In state court, a person is entitled to have bail set in all cases except for capital murder cases and probation violation cases. In a probation violation case, a bond for a defendant is solely at the discretion of the Judge. In federal court, prosecutors either move for detention or not. If a prosecutor moves for detention, he must prove the defendant is a danger to the community or a “flight risk” (not likely to show up to court appearances) before bail can be denied. Often, in federal court, a person may be released on their “own recognizance” without the need for bail.
If a bail amount is set in federal court, that amount typically needs to be posted in full at the Federal District Clerks' office because federal courts typically do not allow the use of bondsmen. The money is then returned at the conclusion of the case. If a bail amount has been set in state court, you can post the bail in one of two ways. The first way is that you or a family member can post the full bail amount in cash. This is done at the county jail itself. The advantage of doing it this way is that, assuming you show up to your court appearances and abide by the bail conditions, you or your family member will get that money back once your case is finished.
The second way, if you cannot afford to post the full amount, is that you can go through a bail bondsman. Bail bondsmen, however, charge a fee (usually between 10 percent and 20 percent of the bail amount) and you do not receive that money back at the end of the case. Bail bondsmen also may ask you to post collateral. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to put you in touch with an honest, reputable bail bondsman. And often, if you are referred by an attorney, you will pay a lower percentage fee and have less stringent collateral requirements.
If you are arrested in one of the smaller municipalities in Dallas County, it is sometimes necessary to hire an attorney in order to get a bond set the night of the arrest. This is referred to as getting an “attorney bond” or “running a writ”. Also, if you are arrested in a smaller municipality within the county, the bonds are typically set higher initially than if you are arrested in the city of Dallas. Additionally, a bond that is initially set in a smaller municipality, will be lowered to a more reasonable amount once a defendant is transferred to the Dallas County jail.
There are some things about which you must also be aware. In state court in Dallas County, if you have a court-appointed attorney and are able to make a bond, the judge may then require you to hire your own attorney. If you truly cannot afford an attorney, some judges will eventually appoint you an attorney if you arrive at court without an attorney and prove to the Court that you are, in fact, unable to hire one. Additionally, if you are in jail with a court-appointed attorney and you want to get your bond lowered, the court will typically make you hire a lawyer before conducting a bond reduction hearing.
If you are in jail on a noncapital murder case or a nonprobation violation case and you feel that your bond is too high, you can have your attorney file a Motion to Reduce Bond or a Writ of Habeas Corpus. There is a significant amount of case law regarding a defendant’s right to reasonable bail. Dallas County even has a preset bond schedule that most of the judges tend to follow once a defendant is in the Dallas County jail-thus the reason bonds are typically lowered for a defendant being transferred from a smaller municipality into the Dallas County jail.