How Does Bail Work in Georgia?

If you are charged with a crime in Georgia, you may be eligible for bail. Bail is a financial payment that allows you to stay out of jail while you await trial. By paying bail, you promise that you will show up for your court hearings. The bail and bond process is complex and has several important steps.

It is important for anyone facing criminal charges to understand how bail works, so they can make informed decisions for their case and their future. If you have been released on bail, it is wise to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before your trial.

What Is a Bond Hearing?

After a person is arrested in Georgia, they are detained while awaiting charges. If they are not charged with a crime within a specified period, they must be freed. In Georgia, detained persons are entitled to a bond hearing within 72 hours of the arrest (not including weekends and holidays.)

During the bond hearing, the judge decides if the defendant should be detained or released pending trial. If the judge allows their release, they grant a bond allowing the defendant to leave jail until their court hearing.

What Is the Difference Between Bail and Bond?

The terms bail and bond are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings and functions. Bond is the assurance given to the state of Georgia that the defendant will appear in court as instructed. Bail is the financial deposit that ensures they will appear in court.

A bondsman is a person or company who guarantees a bond. They provide bail bonds for individuals who have been charged with crimes but are unable to pay the entire bail amount to the court. By paying that money, the bondsman essentially guarantees the defendant will go show up to court.

It is not necessary to use a bail bondsman to post bail. However, because bail is typically a significant amount of money, a bondsman may be financially necessary to get a defendant out of jail.

How Is the Bail Determined?

Judges have the authority to set bond amounts, often in accordance with established “bail schedules” based on the severity of the crime. When a bail schedule is used, the defendant may not have to wait to see the judge.

Several factors affect bail. They include but are not limited to:   

  • The seriousness of the crime
  • The defendant’s ability to pay
  • The defendant’s community ties
  • The defendant’s criminal history
  • The defendant’s reputation and character
  • How likely the defendant is to reoffend
  • How likely the defendant is to appear in court (based on past cases)
  • Whether the defendant poses a risk to public safety

What Does “No Bond” Mean?

The opportunity for bail is not available to every defendant. More serious crimes are not eligible for bond. These typically include crimes that are punishable by a life sentence or capital punishment like armed robbery, rape, and murder.

Georgia criminal justice code 13 lists all of the “non-bondable” offenses in the state. Offenders cannot post bail for these crimes unless they receive permission from a Superior Court Judge.

4 Kinds of Bail Bonds

There are four types of bonds used to release a defendant from jail:

  • Cash Bond: The defendant pays the entire amount and gets that money back at the completion of their case, regardless of the outcome—provided they do not miss any court dates.
  • “Own Recognizance”: Instead of making a payment, the defendant signs a form promising they will attend all court appearances. This is an option for traffic offenses and other minor misdemeanor offenses.
  • Professional Bondsman: A professional bail bondsman pays the client’s bail and collects a fee in return. This fee ranges anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the bond amount. When the defendant’s case is resolved and the bail returned, the bondsman keeps that fee.
  • Property Bond: With a property bond, the defendant (or family member or friend on their behalf) uses a home as collateral to pay bail. There are certain requirements to do so in most jurisdictions. The mortgage and taxes must be current and the presence of anyone listed on the deed must be present.

What Happens If I Cannot Afford Bail?

If a defendant does not receive bond or if the bond is too high, the defendant’s attorney can petition for another hearing to reconsider that decision.

When a defendant cannot pay bail, they must borrow the money using a home or other property as collateral, ask a friend or family member for assistance, or remain in jail until the judge determines they can leave.

As discussed above, a bail bondsman is another option to pay bail. They typically charge a non-refundable fee in exchange for paying the entire bail amount. If the defendant does not show up in court, the bondsman keeps that fee but loses the rest of the bail amount—unless they can locate the defendant and convince them to turn themselves in. If not, the court keeps the bail money and issues a warrant for the defendant’s arrest.

Bond and Bail Conditions

Once the defendant posts bail, there are certain conditions for their release. The defendant must obey the law and remain in the area. Some additional conditions may apply to the specific offense at hand.

For example, if the case involves allegations of domestic violence, the courts may prohibit all contact between the suspect and the person who filed the complaint. Violating these conditions will likely land the defendant in jail until the case is over.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me with the Bail Process?

If you have never been through this situation before, you probably feel overwhelmed and anxious. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer working on your behalf can give you much-needed peace of mind.

Legal guidance is essential if you are charged with a crime. A lawyer can help with the bail process is several ways. Once bail is determined, they explain your payment options and provide the pros and cons of each based on your individual financial situation.

A lawyer will present testimony on your behalf to show you intend to return to court as required and will show you are not a “flight risk”. The act of hiring an attorney alone shows you are committed (and invested) in the judicial process and willing to uphold the conditions of release.

If you decide to use a bondsman, they will contact one for you. Because criminal defense attorneys have dealt with hundreds–if not thousands–of cases, they will recommend a reputable bail bond company. They can handle the details and secure bail as quickly as possible.

Completing the bail bond paperwork can be the most time-consuming part of the process. Errors or omissions on these forms can lead to frustrating delays. Your layer completes the paperwork correctly and returns it to the bail bond company quickly to get things moving. They deal with any issues that come up along the way.

A criminal act causes or represents bodily harm to a person or harm to society. The outcome of a criminal case can be life-changing. Punishment can include incarceration. It is vital to understand your rights and obtain legal advice if you or someone you care about has been arrested in Georgia.

Effingham County Criminal Defense Lawyers With Kicklighter Law Provide Timely and Effective Guidance for Charged With Crimes in Georgia

The Georgia criminal process can be stressful and overwhelming. But you do not have to navigate the system alone. Effingham County criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law represent clients facing a range of criminal charges. We advocate for your every step of the way to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.  In criminal cases, time is of the essence. Call 912-754-6003 or contact the firm online to schedule a consultation today. Located in Springfield, Kicklighter Law serves all of Effingham County, Savanah, and the surrounding areas throughout Georgia.