Can I Bond Out After Being Charged with a Felony in California?
Being arrested and charged with a felony crime in California is an incredibly stressful and uncertain time. Once the shock of the initial arrest passes, one of the first questions that arises is whether you will be able to bond out of jail while your case makes its way through the courts.
The process of bonding out after a felony charge will depend on several important factors. These include the judge’s discretion, the severity of the alleged crime, your criminal history and flight risk, and the county’s bail schedule. While bonding out is possible for many felony offenses, enhancements, and aggravating factors can increase the bail amount significantly.
Here, we’ll walk through the ins and outs of California’s complex felony bail system. We’ll look at how judges make bond determinations, typical bail amounts for common felonies, and your options for posting bail through a bondsman. With an understanding of the bail landscape, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the pre-trial process.
Factors That Determine if Bail is Allowed for a Felony Charge
In California, judges have wide discretion in deciding whether to allow bail release after a felony arrest. Their main considerations are your perceived flight risk and the danger you may pose to public safety if released back into the community prior to trial.
Additional factors weighed heavily by the judge when determining bail include:
- The nature and severity of the alleged crime – More serious, violent crimes like murder, rape, robbery, and assault generally call for much higher bail amounts or no bail at all if the court determines you pose too great of a public safety risk. Meanwhile, nonviolent felony charges like fraud, theft, or drug possession may still warrant more reasonable bail, depending on your criminal history.
- Your prior criminal history and record of appearing in court – Those with minimal or non-existent criminal backgrounds and a solid history of showing up for all scheduled court dates in the past will be seen as lower flight risks when bail is considered. However, numerous prior convictions and failures to appear will most definitely work against you.
- The county’s felony bail schedule – Each county in California has an established bail schedule that recommends bail amounts based solely on the charges against you. The schedule acts as a starting point, but judges can deviate substantially up or down based on the other factors noted above.
While judges have wide leeway to determine appropriate bail, the California State Constitution does prohibit bail from being set excessively high beyond what is reasonable for the alleged crime and risk factors involved. For only the very most serious and violent crimes like first-degree murder, judges can deny bail altogether if they feel no monetary amount would guarantee public safety and your return to court.
However, for the vast majority of felony offenses outside the most extreme crimes, California law still provides those arrested with the legal opportunity to bond out of jail pending trial.
Bail Enhancements That Can Drastically Increase the Amount
While judges initially consider the county’s recommended bail schedule amount for any given felony, there are certain circumstances and scenarios that legally enable them to add significant “enhancements,” drastically ratcheting up the actual bail amount set:
Prior Convictions for Serious/Violent Felonies
If you already have prior convictions on your record for violent felonies such as murder, attempted murder, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, or arson, the court can decide to add a bail enhancement. Those with proven histories of committing serious crimes are seen as potentially greater risks to public safety if released on bail. The judge may determine substantial bail should be required to ensure community protection and your return to court.
Out on Bail for Separate Case When Arrested
If you get arrested for a brand new felony offense while already out on bail awaiting trial for another previous case, the judge can legally consider that as grounds for imposing a bail enhancement. Being charged with another serious crime while already granted release pre-trial understandably calls your trustworthiness and reliability into question. It may convince the court that substantially higher bail is needed this time around to reasonably guarantee you show up for court appearances.
Having suspected or proven close ties to organized criminal gangs and activities can also provide justification for judges to boost bail far above the amount recommended on the felony bail schedule. Known gang membership may convince the court that you present a heightened risk of witness intimidation or further violence if released pre-trial, warranting a bail enhancement.
In situations like these, where clear aggravating factors exist, your bail for a felony arrest can end up soaring exponentially higher than the standard or “normal” amount for the alleged crime. Still, the overall Constitutional ban on excessive bail in California does provide some checks and balances against bail being ratcheted up to ridiculous levels without solid reasoning behind the increase.
Typical Bail Amounts for Most Common Felony Charges
While bail enhancements may drastically increase the amount set in certain circumstances, many people arrested for garden variety felonies without major enhancing factors can expect bail to be set somewhere in the following general ranges:
- Non-violent felonies like grand theft auto, identity theft, credit card fraud: $15,000 – $30,000
- Mid-level offenses like burglary, possession of stolen property, unarmed robbery, felony DUI, and weapons charges: $25,000 – $75,000
- Serious but non-capital offenses such as aggravated assault, armed robbery, rape, and other sex offenses: $50,000 – $250,000
- Very serious & violent felonies like kidnapping, voluntary manslaughter: $250,000 – $1,000,000
- Capital murder charges: $1,000,000+
As you can see, bail is clearly set substantially higher for felonies involving violence, major financial loss, use of weapons, or reckless endangerment of public safety. However, obtaining pre-trial release remains an achievable possibility for many facing felony charges in California, especially with the proper preparation, legal help, and financial resources.
Navigating the Bail Bonds Process to Secure Release
Once bail is officially set by the judge at your arraignment hearing, the next step is figuring out how to put up the money – which for most defendants involves turning to a professional bail bond company. Using a bondsman involves paying non-refundable fees but allows you to secure release without having to provide the full bail amount upfront. Here’s an overview of how the commercial bail bond process works:
- The bail bonds company will charge an upfront fee of usually 10-15% of the total bail set by the court. For example, for a $100,000 bail, they may charge $10,000-$15,000. This fee is non-refundable even if charges are eventually dropped.
- Bondsmen will require collateral which they can seize if you fail to appear in court. Collateral can include real estate, cash, bank accounts, cars, jewelry, or essentially any property of value. The collateral covers the remaining 85-90% bail balance.
- Many bail bond companies also demand cosigners on the bond agreement who are jointly responsible for covering the full bail amount if you violate terms by fleeing or missing court. Cosigners must undergo credit checks and meet certain financial criteria.
- Bondsmen will heavily scrutinize your background, running reports on any warrants and pending charges in other counties, address history, employment status, community ties, and other flight risk red flags.
- Those deemed minimal flight risks, with strong community/family ties, steady jobs, and significant collateral and creditworthy cosigners, have the best chances of approval.
Paying 10-15% of a six or seven-figure bail amount is still extremely costly for most people. But it beats having to provide the full 100% bail amount upfront before being released from jail after a felony arrest. However, for defendants with low income, unemployment, or lacking property, assets, or willing cosigners, even coming up with 10% may be completely out of reach.
Alternatives to Bail Bond Companies for Release
If you simply have no reasonable ability to afford the non-refundable premium payments to a bail bonds company, there are still certain options that may provide a path to pre-trial release:
- Own Recognizance (OR) Release – Judges have discretionary authority to allow OR release without requiring bail payment. The court simply releases you on your promise to return. However, with OR, you still face the full bail amount as a fine if you fail to appear as ordered.
- Petition the Court to Lower Bail – Your criminal defense attorney can file legal motions requesting bail reduction on the grounds of inability to pay and a limited flight risk. If approved, the lowered bail amount may make bonding out affordable.
- Bail Charities & Non-Profit Groups – Organizations like the Bail Project provide low-cost bail assistance for qualifying defendants in need. These groups bail you out and may require only a small processing fee, if any.
- Supervised Release & Monitoring – As a bail alternative, courts can order pre-trial release with intensive supervision like electronic monitoring, alcohol monitoring, or daily check-ins.
While California’s felony bail system presents challenges, understanding your options provides a road map to pursue release strategically. Securing experienced counsel maximizes these options.
Gaining the Advantage in Your California Felony Case
Facing any felony charge is extremely serious, with your future hanging in the balance. The stakes are sky-high at every stage, beginning with pre-trial release and bail. Navigating the complex bail and bonding process is no easy feat.
Rather than leave your chances up to luck, gain the upper hand that comes from dedicated legal guidance. Our felony defense attorneys offer an in-depth understanding of California’s felony bail system. We’ve helped numerous clients safely bond out and prevent extended jail stays pre-trial. We know how to counsel you through bail determinations and present you in the best light possible.
Take Your First Step Toward Justice and Freedom With Kolacia Law
Facing a felony charge is daunting. The legal system is complex, and the stakes are high. But you don’t need to go it alone. The attorneys at Kolacia Law have the expertise to help you navigate every step – including maximizing your chances of bonding out of jail pre-trial.
For over a decade, the team at Kolacia Law has assisted people facing charges just like yours. We know California criminal law inside out and have a proven track record of achieving positive results, including reduced bail and pre-trial release for clients facing felonies.
Don’t leave your fate to chance. Put the power of experience on your side. Contact the office of Kolacia Law today for a free case review. Stand up for your rights with the benefit of superior legal counsel. The call is free; the opportunity is real. Make it happen now.