When a person is arrested for any criminal offense in Georgia, they will be handcuffed, transported to the city or county jail, booked in (fingerprints, mugshot, etc.) and placed behind bars. Luckily, because we live in a country where arrestees maintain the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, most people don't remain in jail pending the resolution of their case; they are released on bond. Bond is the collateral ensuring the later appearance of the arrestee in court for trial.
In misdemeanor cases and non-violent felony cases, bonds are usually pre-set automatically. Whereas, in more serious felony cases, release on bond requires further investigation by the court. In these cases, advocacy and over-preparation are key to being granted a reasonable bond.
When a person is financially unable to make the bond amount set by the court, motions can be filed to modify the bond and request a reduction at a hearing. No matter the nature of the charges, all arrestees are entitled to a bond hearing in front of a judge every 90 days.
At bond hearings, the judge will consider evidence put forth by the defense as well as evidence put forth by the prosecutor to determine whether and at what amount bond should be set. Judges will also impose conditions as they deem necessary. There are cash bonds, which require the full amount of bond be paid in cash. There are also property bonds, which allow individuals to put up property as collateral. In some cases, judges will release individuals on their own recognizance (without any formal bond or collateral) but this is rarely the case in Georgia. When you pay in cash or with property, upon final disposition of the charges, the individual will be refunded their money or property.
In most cases, however, people turn to professional bonding companies because the cash bonds are too high to pay out of pocket. When working with a professional bonding company, they require approximately 12% of the bond amount to be paid to them (non-refundable) in exchange for them taking on the bond amount and ensuring the return of the arrestee for court. When an arrestee flees the jurisdiction and fails to appear in court, the bonding company has a financial interest in finding the arrestee (otherwise the bond amount they paid on the person's behalf becomes non-refundable) so they will be looking for the arrestee, along with the court (which likely issued a bench warrant). For those of you who watch a lot of TV, Dog the Bounty Hunter has the job of tracking down arrestees out on bond who failed to show up in court.
For more information about bonds, bond hearings, and what courts consider when setting bond, see below!
Bond: A criminal bond is a financial guarantee to ensure the appearance of an individual charged with a crime until the case is dismissed or otherwise disposed of. If an individual is released on bond and does not appear in court, their bond will be forfeited and a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Additionally, if an individual is released on bond through a bonding company and does not appear in court, that individual may also face felony “bail jumping” charge.
- Purpose of Bond: Historically, the purpose of bond was to allow individuals accused of crimes the opportunity to carry on with their lives while they await resolution of their cases by securing their appearance in court with “collateral”. It was never meant to be a pretrial punishment, considering the law deems accused persons innocent until proven guilty. Depending on the nature of the criminal charges, an individual may or may not, by law, have a right to bond. Bail cannot be refused in misdemeanor cases. Where an individual has a previous serious violent conviction and is now charged similarly, there is a rebuttable presumption against bond.
- Bond conditions: To ensure the safety of witnesses and the community, courts are permitted to impose additional conditions of bond like stay away from the incident location, the victim, etc.
- Setting Bond: Judicial officers have sole discretion to set bond amounts. For less serious offenses, jurisdictions often have a set “bail schedule” at the jail that provides bail amounts for common charges and ways to quickly “bond out” a loved one.
- Factors Considered at Bond Hearing: When criminal charges are more serious or require a more in-depth review of the circumstances, judicial officers in Georgia consider the following:
- the likelihood that the individual will commit felonies pending trial
- whether the individual is a flight risk or whether the individual has ties to the community
- concerns about witness intimidation and obstruction of law enforcement
- the safety of the community if the individual were to be released.
- Bond revocations: If an individual violates the terms and conditions of their bond, a prosecuting attorney can move to revoke the person’s bond. Thereafter, there will be a court hearing and the judge will hear evidence as to the violation and determine whether to revoke bond based on the violation. If the judge revokes bond, the individual will be incarcerated pending new bond being set or disposition of the case. If the judge revokes bond, bond is forfeited on the civil side as well.