Someone you know has been arrested, is in County jail, and wants you to get them out. What do you do?
First, do a quick internet search for a Houston-based bail bond company. Your search will return innumerable results. Pick one. Call them. You’ll need the full name and date of birth of the person you want to get out of jail. Give that information to the person working the phones for the bond company. Ask if they can check to see whether a bond has been set, yet. If the answer is no, give the bond company employee your name and number and ask that they contact you as soon as the bond appears in their system.
Then, relax. They’ll call. Trust me. They have a vested interest in being the first to call you with that information. They want your business. So, they’ll call. And, until the bond hits the system there is nothing you can do but wait.
While you’re waiting for them to call you need to make a decision: (1) do we use a bond company (i.e. surety bond); or (2) pay a cash bond?
Bondsmen are sureties. Typically, you pay them approximately 10% of the full value of the bond. Then, they go to the jail and post the bond for you. The 10% is their non-refundable fee. Using a bondsman is typically the easiest route and will not cause you to spend any time waiting around the jail.
Cash bonds require more of you but have the potential to save you money when compared to a surety bond. The 10% you pay a bondsman is non-refundable; you’ll never get that money back. And, some bond amounts are fairly reasonable and can be set as low as $500. So, families who can afford to pay the full amount of a bond should consider this option. The reason to consider paying the full amount is simple: you can get your money back.
Paying a cash bond simply means you go to the jail with $500 (plus another $50-$75 for processing fees) and post the bond yourself. The Harris County jail—located at 49 San Jacinto—will accept cash, cashier’s checks, or money orders, as payment for the bond. Cash is probably the easiest form of payment to use since both cashier’s checks and money orders must be verified prior to being accepted (and if you’re posting the bond late at night the institution that cut the check may be closed). Make sure you have a valid ID. Once the bond is posted the money is held in trust by the County until the criminal case is resolved.
Here’s the rub: if you post a cash bond and the defendant fails to appear in court or does something else that causes the judge to revoke or forfeit the bond you may lose that money. So, you should only consider paying a cash bond if you are certain the defendant is reliable and will not violate his/her terms of pretrial release (e.g. they won’t be drinking alcohol, using Rx or street drugs, skipping court, etc.).
At some point the bondsman will call back. When they call make sure you find out what the full amount of the bond is. If it’s an amount you can pay yourself you might decide to go and pay a cash bond. If the bond amount is too high for you to pay in-full you’ve already got a bondsman on the line ready and willing to help you get the process started.