Until the mid-1990s, many officers did not bother to arrest suspected impaired drivers. Instead, they issued citations or simply sent them on their way with a “go forth and sin no more.” But today’s Texas law does not sanction either outcome, and arrests are now mandatory in these cases.
States are largely on their own when it comes to pretrial release policies, as the U.S. Constitution offers very little guidance. Some jurisdictions are doing away with the bail bond system, since in some places, as many as 40 percent of jail inmates are simply awaiting trial. But the bail bond system is still alive and well in Texas.
Personal recognizance bonds are theoretically available in Texas, but nearly all pretrial releases involve one of the following:
- Surety Bond: In most cases, an attorney or bail bondsman can post a surety and obtain the defendant’s release. Bonding companies usually charge a 10 percent premium for their services, and they also require the defendant to check in periodically as well as meet other conditions. In most jurisdictions, attorneys can only obtain surety bonds for their clients.
- Cash Bond: Unlike a surety bond premium, if the defendant posts the entire amount of the bond in cash with the county, the defendant gets the money back after the case is resolved.
If no bond is posted straightaway, the defendant is typically arraigned within seventy-two hours of arrest. At that time, s/he can either enter a plea or ask for a bond reduction.
The default bond amount, which is usually about $1,000 for a misdemeanor and $2,000 for a felony, is presumably low enough for the defendant to afford and high enough to protect the state’s interests, which mainly involve guaranteeing the defendant’s appearance at trial and protecting society. At a bond reduction hearing, an attorney can present evidence to refute this presumption, including:
- Defendant’s ties to the community,
- Lack of travel ability (e.g. the defendant has no passport),
- The severity of the offense, and
- Amount of evidence against the defendant.
As for the latter two points, it’s important to remember that a bail hearing is not a trial and the amount of bail should not punish the defendant.
Bail reduction is especially important in DUI felonies, because the default amounts tend to be high and pretrial freedom is essential to a successful defense. Moreover, defendants who are in jail cannot work to support their families and cannot spend any time with their loved ones, so they are really the ones who suffer.
Count On an Assertive Attorney
Reasonable bail is an important element of an overall defense. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Houston, contact the Law Office of Jim Medley.