In our last blog post, we detailed what bail means, what it does, and why it's required. However, bail is a surprisingly complex topic, with lots of small details that can make a big difference; especially if you've been charged with a crime and are trying to obtain your release from jail prior to trial, which may be many months away. These complexities are made even more difficult due to the fact that different courts, and even different judges, handle small details about bail slightly differently than others do.
As an example of how tricky a seemingly simple subject like bail can become, here's how complex the state of Maine makes it, to post bail:
In Maine, there are several different forms of bail.
For minor offenses, you could be released from jail without posting bail if you just make a written promise to appear in court. This is called a personal recognizance bond, and is one of the simplest forms of bail to understand, and the easiest to deal with when you've been charged with a crime.
Unsecured bail is when the court sets a bail amount, but doesn't require you to pay it, unless you violate the terms of the bond. Unsecured bail only kicks in if you fail to follow through on the release conditions. If that happens, you'll be arrested and jailed. Not only will you have to pay the amount owed on the unsecured bail to the court to obtain your release, you'll likely have to pay a separate bail amount on the new charge of violating bail conditions. When you're strapped for money, an unsecured bail bond can make a huge difference, as it lets you use money that would otherwise be tied up in a cash bail bond scenario.
A cash bail release from prison requires a certain amount of money to actually be deposited with the court, in order for you to be released from prison. Unless and until the court receives this money, you won't be let out of jail. This is where the bail process can be very stressful, if you've been arrested and charged for a crime, and need to get out of jail, and back to your life. The bail amount can be something well over what you have on hand. If this is the case it's important to remember that the court does not specify that you have to be the one who actually deposits the money with them. Having someone else, like a friend or family member, post your bail is not only an option, if you can't make it on your own, but is a good idea even if when you are able. Under this scenario, if you post the bail money, but owe the state unpaid taxes or fines or child support, those existing debts could be deducted from the bail that you personally posted but not from the monies that a third party posted on your behalf.
Finally, there's surety bail. Sometimes, judges will allow you to use any real estate you own in Maine to cover your bail. While this would mean that you get to keep more cash on hand during the court process, it would also mean that the state could take your house if you violate bail.
Paying bail is just one step in the long path of defending against a criminal charge. Attorney William T. Bly is experienced in the whole journey. Call his law office at (207) 571-8146.