Personal bond in Travis County:
A personal bond in Travis County is given to defendants whom judges feel they can rely on to return to court to answer the criminal allegations pending and do not pose a grave danger to the public. It requires no deposit. It requires a judge’s approval. Often conditions are imposed on the defendant as a condition of personal bond.
I will talk about release on personal bond here.
If you are arrested in Travis County, in most instances you will automatically be screened for a personal bond by a department in Travis County called Pretrial Services. An officer with Pretrial will come see you in the downtown jail within a few hours of your arrest. They will ask you a series of questions to see if you are a good candidate for personal bond. These include questions about identifying information, address, and employment. They will also ask for references for people they can call to verify the information you can give.
If you are approved by the officers in Pretrial Services for the personal bond, a magistrate judge will sign the bond and you will be released. People without a verified address, people with pending cases, people with extensive criminal history, and people with serious allegations of violence will usually not be approved by Pretrial Services for a personal bond.
You should not refuse the interview with Pretrial Services. You do not have to answer questions about the offense, but you should provide your address, employment, and references. Even if you are not approved for a personal bond by Pretrial, answering the questions and getting the bond process started makes it easier for your lawyer to intervene later.
If you are not approved for a personal bond by Pretrial Services, you may still have a chance to be released on personal bond. To effectuate this, you will need to hire an attorney. Please note: the fee you pay to the attorney to secure your release on personal bond is kept by the attorney. It is not “posted” to the Sheriff’s Department as a cash bond. It is a fee that is charged by the attorney, and usually serves as a down payment for representation on the charge for which you were arrested, to negotiate your release on personal bond. It is not refundable at the end of the case.
Once you hire an attorney, the attorney will get the personal bond paperwork from Pretrial Services. If you have refused the interview, the attorney will have to interview you on an approved bond form. This adds time to the process, which is why you should do the interview with Pretrial Services.
The attorney, with bond paperwork in hand, will then approach a judge to ask the judge to sign the bond, approving you for release on personal bond. There are many judges in Travis County who can sign a bond. If it’s a felony, and it is unindicted, it can go to any criminal district judge or sitting magistrate judge. If it’s a misdemeanor, it can go to any criminal judge in Travis County.
If you are hiring an attorney between 5:00 pm on Friday through the weekend, realize that there is only one duty magistrate who can sign bonds every eight hours. If that judge does not approve the bond, you are going to be waiting until the next judge comes on duty. Often times, you may wait the entire weekend until the regular sitting judges come back on Monday morning.
A judge usually wants to hear several things when deciding whether or not to approve release on a personal bond. The most important things are that you do not pose an ongoing danger to a particular individual or society as a whole and that you will come back to court. A history of bond forfeiture or a long history of violent accusations will heavily weigh against release on personal bond.
A judge who has concerns about the facts of the case or the danger you pose to society may impose conditions on your release. For a DWI, this may include things like ordering you to install an ignition interlock device and to take an alcohol education class. For more serious, violent felony cases, the judge may order you to be on house arrest with an ankle monitor. You have to decide if you are going to agree to these conditions in exchange for release from jail. If you are released from jail with conditions imposed, you must abide by these conditions or risk having your personal bond “revoked” or “motioned off” – ie cancelled – and going back to jail until the case is resolved.
Please note: there is NO SUCH THING as an “attorney signature bond”. No matter how much other inmates may assure you of the existence of such a thing, it is simply not true. Some attorneys can write their own surety bonds, which do not need to be approved by a criminal judge, but the majority of attorneys will only be able to negotiate your release on personal bond by getting it approved by a judge. Therefore, you should understand that hiring an attorney is not a guarantee of release on personal bond. If the accusation or the history is just too bad, you may not get a release on personal bond regardless of your hiring of representation.
The great thing about hiring an attorney to approach a judge to sign a personal bond is that usually the payment you make to an attorney to do this hires the attorney to continue representation on the case after your release. If you already have an attorney, and you want to keep that attorney, do not hire another attorney to “just” do a personal bond. That attorney will be considered by Travis County to be the new attorney on the entire case. You cannot keep an appointed attorney and also hire one to “just” do a personal bond.
Travis County charges a fee to people released on personal bond. Without any devices such as IID or electronic monitor imposed as conditions, the fee is $40 per case. It is a good idea to pay this $40, but your bond will not be revoked if you simply do not have the money to pay it.
I am available to take jail release cases in Travis County. If you have any questions or have a loved one in Travis County jail, call me to see what your options are. My number is also a free call from the jail, and it goes to my cell phone, so if you need jail release at any time I am available to help.