JAIL RELEASE AND MAKING BOND IN DALLAS: WHY HIRE A DALLAS BAIL BOND ATTORNEY INSTEAD OF A BAIL BONDSMAN BONDING COMPANY?
Posted on by Michael Lowe.
As a Board Certified Criminal Defense attorney practicing throughout the State of Texas, I’ve seen countless situations where the only way someone can get out of jail after being arrested is through posting a bond in the county of arrest. Jail release can be fast – once bond is posted.
Here in Dallas, as a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve had a bond account in Dallas County for 10 years and I offer certain clients (other than city tickets or traffic tickets) the option of working with me on their bond instead of a traditional bail bondsman when they face arrest in Dallas County or they have been arrested in another county on a Dallas County criminal charge.
Why do this? There are many reasons that a jail release through a bond posted by a Texas criminal defense lawyer with an active bond account is preferable for someone than going through a bail bondsman.
Bail Bonds in Dallas: First, You are Arrested and Booked in Jail
When someone is arrested in Dallas, they lose their freedom and are taken by law enforcement officers to one of several jails here in Dallas County, were they are booked into the jail and placed behind bars. As a general rule, bond is set by a city magistrate within a couple of hours of the arrest (although law enforcement legally has 48 hours to bring the person before a magistrate according to Article 14.06 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure).
There are 26 different municipalities (cities) in Dallas County, Texas, and each city by law must have its own city magistrate to set bonds. Perhaps you recognize Dallas-area cities like Addison, Balch Springs, Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Cockrell Hill, Combine, Coppell, Dallas, Desoto, Duncanville, Farmers Branch, Garland, Grand Prairie, Glenn Heights, Highland Park, Hutchins, Irving, Lancaster, Mesquite, Richardson, Rowlett, Sachse, Seagoville, Sunnyvalle, University Park or Wilmer.
Many of Dallas County city budgets do not provide for a full-time magistrate, it’s simply too expensive for these small municipalities. Of these part-time magistrates, some also work as a practicing attorney.
In these part-time magistrate cities, there will be a time lag before the official magistrate appears at the city jail to conduct an arraignment hearing and set bond for inmates in the city jail. In Desoto’s jail, for example, it’s possible for people to sit in jail awaiting arraignment for almost the full 48 hour period before they get a chance to post bond.
After you are arrested, you are usually charged with a crime. This can be a felony or misdemeanor based on state law. Once you’re charged, then you’re facing prosecution for jail or prison time and fines.
A bonding company can do one thing: help you place bond. An attorney who provides the service of posting an attorney bond means you have an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side to represent you in court as soon as possible.
Under Texas Occupation Code §1704.163, licensed attorneys are able to bail out prisoners on the condition they later represent those defendants in court. Texas is the only state in the country that allows lawyers to post bonds.
After Arrest, You are Brought Before the Court for a Bail Hearing
Texas Criminal Code §17.01 defines a bail bond as “… the security given by the accused that he will appear and answer before the proper court the accusation brought against him, and includes a bail bond or a personal bond.”
So, a bail bond is simply a means of securing a person’s release from jail by pledging a security that warrants the person will return to face his accusers and not skip town when the time comes. Anyone can pledge a bail bond, if they have enough money or property to pledge. For those who don’t have enough assets to pledge the security needed to make bail for someone, a surety bond can be used.
A surety bond is a bond pledged by a bail bondsman that supports the release from custody of the arrested person. Here in Dallas County, I will sometimes make the surety bond for my clients, for example.
How much is required for a bail bond?
City magistrates have the authority to set bond amounts for people arrested within their city limits and Dallas-area cities are known for setting super high bond amounts. People that go before a magistrate in one of these municipalities without any legal representation are at risk of staying in jail if they or their loved ones cannot meet the high bond.
In the County of Dallas, which is a separate jurisdiction from the small city municipalities, there are established bail bond schedules that are used in Dallas County bond hearings. These are recommended bond amounts based upon the charged offense (e.g., felony with a deadly weapon; second degree aggravated assault; etc.) as well as whether or not the defendant has any prior convictions, is currently out on bond or on parole; and whether or not they are on probation or on an immigration hold.
Dallas County bonds will be set by county magistrates who will look to the bond schedules as guidelines. Here, an experienced defense attorney can argue to the magistrate to look past those guidelines to the individual situation and consider additional factors.
Bonds set by city magistrates may be much higher in comparison to the bonds set by Dallas County. However, all is not lost. Defense lawyers can fight these high bonds by going before a Dallas County District Judge and petitioning the judge for a writ of habeas corpus.
A Dallas County criminal attorney can expedite your jail release – which can be very important in smaller cities where there isn’t a full time magistrate – by filing a formal petition for writ of habeas corpus or what’s called a writ bond or writ bail bond in order to get someone released as fast as possible from jail after they have been arrested.
Based upon my many years arguing for defendants in criminal court, I am often able to get lower bond amounts set by the magistrates through the writ process. This is true even when the bail bond has been set before I have been hired.
Only a lawyer can do this. A traditional bail bondsman is prohibited by state law from recommending an attorney to do this in Texas Penal Code Section 1704.252(11). (If that happens, you should run the other direction.)
Some Will Warn You Against Having Your Texas Attorney Act as Your Bail Bondsman
Texas law allows Texas lawyers to provide “attorney bonds” where the Texas attorney represents the client as well as serving as the client’s bail bondsman. There are some who warn that allowing lawyers to make bail for their clients is a bad thing, that it sets up a conflict of interest between the lawyer and the client because the lawyer may be worried about losing the full bond amount and this, theoretically, may slant his view of the case.
The critics dream up scenarios where a lawyer might not give the client a complete warning about problems in his case because the client might run away rather than risk being convicted and sentenced. The critics describe the lawyer-bondsman as having a conflicting loyalty between loyalty to the client and loyalty to his pocketbook.
What these critics do not share with folk is that there are inherent benefits to having a lawyer act as bondsman. For one thing, a lawyer who acts as bondsman can save folks a tremendous amount of cash from unscrupulous bonding companies.
1. Bonding Companies Charge Excessively High Rates – Your Lawyer Will Be Less Costly
In Dallas County, people who have been arrested need to understand that they don’t have to rush out and post a bond with a bonding company when the bond is excessively high – as set in the city jails.
Bonding companies typically charge 10% to post a bond. That money is NOT refunded. This ten percent of the total bond ordered by the court is a fee you pay to a bondsman for the bonding company to “post” the bond.
For example, the City of Rowlett will set a bond on a family violence impeding airway case at $30,000. So, folks freak out and rush to pay a bonding company $3,000 to post the bond and get the jail release. (The $3000 amount being 10% of the $30,000 bond.)
But, some bonding companies are dishonest.
It’s just not profitable for them to reveal to these anxious and stressed people that the recommended bond (per the Dallas County Bond Schedule) is $1,500 bond (for most 3rd degree felonies with no prior record). The unsuspecting folk who rushed to the bonding company have ended up paying twice as much ($3000 versus $1500) as they might have if they had a lawyer to fight the bond amount.
Defense attorneys who are ready to post bond for their client can do things that bail bondsmen simply cannot. For instance, the bonding company WILL NOT tell the family that there is a “hold” on their loved one, or that a “hold” will be placed on them many times shortly before their loved one has time to sign the bond.
What’s a “hold?” That means they won’t get out of jail for another day or two anyway. What could have been done while the Defendant is sitting in the city jail on a hold?
Well, they could have NOT posted the excess bond and hired a lawyer like me instead. I would have gone to a Dallas District Judge and had a bond set according to the Dallas County bond schedule.
In many cases, I could have even posted the bond myself for a lower fee than most bonding companies. The family ends up saving a total of $2,850 AND their loved one gets out of jail in EXACTLY the same time frame AND their loved one has an attorney on their case, whereas they would NOT have ANY representation had they just used that same money to post the excess bail through the bonding company.
2. Defense Attorneys Can Help Defendants Where Bonding Companies Cannot
A. Cash Only Bonds
Additionally, I may be able to help someone bond out of jail who is being held on a “cash only” bond. Here, the bail bondsman will not be able to provide bond because the court is requiring the individual to post the full amount of the cash bond. A Dallas criminal defense attorney who provides an attorney bond, however, may be able to help in the “cash only” bond situation by requesting a hearing before the judge where the defense lawyer argues for a reconsideration of the bond and asks that the judge allow a surety bond instead of a “cash only bond” to be posted. If the defense lawyer wins the argument, then he can immediately post an attorney bail bond so the defendant can be freed from jail.
B. No Bond Warrants
Similarly, when someone is being held behind bars on a “no bond” warrant, a Dallas County defense lawyer can do things that no bail bondsman can do here: the lawyer can request that a judge to reconsider the bond situation, and move the court for a reasonable bond to be set. If the judge agrees, then the attorney bail bond can be posted to achieve an immediate jail release on a prior “no bond” warrant situation.
3. Bonding Companies Cannot Refer Clients to a Defense Lawyer
Legally, bonding companies cannot lawfully refer a criminal defendant to a specific attorney. Therefore, if you hire a bail bondsman to post a bond, then you will have to separately hire a criminal defense lawyer.
Why? If a bonding company regularly refers clients to a particular attorney, for whom will the attorney really be working? That lawyer would have a longstanding relationship with the bondsman, with a significant portion of his yearly revenue coming from referrals of that bonding company.
You have an analogous situation with court appointed lawyers. Is a full time court appointed lawyer who is primarily paid by the Court System working for the Court or working for the client? The court appointed attorney looks to that stream of court appointments to keep their doors open; dependence upon keeping in the Court’s good graces may mean less aggressive representation than outside, private defense counsel.
It’s always best to obtain an independent attorney that will always keep his/her client’s interest first. If that defense lawyer will assist with the bail bond, then this is beneficial to the Defendant who is wanting to be free from being behind bars as soon as possible — and staying free from a cell in the future.
4. Having a Defense Lawyer Make Bail Means Having a Criminal Defense As Soon As Possible — Which is a Good Thing
Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer working with you on your case as soon as possible is in your best interests. The police work with the prosecution on a daily basis; they have their team work down to a routine. You are alone against the system until your lawyer arrives to stand with you against the prosecutorial process.
Usually, the police will have completed their investigation before they come to arrest someone. They have taken witness statements; gathered records; performed forensic tests. By the time you are arrested, your defense is already under pressure to hurry and investigate your case because time is critical here: the longer you wait, the ability of a defense team to fully investigate things diminishes. Witnesses? People move. People forget things that may be vital to your side of the story. Physical evidence changes: it disappears, it degrades.
By having your defense lawyer post bond for you, you have your lawyer defending your case right away. This can be key to your defense. Here are two examples:
A. ALR Hearings in DWI Cases — the 15 Day Deadline to Keep Your Driver’s License
For example, in a Drunk Driving arrest, where you have been arrested in Dallas County on a Driving While Intoxicated Charge (DWI), you have a mere fifteen (15) days from the day of your arrest to ask for an Administrative License Revocation hearing.
If someone busted for drunk driving in Dallas does not ask for an ALR hearing in that 15 day time window, then their driver’s license is automatically suspended (on the 40th day following arrest) for up to 6 months and in some cases, up to 2 years.
With a defense lawyer on your side early in your DWI to post bond, then that attorney is aware of that tight deadline. Here in Texas, a driver’s license is extremely important — we’re not a city of subways and taxis. Dallas is a car city.
In many cases, an experienced criminal defense attorney can stop your Texas driver’s license from ever getting suspended by beginning your DWI defense right there at the ALR hearing.
For example, there in the state office of administrative hearings your lawyer can cross-examine the arresting police officer on the witness stand where he or she is under oath. That testimony can not only help to keep your Driver’s License, the transcript of that officer’s testimony can also greatly help the criminal DWI case later at trial.
B. Felony Cases Facing Serious Prison Time — Need to Gather Evidence As Fast As Possible
In Dallas County, prosecutors are very serious about wanting to try and convict defendants for felony charges. Anyone facing a felony charge is facing serious prison time with years behind bars.
The prosecution will begin working to win its case as soon as your file hits their desk. Therefore, in a felony case, having a defense lawyer right away can mean you’re able to fight back with your own team working to fight for you while the prosecution builds its case.
For instance, your defense lawyer can speak to witnesses, gather documents, get statements, find experts, and generally preserve evidence before people forget the details or cannot be found, or documents go missing. By having a defense attorney on your side early in the case also means that your lawyer can request an examining trial.
Under Texas law, a defendant has a right to an “examining trial” if they ask for one. For state felony cases, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure art. 16.01 provides:
The accused in any felony case shall have the right to an examining trial before indictment in the county having jurisdiction of the offense, whether he be in custody or on bail, at which time the magistrate at the hearing shall determine the amount or sufficiency of bail, if a bailable case. If the accused has been transferred for criminal prosecution after a hearing under Section 54.02, Family Code, the accused may be granted an examining trial at the discretion of the court.
What is an examining trial? In Texas, an examining trial is a probable cause hearing where the defense lawyer can force the filing police detective to be subject to expert cross-examination very soon after the arrest under oath. If the prosecution cannot establish probable cause, then you win.
The clock is ticking for anyone facing a felony charge in Texas who wants an examining trial, and if you don’t act fast then the opportunity to fight charges in an examining trial will be lost.
As an accused, you only have the short window between being arrested until the Grand Jury hears your case to request an examining trial. Therefore, there’s a cat and mouse game between the smart criminal defense lawyer and the Grand Jury prosecutor.
Time-wise, the prosecutor is trying to get to the Grand Jury hearing as fast as they feasibly can, to end that possibility of having to deal with an examining trial where probable cause in their case will be challenged.
Why would they want to deny an accused their right to an examining trial? Prosecutors hate examining trials; they can lose their case here and they know it.
First of all, the responsibility for presenting the prosecution’s case in an examining trial is typically given to inexperienced and often unprepared prosecutors to handle. Newbies can make mistakes.
Additionally, the state is required to have their detective or filing officer at the hearing to testify as part of their proof in support of the arrest and charge. In the real world, prosecutors usually have little time to prepare their law enforcement witness, who has to be pulled away from his or her job to meet with the prosecutor as well as to take the witness stand at the hearing.
Sometimes, cross-examination of the officer or detective at this early stage of the case is enough to free you with a dismissal of the proceedings. If the case continues, the defense lawyer (better prepared and more experienced in most instances) can usually get some very good testimony from the State’s witness that can prove to be damaging to the State’s case either at the Grand Jury or later on at trial.
What about the Grand Jury?
In felony cases, there is also the possibility of a Grand Jury, where the prosecution presents its gathered evidence to a Dallas Grand Jury and requests that the Grand Jury make the call on whether or not you should be indicted for a felony crime. If you do not have a defense lawyer on board, to scrutinize the state’s evidence and do an independent investigation of the facts on your behalf, then the Grand Jury will likely indict you.
By having a defense lawyer on your side early in your case, then you can prepare a defense for that Grand Jury proceeding, where your lawyer can make a good presentation to the grand jury to get the case NO BILLED, if possible. No billed, and you’re free.
Therefore, while there are those who criticize the practice of attorneys bonding out their clients, there are a great many advantages to defendants who have their defense lawyers post their bond for them. While each person must make their own decision here, it is important for those who have been arrested in Dallas County, as well as their loved ones, to be educated on both the risks and benefits of having an attorney post bond for them as an alternative to rushing to the local bail bondsman for fast relief which may be unnecessarily expensive and much less helpful for their defense case in the long run.
I am a prominent Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney with law offices in Dallas County, Texas. My entire law practice revolves around helping people who have been charged, arrested, and indicted for criminal violations of either Texas or Federal law.
I am able to post bail bonds on some select criminal cases where it makes sense to do so from a criminal defense perspective. I will not agree to post a bail bond in every case in which I am requested to do so.
As a criminal defense attorney, I will act as an Attorney Bondsman if both my client and I agree this is the prudent course to take and that any potential conflict of interest in the situation is understood not to be a reality or a risk in any way to the either the attorney or his client.
If you are arrested in Dallas County, Texas, then I may be able to post an attorney bail bond on your behalf. Please feel free to contact our offices to discuss the matter. The Law Offices of Michael Lowe will help you consolidate your expenses regarding bond and legal fees and expenses. Payment plans may be available on a case-by-case basis.
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