First things first. If, for your convenience, you would like an audio description of bond in Georgia. Please, download and subscribe on iTunes to the Georgia Criminal Law Podcast. Episode 2 discusses bond in Georgia.
One of the first things that people ask about when they contact a defense attorney is a defense attorney. Some of their questions typically include 1) Can I get a bond? 2) How much will it be? and 3) When can I get out?
This page covers some of the basics of bond in Georgia. Of course, you should always consult with an attorney regarding your case so that they can assess any unique challenges that your case presents.
What is a Bond?
Bond is essentially collateral to secure that you keep your end of a promise. The court says they will let you out of custody while you wait on your case to resolve if you promise to show up to your court dates. The only catch is that the court usually doesn't just take you at your word. Instead, they require you post some collateral to ensure that you keep your end of the promise. So, they require money or property that will be held until you fulfill your promise.
Purpose of Bond
The main purpose of bond (other than securing your appearance at court) is to preserve the presumption of innocence. I am sure that you know that in this country you are innocent until you are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you were made to sit in jail indefinitely until your case resolved, prosecutors could effectively punish you before you were ever convicted of anything at all.
This is no a new idea. Our founders believed that bond was important. Federal law first guaranteed bond be given to those accused of non-capital crime back in 1789 with the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1789.
Back in 1951, Chief Justice Vinson of the United States Supreme Court wrote that:
"This traditional right to freedom before conviction permits the unhampered preparation of a defense, and serves to prevent the infliction of punishment prior to conviction. Unless this right to bail before trial is preserved, the presumption of innocence, secured only after centuries of struggle, would lose its meaning."
Types of Bond
There are four types of bond.
1. Surety - If you were not given a signature bond and cannot afford to post a cash or property bond, and many people cannot, you may choose to use a bonding company to post your bond. A bonding company will charge you a fee of approximately 10% to 15% of your bond amount. The bonding company is then responsible for the remainder of your bond amount. The fee you pay to the bonding company will NOT be returned to you once your case is over. If you fail to appear in court as directed, your bonding company may seek reimbursement for the remainder of the bond amount from you.
2. Cash - You may post the full amount of the bond in cash at the jail. Once the case has been completed, as long as you have appeared in court as directed, your money will be returned to you. To assist in getting your money returned, you may provide a certified copy of the final disposition to the jail office where you posted the bond.
3. Property - In lieu of cash, you may put up your property for your bond. To do so, you will need to contact the sheriff of the county in which the property lies for the required paperwork and approval. Generally, the sheriff will require that the equity in the property must be two to three times the amount of the bond. During the pendency of your case, your property will have a lien on it from the sheriff. Once your case has been completed, as long as you have appeared in court as directed, your property will be released free and clear. It is a good idea to prepare your mortgage statement and make sure that everyone on the deed is prepared to sign off on the bond.
4. Own Recognizance - The court setting your bond may allow you to be released without requiring you to pay any money or put up any property for bond to ensure your future appearance in court. In determining whether to grant a signature bond, the court may consider factors including, but not limited to, whether or not you have any prior criminal history, the nature of your charges, and your place of residence and connection to the county in which you were arrested. Additionally, if a signature bond is granted, you may be required to report to a county-run pretrial release program, which will monitor you while on bond to ensure that you appear as required and/or are complying with all conditions of bond.
When Can I Get a Bond?
There are a few possibilities. You can get a bond at your first appearance hearing which must happen within 72 hours of your arrest. Judges also have the option of setting a schedule of bails that are standard bond amounts for certain offenses. That is the quickest way to get a bond.
Another possibility to receive a bond is at a preliminary hearing. they are also known as probable cause hearings or committal hearings. At these hearings a magistrate court judge may grant you bond as well. Additionally, if you were given a bond at the first appearance, but it was too high for you to make the judge may reduce your bond.
There are some offenses, however, that a magistrate judge is not permitted to set bond for. They include:
- Agg. sodomy
- Armed robbery
- 1st degree home invasion
- Aircraft or motor vehicle hijacking
- Agg. child molestation
- Agg. sexual battery
- Manufacturing, distributing, delivering, dispensing, administering, or selling any controlled substance classified as Schedule I or Schedule II
- Kidnapping, arson, aggravated assault, or burglary in any degree if the person, at the time of the alleged kidnapping, arson, aggravated assault, or burglary in any degree, had previously been convicted of, was on probation or parole with respect to, or was on bail for kidnapping, arson, aggravated assault, burglary in any degree, or one or more of the offenses listed in paragraphs (1) through (10) of this subsection;
- Aggravated Stalking
- Violations of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act
It is possible that your attorney will have to file a motion for bond and there may have to be a hearing to get you bond. At that hearing there are four factors that the court must consider when it is determining whether or not to set you bond. They are:
1. Are you a substantial risk to flee the jurisdiction.
2. Do you pose a threat to the community, people, or property.
3. Do you pose a significant risk of committing a felony while out on bond.
4. Do you pose a significant risk of intimidating witnesses or obstructing justice.
If the judge decides to set bond for you at the bond hearing he or she must then decide in what amount the bond should be set at. There are factors the judge must consider in that process as well. The judge will consider
1. The accused's financial resources and assets.
2. Accused's earnings and other income.
3. The accused's financial obligations, including to his or her dependents.
The judge can deny your bond, however, if your are charged within 90 days you will be entitled to a bond.
If your loved one is in jail without a bond or with a bond that is too high for them to make then don't hesitate to contact us and schedule a consultation with Ryan today.