In Monopoly, the coveted get-out-of-jail free card is almost as valuable as the paper money and the plastic hotels. No one likes to go to jail, in a board game or in real life. Additionally, many advocates have focused on this area in recent years. Georgia has one of the highest populations of unsentenced inmates in the country. Many unsentenced inmates are simply waiting for their release paperwork to clear. Nevertheless, authorities expanded the pretrial release program, in an effort to move these inmates out of jail. More on this system below.
Prompt jail release is important for personal reasons. The mysterious condition commonly called the jailhouse blues is a real thing. Incarceration triggers the release of stress hormones which trigger the flight-or-fight response. Neither F is an option behind bars. As a result, these stress hormones build up and cause permanent personality changes. On a somewhat related note, people who are dealing with head injuries usually cannot think clearly. That failure could affect their cases.
Continuing this point, prompt jail release is also important for legal purposes. Most jurors assume that people who are in jail did something wrong. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Generally, jail cases don’t even make it to jury trials. Most incarcerated defendants quickly accept almost any offered plea bargain, just so they can move on.
For these reasons and more, jail release is an essential part of a complete criminal defense. A Marietta criminal defense attorney works to quickly secure release, whether it be through the pretrial release system or another mechanism. If issues develop later, an attorney preserves the bail in court, so these defendants may continue to enjoy the personal and legal benefits of freedom before trial.
Generally, defendants charged with nonviolent crimes and have no criminal records are eligible for pretrial release. Authorities release qualified defendants before trial, provided they pay a small administrative fee and agree to some conditions, which are listed below. Pretrial release general qualifications seem straightforward, but they are rather subjective.
Low-level misdemeanors, like disturbing the peace, are usually nonviolent crimes. Serious felonies, like murder, are clearly violent crimes. That leaves a lot of offenses in the middle.
DUI and stalking, two very commonly charged crimes in Cobb County, are in the middle. Depending on which review officer looks at the file, these offenses could be violent or non-violent. The pretrial release process usually doesn’t involve a formal hearing. However, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer can advocate for defendants before the review board, at least informally, and stress the nonviolent nature of the offense.
This advocacy isn’t limited to a case-by-case basis. Attorneys usually work for favorable laws, such as laws that clearly define terms like “nonviolent crimes.”
Criminal history is similarly subjective. As far as some pretrial release officials are concerned, any criminal conviction, no matter how old it is or what it was for, disqualifies the defendant. Other officials are more willing to overlook convictions more than a few years old or nonviolent convictions. Once again, an attorney’s intervention could make a big difference.
Cash Bond/Bail Bond
Some states have at least experimented with ditching the traditional cash bond and bail bond jail release systems. But these alternatives are alive and well in Georgia. So, even defendants charged with serious, violent crimes have a pretrial release opportunity.
Cash bond is basically a security deposit. If you rent a house and fulfil all lease terms, you get most of that money back when you move out. Likewise, if you post cash bond and fulfil all release terms, you get most of that money back. Common release terms in Cobb County include:
- Appearing for required court hearings (some judges require defendants to appear at procedural hearings and some don’t),
- Remain in the county,
- Check in with a supervision officer,
- Avoid further run-ins with the law, and
- Comply with offense-specific conditions, like an IID (ignition interlock device) in a DUI or a keep-away order in a domestic battery case.
Some of these conditions are non-negotiable. Most are negotiable. For example, if a defendant lives in Cobb County and works in Fulton County, a Marietta criminal defense attorney can usually obtain a waiver. Otherwise, the court could technically forfeit the defendant’s bond every time s/he goes to work.
Bail bonds are basically insurance policies. If you have fire insurance and the house burns down, the insurance company bears the financial risk. Likewise, if you fail to fulfil all bond conditions, the bail bond company bears the financial risk. Not all bonding companies are created equally. A Marietta criminal defense attorney can steer you in the right direction. Moreover, in some cases, attorneys may serve as bail bondmen.
Bond Reduction Hearing
Usually, the sheriff sets a presumptive bail amount when the defendant is booked into custody. That’s not true in all cases, especially if the defendant faces multiple charges. In these cases, attorneys represent defendants at the arraignment, which usually happens about two business days after an arrest.
At this hearing, the judge must set a reasonable bail amount, according to the Eighth Amendment. Some factors to consider include the defendant’s criminal record. Usually, judges want to increase the bail amount if the defendant has priors. However, research indicates that the opposite is true. People wo have been through the system before are less intimidated and less likely to jump bail.
Bond Forfeiture Matters
If the defendant violates any of the aforementioned conditions, the judge could revoke bail and issue an arrest warrant.
Frequently, a misunderstanding triggers bond forfeiture. Sometimes, people enter the wrong date in their calendars, or there’s a miscommunication as to whether appearance is mandatory or not. If that’s the case and the defendant immediately rectifies the situation (i.e. comes to court or whatever), the judge usually withdraws the warrant.
The same thing is true if the defendant committed a technical violation, like failing to update his/her address. However, if the defendant committed a serious violation and doesn’t immediately make things right, there’s not much a Marietta criminal defense attorney can do. The best alternative is surrendering at a jail and starting the process over again.
Pretrial release jumpstarts a criminal defense. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Marietta, contact the Phillips Law Firm, LLC. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start fighting for you.