Many people never expect to have any dealings with the police. In reality, there are a host of charges that can result in someone being taken to jail by surprise. It is actually quite easy to get arrested, and not always because you meant to break the law. Sometimes it’s a check you wrote five years ago that bounced, but you moved and never received the notice to pay, and now it’s an arrest warrant. Sometimes it’s driving after your license has expired and you don’t realize it. Either way, it’s good to understand the process so you can try to get a jail release as quickly as possible.
Anyone arrested in Travis County is taken to the Travis County Jail, which is downtown. Individuals are booked, fingerprinted, and photographed, and then held until a magistrate is available to set bond. If the case is relatively minor, the bond will be low. Conversely, if the case is very serious, you can expect a high bond. While you are in custody waiting to be magistrated, an agency called Pretrial Services will interview you to get personal information before running a criminal history check and contacting your references. If you have little or no history and pretrial confirms your information with references, you stand a good chance of being released on your own with a personal bond. If so, congratulations! If not, then you have to involve someone else in order to get out of jail.
In Travis County, attorneys can often get people released on a personal bond even if they didn’t qualify for one initially, even on serious charges. Essentially, the court considers that if you have hired an attorney, you will show up for court when you’re supposed to and get the case resolved. Personal bonds are denied for a host of reasons: the defendant lives out of town, has bad history, or no references could be contacted. Once an attorney is on board however, the process moves much faster, and the release can occur within a few hours.
In the long run, it makes sense to contact an attorney before anyone else. An attorney can get on the phone with pretrial services to check on the person’s status, and even speak directly with the judge to arrange for release. Calling an attorney makes the most financial sense as well. Bondsmen generally charge a fee of about 10% of the bond amount in order to get someone out of jail. However, once you’re out, you still need to hire an attorney, and now you have even less money. The better alternative is tohire an attorney on the case, and have them try to get the person out while representing them. In this scenario, you will at least have a lawyer whether you get released or not.