So you’ve had the misfortune of being arrested. Perhaps you’re guilty, perhaps you’re not, but either way, you need to work your way through the criminal justice system to the end of the process. Assuming that you were given the opportunity to secure your release through a cash bond (which should generally be the case, except for situations involving violent crimes and criminal history), you may have decided to make use of a bail bond, either because you and your family didn’t have the available funds to post the full bail amount yourself, or because you’d rather not lock up those funds in case you need them.
This is smart, because while the bail bond process costs you a little money today (i.e. you don’t get the amount back that you provided to set up the bond, since that is the bondsman’s service charge), you’re protecting your assets for your family while you’re dealing with the situation.
Assuming you want to give yourself the best possible chance to get a good outcome from the trial proceedings, we describe here a few common mistakes that people make so you can avoid them.
Providing Incorrect Details to the Bail Bondsman
Let’s say you are “in-between” addresses. In this case, do not simply provide an old or fake address, or even a friend’s address with the intent of being contacted or receiving correspondence through them. If you don’t have a valid residential mailing address, which describes a place where you live and keep most or all of your belongings, contact the bail agent and honestly describe your situation and by guided by them on how to record this. Your address is not simply a place to get mail, but it represents part of the identification and verification process by which your history and movements are compared to the statements that you make and the evidence that may be provided for or against you. Any falsehoods or attempts at misdirection will automatically create doubt the the minds of people who will be considering your fate, even if your intentions are good. Now is not the time to fudge on details – there’s simply too much at stake.
Traveling Out of Town
We all have plans, and people have good reasons for needing or wanting to travel. You may be expected home for the holidays. You may be required to travel for business. You may have arranged a vacation with your family months ago. Unfortunately, you may have to modify or cancel these plans.
It’s not just about risking missing your court date. If your trial is scheduled for March, it seems like traveling to visit family in November is no big deal. Of course, getting stuck because of a winter storm a day before you’re due in court makes your travel much more problematic.
Leaving town, even for a valid reason, raises red flags with the court and your bail bondsman. They’ve seen too many individuals take a trip and then fall off the radar to be able to trust you. Even if you know, in your heart of hearts, that you’re reason for travel is valid and will make no difference at all to your plans to appear at your court date, you will have trouble convincing others.
There may be circumstances that are important enough for you to push to follow through on your travel plans. Perhaps your spouse is scheduled for surgery out of state, and they need you to accompany them. If this is the case, then the best thing you can do is, with plenty of notice, talk to your bail bondsman about your plans and your reasons, and look for ways to confirm the validity and importance of the trip.
It’s true – nobody intends to get arrested. But understanding that the consequences of such an arrest for you may be catastrophic (e.g. your release may be revoked, the cancelling of your bail bond and forfeiture of collateral), you may be able to figure out how to be more sure that you’re going to stay out of trouble.
Maybe you avoid a night at the bar with your buddies if you have a tendency to get mixed up in a fight. Make sure you don’t play with the limits of your alcohol consumption to avoid any risk of a DWI. Maybe don’t hang out with the friend who likes to get a little high on the weekend.
Not Showing Up at Court
This should go without saying. Following through on the main commitment that you made when setting up the bail bond needs to be the thing that all other plans revolve around. Deciding to miss your court date, or failing to show up because of poor planning, will probably cost you the collateral you posted and most likely your freedom, and you’ll still end up facing trial for the charges against you, but this time without the advantage of being able to sleep in your own bed.