’t afford a Bail Bond and because they can’t afford a lawyer. The result is that they are stuck in incarceration, losing their jobs, their apartments, and their credit. This creates a downward spiral of poverty that is almost impossible to dig out of.
Furthermore, it is not guaranteed that people who can’t afford a lawyer will be appointed a lawyer. The Capital Area Private Defender Service is the pseudo Austin Public Defender’s Office. Lawyers sign up for a list and get randomly assigned cases. The current guidelines to qualify for a court-appointed lawyer is a monthly income of $1300 or less for a single person. This is an unlivable wage. And if someone works hard and has two jobs, they almost certainly won’t qualify.
See below for the Austin Indigency Guideline. The cutoff amounts are set at 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
2019 Indigency Guideline
|Household Size||Monthly Income|
|For each additional person, add||$461|
I have personally gotten many people out of jail and gone to court with them to help them apply for an Austin court-appointed lawyer. Time and time again, people who make $1400 and get $300 taken out automatically for child support will be disqualified from a court-appointed lawyer.
Therefore, there are a lot of people who are in jail and who do not have a court-appointed lawyer. This is a direct result of the inability to afford any way to satisfy an Austin Bail Bond.