The feeling of relief following your release from jail is pretty intense. It’s difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t been through the stress of experiencing arrest, questioning and booking what a blur that it can be, especially if it was the first time. It can be a fearful, almost out-of-body experience, which challenges all of your previously held assumptions (most of which were formed from watching bad TV) about what its like to seriously be concerned about your short-term and long-term future, and to have such a loss of control of your circumstances.
But you made it. The judge assessed you as being suited for pretrial release, and you’re now at home with your family, appreciating all the little things that you took for granted before.
Your family arranged a bail bond to make this happen. There was no way that they were going to be able to afford the total bail amount that was set, so they put down 10% of the bail, arranged additional collateral, and now you’re able to focus on the next stage of this experience – preparing for your trial.
But wait. That bail bond involved some paperwork. You were, of course, prepared to sign just about anything to secure your release, but you know that you didn’t pay too much attention to the details of the agreement that you made. You remember that the bail bondsman took some time to explain what it all meant, but looking back, you’re not sure you were in a mental state to take it all in.
As you force yourself to take a fresh look at the documents, you recall that there were some “conditions” that the bail bondsman made a point of focusing on. You realize now that there are things that you need to make sure you do to ensure that you live up to your commitments, and that you protect the collateral that has been posted in your name.
Violations of the Bond
The central “condition” of the bail bond – the whole point of it – is that you present yourself at court when required. The purpose of setting bail is creating a financial incentive for you to put yourself in a position that may well lead to your further incarceration, rather than choosing to avoid or evade this by not showing up.
But your bail bond may require more. Many bonds require that you check in on a regular basis in the lead up to your scheduled court proceedings, in person or on the phone. Other conditions may cover proof that you showed up for your job or passed drug screenings during this time.
Why is this important? Even these smaller violations of the agreement may lead to the bondsman revoking your bond, which can lead to you being rearrested and detained in jail, and each such violation risks not only your freedom but the additional valuable collateral that was posted on the basis of your compliance with these conditions.
If you don’t understand these conditions, and what it really means to violate them (e.g. what happens if you’re sick or your car breaks down and you can’t get to work?), contact your bail bondsman quickly and, with a clearer mind, make sure you are clear on what you need to do.
Your Day in Court
This is at the center of your bail agreement – the one that allowed you to leave jail and sleep in your own bed and be there for your family. There are a few different types of “court date” that may be required to show up for, and while your lawyer should help you keep these dates clear, always remember that you (and your family) are the ones that suffers the consequences of mistakes made. There may be pretrial determinations, or the full trial to attend. The current backlog of cases being processed can have an impact on these dates – either the wait that you have to endure to get there, or perhaps changes made to them. These dates can be, and often are, adjusted for any reason at any time.
If you come to learn of changes to court dates, you need to confirm the changes, double check them, and reach out to your bondsman to make sure that he knows of the changes.
Your freedom from pretrial detention doesn’t necessarily mean the full freedom that you experienced prior to your arrest. Depending on the charges that you’re facing, it’s possible that you’ve been set restrictions on where and how far you can travel in the lead up to your trial. You may have been given a certain mileage within which you’re free to move, or restrictions on crossing state lines.
It’s generally not the bail bondsman that sets these boundaries, but the courts or the laws that they are enforcing. If you have a specific need to go beyond these boundaries, e.g. for medical reasons, you may be given consent to do so, but this must be attained as far in advance of the need to travel as possible.
More Trouble with the Law
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to keep yourself out of jail ahead of your trial, protect your bond and collateral, and avoid violating its conditions, is to keep out of trouble. No matter the circumstances of the charges that are already lined up against you (i.e. whether you’re innocent or guilty), you cannot afford to be arrested again. If you are, it’s very likely that your bond will be revoked immediately and it will be very difficult to secure release again ahead of any trial proceedings you now have in front of you.
If you have any questions about a bond you have in place, or if you’re concerned that you don’t understand the conditions in a bond agreement, contact us immediately. We’re Maryland’s oldest and most trusted bail bond company.