TOP 7 TEXAS BAIL BONDS TRAPS: DON’T GET CAUGHT IN ONE OF THEM!
Posted on by Michael Lowe.
Texas Bail Bonds Lawyer Warns About Traps in Texas Bail Bonds System
When you are arrested in the State of Texas, your freedom will be taken from you by law enforcement as you are arrested and physically taken and enter the criminal justice system. Whether and when you are free to join your loved ones while you await trial of your case will depend upon a judicial determination that often involves setting bail. Bail bonds and bail bonding companies exist to help people in this situation, where they need financial help to make that bail amount.
Problem is, getting a bail bond just isn’t that simple and there are some hazards that a savvy person should avoid. Here are seven of them.
There are many good reasons to hire a bail bondsman to get bond posted. So, I don’t want this to be some kind of diatribe against all bonding companies. Over the many years, I’ve seen numerous easily avoidable problems folks have with their bonding company. I want this list to be educational.
Most folks think that they MUST hire a bail bond company to get their loved one out of jail and that’s simply not true. Many times hiring a bail bond company to get an inmate out of the county can be a huge waste of cash.
Money which could have been better used to resolve the violation ends up wasted on a bail bondsman. I have written about many of the issues online; for more detailed information about many of these issues please go to my Jail release in-depth article I’ve published to help folks dealing with bail problems in Texas.
1. Probation Violation Bonds.
When a judge violates probation or community supervision in Texas, the court will issue a Capias Warrant. As long as the warrant is issued before probation or community supervision has expired, the probationer will need to take care of the warrant as soon as possible.
In most cases, the probation is entitled to get a bond IF the probationer is on deferred adjudication probation. If the probationer is a conviction probationer, he/she might still be able to post bond. In this case, an attorney will be needed to file a motion for a bond hearing and request a bond from the judge.
The common mistake is that folks panic and post the first bond they can, which is usually excessive. A week later, they find themselves back in front of the judge on the probation violation, wherein the judge can put them back in jail if he/she wants to.
So, you could spend a lot of money on a probation violation bond just to be out of jail for 7 days. Of course, the bonding company isn’t going to mention that scenario to you.
They aren’t also going to tell you that if you hire an expert criminal defense lawyer, like me, the lawyer might be able to resolve the probation violation without the probationer ever needing to report to the jail.
They also won’t tell you, that many times, a smart lawyer will be able to get probation continued or reinstated very shortly after the probationer turns himself in on the probation violation.
So, what’s the right way to do it? Hire a good lawyer before you hire a bonding company! What do I do if I can’t get a bond and my loved one is just sitting in jail with no hearing date set? Article 42.12 section 21(b) entitles every probationer in Texas in jail and awaiting there day in court the right to have a hearing on the matter no later than 20 days.
BUT ONLY IF THEIR LAWYER KNOWS TO FILE A MOTION FOR THE HEARING!
Most lawyers don’t file this motion and, therefore, their client just languishes in jail. I have published a sample motion that I frequently use to put pressure on the Court, Probation Department and the District Attorney’s Office to get my client’s case dealt with right away while they are in jail on a probation violations.
Now, you may NOT want to file this motion. This motion is useful but only where appropriate. So, you need to have a lawyer who will explain different strategies needed to get the best outcome on your revocation hearing.
2. Parole Violation or “Blue Warrant”
When a Parolee picks up a new case, many times their parole officer will issue a Parole Violation Warrant or what’s called a “Blue Warrant.” Of course, there will be a bond set on the “new case.”
A bail bond company would be happy to take your money to post that bond. Why? Because they know that the Parolee isn’t going to get released from jail. That is, if there’s a “blue warrant” or a parole violation, the parolee cannot post bond. There will be a “hold” on them at the county jail unless and until the parole violation warrant is lifted.
You will need a lawyer, not a bonding company, to deal with this situation. There are many ways to resolve these cases, so it’s not appropriate to go into every possible defense. But you won’t want to post a bond. It’s a waste of money. Spend your money on a Board Certified Criminal Law expert: money well spent.
3. Immigration hold or ICE HOLD.
If you’ve read this far, you’ll notice a theme developing: Anytime there’s a hold on a county or city jail inmate, you’ll want to hire a lawyer instead of a bonding company. The last thing you want to do, is post a bond and then your loved one isn’t released from custody.
That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Get them out of jail as soon as possible! There are ways to get a bond on an ICE hold. I discuss this in much greater detail in my published ICE or Immigration Bond article. You must hire an excellent criminal defense lawyer in this situation. A bonding company simply can’t help at all.
4. Charge more than 10%.
This is an easy one, but somehow folks end up paying WAY more on a bond than they ever should. It is common business practice all over Texas for the bonding company to charge a 10% “fee” to post the bond on your behalf.
What does this mean? The fee to the bonding company is not refundable. The fee is simply their way of making money off of folks that don’t have the readily available cash to post their own bond.
That’s right. You can post a cash bond and bypass the bonding company altogether. If you post a cash bond, you will get all of your money back (minus a processing fee) when the case is done.
I’ve seen bonding companies charge more than 10% by adding additional reporting fees to the cost. Out of state defendants and inmates get hit the hardest. Local bonding companies will charge much higher than 10% for these folks. I’ve even seen some that charge the full bond amount.
IF YOU CAN AFFORD TO PAY THE FULL AMOUNT OF THE BOND IN CASH, DON’T HIRE A BONDING COMPANY.
How can a lawyer help? Many out of state folks might be able to post a cash bond but they aren’t local. A lawyer can help with this situation. In many cases, I can post a bond, when I am also hired on the case. For me, posting a bond is merely a courtesy that I do for MY clients. My main objective is to undo the criminal charge and clear up my client’s record later on. I am not merely interested in getting someone released from jail.
5. Bondsman’s Lawyer or Referred Attorney from Bonding Company.
I wrote in great detail about this trap here. What happens? You hire a bonding company and then they “recommend” you hire a particular criminal defense lawyer to handle your case.
Can you say CONFLICT OF INTEREST?! The problem is that the lawyer will be working almost exclusively FOR THE BONDING COMPANY. This means his duties are to the bonding company, not so much to the client.
By the way, did I mention that it’s illegal? Yes, the Texas Occupations Code section 1704.252(11), explicitly prohibits the bonding company from recommending an attorney to their client or referring the client to an attorney. ‘Nuff said.
6. The City or Municipal Court Bond Scam
I saved the best for last. This is the worst and most prevalent bond pitfall. I’ve also written about this before.
There are 26 cities or municipalities within Dallas County. Each city has their own municipal or city jail each with their own Magistrate Judge. The Magistrate Judge is NOT the judge assigned to the criminal case later on.
The Magistrate is simply a stand-in attorney that the city hires to perform certain simple tasks. One of those tasks is to set bonds on criminal cases for at large warrants and arrestee or inmates of their municipal jail.
The problem is that most city Magistrate Judges don’t set their bonds according to the Dallas County Bond Schedule. They set them WAY HIGHER!
Most family members related to someone recently arrest will panic and do anything within their means to get their loved one out of the city jail. They’ll do this, even if the bond is set multiple times above the recommended Dallas Count bond schedule. It’s not their fault. They don’t know that the bond being set is excessive.
Wouldn’t the bonding company tell me the bond is too high? Not if you can afford to pay it. I know it’s sad. But bonding companies aren’t interested in getting the best deal for their clients.
For the most part bonding companies want to collect the highest fee possible as quickly as possible; next client! What can a smart lawyer do to remedy this injustice?
On almost all misdemeanor cases and many Felony cases I can set a Dallas County Bond Schedule bond at any time. I can do this through something called a Writ of Habeas Corpus or a Bond Writ.
Once I get the bond set according to the Dallas County schedule, I can usually post the bond myself. I have done this many times. I have saved my clients many thousands of dollars in this process.
As I previously mentioned herein, I am the lawyer in the case. So, this isn’t something I do and then walk away from the case. I get bond reduced by filing the writ FOR MY CLIENTS. I need to get hired on the case do this. Every situation is different, so it’s a good idea to consult with a Board Certified Criminal Law expert to answer your questions.
7. Is a “Walk Through” the best you can do?
If you have an active warrant for you arrest and you call the bonding company, they may say you need to do a “walk through.” In other words, they are saying you need to walk into the County Jail and be arrested, processed, put in a jump suit, see the Magistrate and then hope you don’t get lost in the system somewhere.
No, that really did happen! Here is a summary of the problems Dallas County has seen in the past. You may hear that a “walk through” will only take 5 or 6 hours. That’s not always the case.
The bottom line is if you can afford to hire an attorney to defend you in your case, you should hire YOUR lawyer before you deal with the warrant. A smart lawyer might be able to get your booking totally waived.
In this case, you won’t need to go to jail. A lawyer might also get you a P.R. Bond so you don’t need to pay any money for a bond. A P.R. bond is simply your promise to appear in court later on.
A smart lawyer might even be able to make your case totally go away without ever posting bond. How? Well, the warrant gets removed from the sheriff’s computer if the case is dismissed. That’s one way. Of course, there are many other ways to deal with an at large warrant without posting any bond. However, you will need a good lawyer to help and that’s what I do for my clients.
About the Author:
Michael Lowe is a Texas trial attorney practicing criminal defense law in the Dallas area for many years after first serving as a felony prosecutor for the Office of the District Attorney for Dallas County. He is Board Certified by the State Bar of Texas in Criminal Law. Mr. Lowe has tried to verdict over 150 criminal trials so far in the state and federal systems.
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