How Personal Bonds Work

How Personal Bonds Work

Hi, I'm Charlie Roadman, Austin criminal defense attorney, and today, we're going to talk about personal bonds. All right, what is a personal bond? Well, it's a contract or agreement between you and the county and the judge to show back up to court on your court date. And if you don't, a warrant will go out for you, and the county can technically sue you for the amount of the personal bond.

All right, now, the personal bond is signed by the judge. So a judge has to agree to let you out. In most misdemeanor cases, for example, they will. But some cases cause judges issues. They're worried, so they won't sign a personal bond. Now, a personal bond, you don't pay the bond amount, which could be $2,000 to 5,000 to 10,000 or whatever. You don't have to pay that amount, but you do have to pay a small fee to Travis County that could be $20, $40. It could be $150 if there's an ignition interlock device or some other supervision type fees. But generally, it's a low amount.

Now, what info on the bond is important? Well, the first thing is the court date and where to go. It's written in a little bit of legalese, but if you look very closely at the front page, you'll see the court date and where you're supposed to go, which is going to be a room at the courthouse, the Travis County Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center. Now nowadays they're texting people and resetting that date. Or, if you hire a lawyer, you won't have to go to that court date. The lawyer will go. Anyway, there's going to be a bunch of court dates for really any type of case. You just have to keep track of them, or your lawyer will keep track of them for you.

Now, one of the things on the front page of the bond there's a little box that talks about conditions. And if that box is checked, that means there's some things that you are required to do on the bond in addition to just showing up on the court date. And we'll talk about that in a minute. Then finally, on the bond, there is that bond amount, and this is the amount that you are liable for if you don't show up for court or if your attorney doesn't show up for court for you on the court dates.

So, what are bond conditions? Well, these are the things that you have to do. And, for a DWI, there might be a bond condition of getting an ignition interlock device, or if it's an assault case, there might be conditions of stay away condition. Anyway, there's a piece of paper that lists all the possible conditions. And a judge, if they've checked the box to have conditions, they'll also check which conditions there are, so you need to look at that.

Now, another thing to look for is whether the bond conditions are supervised or unsupervised. Some conditions are unsupervised, meaning you just have to go get an evaluation or do this or do that. But other conditions, there's a supervisor for Pretrial Services that you have to call and coordinate with. For example, getting an ignition interlock device on your car. The supervisor will be the one in charge, making sure that you do actually get it. Now, an attorney can help get some of these conditions waived or modified. So, if there's something that's really a problem, you have your attorney approach the judge, and the judge will decide whether they're willing to change the terms.

Okay, so who gets a personal bond? Well, Pretrial Services, the agency that determines a lot of that... The judge ultimately determines it, but the Pretrial Services agency works for the judge, and they figure out who's likely to show up for court. They have an algorithm based on whether you live in Travis County. Do you have a job? Have you ever been arrested before? Have you ever shown up for court before? Anyway, they have a 20 point system to figure out whether to give you a personal bond. One of the things they're looking for is low risk to the community. If it's an assault case, a judge is going to look very carefully about whether to let someone out based on if they think something bad could happen to someone out in the community. So a judge will decide, ultimately, whether you get a personal bond.

Now, an attorney can help that judge make a decision. For example, the judges aren't going to go do a whole lot of research and investigation to figure out whether a personal bond is appropriate. So, they could say no, but an attorney could convince them otherwise after gathering up documents or talking to people or helping more information come to the judge. So if you don't get a personal bond, you are still going to be eligible to get a regular bail bond. And there's a cash bond, or you can pay the full bond in cash at the jail. Anyway, there's a couple of other options. If you have any questions about this, just give us a call. We deal with these all day long, every day, so I promise you we'll be able to answer your question.