DUI Bail and Bonds Overview
After an individual is arrested for a DUI offense, they will remain in jail until they are taken before a magistrate or judge and arraigned. The general purpose of the magistration process is to advise you of the charges that have been filed against you and to set bond or a bail amount. The amount of your DUI bail and the procedures for making bond will depend on the criminal laws of the state in which you are arrested and the local rules of the county or parish.
Types of Bonds for Criminal Cases
Every state has some type of bail bond system, which allows a DUI defendant to be released on bail while their case is pending. Regardless of the rules, strict compliance is especially important in DUI cases to avoid a forfeiture or revocation of your bond status.
There are three main types of bonds for criminal cases. The first type that on which some states allow people to be released is based on their personal recognizance and is known as a PR bond. This means that the court essentially releases you on your word that you will appear for court and not commit any new offenses while on bond. Many jurisdictions will not require you to pay a fee for a PR bond. Ideally, this would be the cheapest way to go. However, because of the intense focus on DUI and drunk driving offenses over the last several years, PR bonds in DUI cases are somewhat rare.
The second type of bond is a cash bond. This type of bond requires you to pay a cash sum into the registry of the court. If you fail to appear for the court, the state forfeits and keeps the cash that you posted. The third type of bond, a surety bond, is the most frequently used type of bond, especially for DUI arrests. A surety bond is where a third party agrees to assume responsibility for you appearing for court in exchange for you paying them a fee. For example, say your bond is set at $10,000 and you do not have $10,000 to post your bond. A surety will pledge to the court to pay the state $10,000 if you do not appear. In exchange for this pledge on your behalf, you are required to pay the bondsman a fee. The fee is usually a percentage of the overall bond amount. Depending on the going rates in your jurisdiction, this can range from 5-15% of the bond.
Bail Amounts for DUI
The actual bail amount for a DUI will depend on your criminal history and the bonding schedule used in the jurisdiction where you are arrested. The more arrests and convictions you have, the higher you can expect your DUI bail amount to be. A misdemeanor DUI bond can run from $500 to $10,000; while felony DUI bond amounts can be up to $50,000, depending on your prior criminal history.
Finding a Bondsman or Bail Bond Agent
Most jails will have a list of bondsmen that make bonds in that jurisdiction. Before you select a surety or bondsman for your DUI bond, you may want to have members of your family talk to other people who have posted bail previously. While many bondsmen try to run reputable businesses, some are less diligent. They may take your money and then fail to let you know your court settings, or court dates—which will result in your re-arrest.
Make sure that the bondsman is approved to make bonds in your jurisdiction. If the sheriff does not accept your bondsman, you will be required to pay for and post a new bond. If you already have a drunk driving attorney, your attorney can refer you to a good bondsmen. If you do not have a DUI attorney, you should find one as soon as possible. Like DUI attorneys, some bondsmen will also specialize in types or levels of offenses so it is important that you find one that fits your DUI situation.
Posting Bond from Jail
While in jail, posting bond can be somewhat challenging, however, you do have options. The first option is to have a family member help you find a bondsman that posts DUI bonds. If you happen to have sufficient cash when you were arrested, you can make a withdrawal from what's called an inmate trust account to pay the bondsman. If a credit card is still in your wallet, many jails will allow you access to your wallet to retrieve credit or debit cards to pay a bondsman. If you still cannot come up with the funds, you may have to petition the court for a court appointed attorney to help you get your DUI bond reduced to an amount you can afford.
Conditions for DUI Bail Bonds
Paying a bondsman is just your first expense in posting a DUI bond. Many jurisdictions impose special conditions on DUI bail bonds, which can be very expensive. The most frequently used condition is a requirement that you install and maintain an ignition interlock device on any automobile that you intend to drive. Depending on the services available in your area, this can range from $80 to $200 per month. Another frequent condition is a requirement that you submit to drug and alcohol screenings while your DUI is pending. Monthly screenings can run from an extra $30-50 per month.
Courts may impose any condition necessary to ensure your appearance or to protect the community. Under this theory, courts tend to get creative in their DUI bond conditions. Some require that you do not drive while out on a bond. This is separate from your driver’s license suspension, which is imposed through your local Secretary of State, because of a DUI arrest or breath test refusal. Some courts have required individuals arrested for DUI to attend and participate in drug and alcohol counseling while on bond.
Confirming Conditions for DUI Bail Bonds
Before you post a bond and commit to a monthly payment to a bondsman, make sure that you ask about the other typical conditions that are imposed with DUI bonds in your jurisdiction. The last thing you need is to commit to a total bond package that you absolutely cannot afford to comply with. For example, if your payment to your bondsman is so high that you cannot afford the ignition interlock device, then the court can revoke your bond for non-compliance and send you back to jail. Know and understand all of the conditions involved in your case before you post a bond.
A bondsman can help you better understand DUI bonds and the associated conditions. However, it may be a good idea to limit your reliance on your DUI bondsman. Regardless of their involvement in the judicial system, they are not licensed attorneys, they cannot give you legal advice, and they cannot speak on your behalf in court. Only a licensed attorney can help defend your DUI arrest in court and advise you of all of the legal ramifications of your choice to plea or go to trial.