It can be overwhelming when you get a call from a loved one that they are in jail. We get a lot of calls in the middle of the night from concerned people who just want to try and help the person in jail and don’t know the best way to do so. Call us at 512-476-2494 if you have questions. If someone you know has been arrested you generally have four options:
- Hire an attorney;
- Hire a bail bondsman;
- Do nothing and see if the judge will grant a personal bond (usually only an option for first time offenders charged with non-violent misdemeanors); or
- Post the full bond.
Here’s what generally happens when someone is arrested. When a person is first arrested he (let’s just assume it’s a “he” for the sake of this post) is taken to the county jail. There, he is likely taken to a big room with women on one side and men on the other. He’ll sit in the room for a couple hours as the jail staff takes his mug shot, fingerprints, and completes the booking process. Usually this is when you get the call in the middle of the night that little Jimmy’s been arrested. Most jails have a phone bank in the big room to allow people to call someone. Please remember these phone calls are recorded so do NOT talk about the facts of the arrest.
While he’s going through the booking process the officer who arrested him is usually somewhere close drafting something called a “Probable Cause Affidavit” (sometimes called a “PC Affidavit”). A lot of officers simply sit in their squad car and type up the affidavit and the offense report on their laptop. Sometimes the officers are also reviewing the video and other evidence in the case.
A quick note, this post is assuming the person arrested was arrested for an offense that was committed in the officer’s presence (e.g. DWI’s, assault, possession of drugs, etc). For major crimes that require serious detective work and investigation, the process is a little different. The process is also different for federal offenses.
Once the officer drafts the Probable Cause affidavit he turns it into the judge who will review it and determine if there is truly “probable cause” to believe an offense has been committed. Generally, nothing can begin until the officer turns in his affidavit. He has 24 hours to turn in a misdemeanor affidavit and 48 hours to turn in a felony affidavit (beginning from when the person is booked into jail). On occasion I have seen officers wait until the last possible minute to turn in an affidavit. Sometimes this is because they have more investigating to do or there is a victim involved. Other times the officer does it on purpose because the person arrested was rude. Generally the officer gets the affidavit turned in fairly quickly.
Once the affidavit is turned in the judge will set a bond amount. Some counties (e.g. Travis County) have a judge on duty 24-hours a day. The person arrested will then go in front of the judge who will tell him what he’s charged with and the bond amount. This is called being “magistrated.” A person must be magistrated before bail can be posted.
Travis County Arrests
Now, let’s get a little more specific. In Travis County you may hire an attorney to speed up the whole process. An attorney may waive the magistration procedure and streamline all the paperwork and ultimately secure a person’s release. This can often shave hours off of a person’s jail stay. Again, please note that some offenses are unique and require a slightly different process.
You can look up a Travis County Inmate via the Sheriff’s website. This website will tell you a couple key things if you know what to look for. Take note of the inmate’s booking number and the time that he was booked into jail. If there is no bond amount that means he has not seen a judge yet. Once a bond amount appears this means that he has seen a judge. Once a bond has been posted, text will appear below the inmate’s name that says “Disposition _________”. The blank space will indicate the type of bond posted (e.g. cash, surety, or personal bond). If you are wondering whether the person has been released, keep checking the website (don’t forget to hit refresh on your web browser). Once you can no longer find the person’s name that means he has been released.
Travis County also has a pretrial services office that screens people who have been arrested to see if they are eligible for a personal bond (“PR bond”). A personal bond is a bond that requires no money. If the person arrested fails to show up for court the county will sue them for the bond amount. PR bonds are usually given to people who reside in Travis County and have no major criminal history. The offense for which they are arrested for generally has to be a non-violent offense. You may help the personal bond process by calling Travis County Pretrial Services at (512) 854-9381 and serving as a reference.
You may also hire a bail bondsman in Travis County to get someone out of jail. Again, the person arrested must be magistrated before this can happen. Bail bondsmen typically charge 10% of the bond to get someone out of jail (which is nonrefundable). For example, if someone is charged with a first offense vanilla DWI the judge/magistrate will typically set bond around $2,500 to $5,000. A bail bondsman will then charge $250 to $500 to get the person out.
You can always post the full bond amount. This will have to be in cash and you do not get the money back until the case is over. Once a bond is posted, no matter which way it is posted, it usually takes two to four hours for the jail to release him.
Williamson & Hays County Arrests
In Williamson and Hays County your options are a little limited when it comes to securing the release of a person arrested. For the most part you’ll have to hire a bail bondsman to get someone out. Judges in Williamson and Hays County grant PR bonds in VERY limited situations. If it’s the middle of the night you can still hire an attorney to waive the magistration procedure but you’ll still have to hire a bail bondsman to post bond.
Hiring an attorney in Travis County to get someone out of jail can definitely speed things up. If money is an issue call pretrial services first to see if the person is on track to get a personal bond. Outside of Travis County you’ll probably have to hire a bail bondsman. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call us at 512-476-2494. Our phones are answered 24-hours a day.