Arrested and Behind Bars
I’ve been arrested. Now what?
Booking and Jail Release in Travis County
A person who has been arrested is taken to Central Booking, located in downtown Austin at the Travis County Jail at 500 W. 10th Street, for the booking process. During this process, Travis County Sheriff’s Deputies document the arrestee’s name, obtain their fingerprints, get their “mug shot,” and collect other information required under law and county procedure. The arrestee will not have access to their cell phone because the Sheriff will also inventory, collect and store all their personal property.
While the person you care about is in jail, the arresting officer will file a “probable cause affidavit” with the Court. This is a publicly available document that describes the criminal offense for which the person was arrested. A Magistrate judge will review the affidavit, the charges, and the inmate’s criminal history. He or she will determine the type or types of bail bond that the inmate may use to bond out of jail and set the amount of the bail bond.
A bail bond is an amount of money that a person who is arrested and booked in jail may pay to be released from jail. The bond acts as security to ensure that the person attends court when they’re supposed to. The more serious the offense, or the more extensive the criminal history, the higher the bond will be. If the person skips a court date or flees, i.e. “jumps bail”, then the bond may be revoked or forfeited and an arrest warrant could be issued.
People arrested late at night or very early in the morning usually will not be seen by the judge or have their bail amount set until the next day, or later. Criminal defense attorneys, though, can usually speed up the process, often by a considerable amount of time.
what is a bail bond?
There are basically four types of bail bonds: (1) the personal recognizance bond, in which the accused is releases solely upon his reputation and promise to come to court; (2) the personal bond, in which the person in jail promises to appear in court and agrees to pay some amount of money if he fails to do so; (3) the cash bond, in which the person promises to return to court and submits a cash escrow to ensure they do so; and, (4) the surety bond, in which a third party (a bondsman) promises to pay some amount if the defendant (known as the principal) fails to appear. Bondsmen usually charge a non-refundable fee for this service to secure the principal’s release on bail.
how is the bail amount determined?
The bail amount is regulated by the court, judge, magistrate, or officer taking the bail. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, article 17.15, sets out the rules for setting the amount of bail:
the bail shall be sufficiently high to give reasonable assurance that he undertaking will be complied with;
the power to require bail is not to be so used as to make it an instrument of oppression;
the nature of the offense and the circumstances under which it was committed are to be considered;
the ability to make bail is to be regarded, and proof may be taken upon this point;
the future safety of the victim of the alleged offense and the community shall be considered.
Other factors that may be considered by the trial court in setting the bond include:
the defendant’s work record;
family ties and ties to the community;
length of residency;
prior criminal record;
previous compliance with bond conditions;
other outstanding bonds; and,
any aggravating factors in the offense charged.
Types of Bail Bonds Allowed in Travis County
An officer from the Travis County Pre-Trial Services Office will interview each inmate to determine whether they qualify for a personal bond. A personal bond is, in most cases, the most desirable type of bond an inmate can receive because they aren’t required to deposit any money with Travis County. However, like both cash and surety bonds, a defendant is still liable for the full bond amount if the personal bond is revoked or forfeited.
Only Pre-Trial Services or your attorney can recommend a personal bond to a judge. Pre-Trial Services’ criteria is quite strict and may include several conditions as a requisite for a personal bond. Often, Pre-Trial Services will not recommend a personal bond unless the inmate is represented by an attorney.
Importantly, even if Pre-Trial Services recommends against personal bond, an attorney can still present a personal bond to the Magistrate for consideration of release.
Attorneys who either work towards or obtain a personal bond on behalf of an inmate will typically charge a non-refundable fee for this service. Most attorneys, however, will apply that fee towards any fees associated with their representation of the inmate in the event an attorney-client relationship is established for that purpose.
When a bail bondsman is involved, it is called a surety bond. A surety bond means you pay the bail bondsman a percentage of the bond, usually 10 to 20 percent, and he or she submits the full bond amount. For example, if the Magistrate sets a $10,000 bond, a bail bondsman may charge between $1,000 and $2,000. The amount you pay the bondsman is a fee, meaning you do not get it back, and it is not applied to any attorney fees.
Usually, a bail bondsman will require a co-signer, who will be liable for the full amount of the bond if bail is revoked or forfeited. The co-signer may also be required to offer collateral, which might be for more than the amount of the bond.
A cash bond means simply paying the full amount of the bond with either cash, cashier’s check or a money order. Travis County does not accept credit cards, personal checks or other forms of payment.
Cash bonds are often the most expensive option. Bonds can range up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Travis County will keep the bond until the case is resolved, which may be months or even years.
How An Attorney Helps in Jail Release
One of the most significant factors affecting how quickly the person you care about is released will be how quickly he or she appears before a magistrate judge. Arrestees are “magistrated” by the judges in groups, and it can take many hours to comprise a group large enough for the judge to hold court. Thus, simply waiting for his or her turn could take hours and hours, or even a day or two.
Experienced attorneys, though, know the courts and ways to help push the person you care about to the front of the line, and sometimes to skip the line altogether. This is important to you if you are anxiously waiting to find out if someone you care about it okay and safe. Every minute can feel like an hour, and every hour like a day.
A lawyer can also interview the client to learn crucial details, start correctly completing the bond paperwork and complete the necessary background checks. This could make a tremendous difference in the total time before your loved one is out of jail.
Having an attorney can also help your loved one’s case in obtaining a personal bond. Being allowed a personal bond could make the difference of thousands of dollars.
If arrested in Travis County, arrestees will likely be taken to the Travis County Jail in downtown Austin:
Travis County Jail / Central Booking
500 W. 10th Street
Austin, TX 78701
If an inmate has not been released from jail after approximately 48 hours of their arrest, they will usually then be transferred to the Travis County Correctional Facility in Del Valle:
Travis County Correctional Facility
3614 Bill Price Road
Del Valle, TX 78617