1. Jail Release / Bail Bonds
When a person is arrested for a criminal offense, a judge or magistrate will typically review the case within 24 to 48 hours and set bail. Once bail has been set, the person in jail must be released immediately as soon as the bail is posted. You can post bail either yourself in cash or by paying a non-refundable fee to a bail bond company.
You always have the choice when bail is first set to post the bail bond either in cash yourself or to go through a bail bondsman or bail bond company. A cash bond involves paying the full amount of the bail directly to the county. You simply take cash to the jail, pay at the window, and get a receipt. The advantage to posting the bond in cash is that the County must return the full amount of the bail back to you once the case is over, regardless of the outcome.
If you do not have cash or prefer not to post all of the bail in cash, you can go through a bail bond company or bondsman to get a surety posted. A bail bond company will charge you a non-refundable fee, typically 10%, to post a surety bond. Once the case is over, you are not entitled to a refund of that fee.
Hire a defense attorney to get the bond reduced or waived. Although the law requires that judges consider the ability of the person to pay when setting bail and to choose an amount that is affordable, most of the time, the initial bail is set according to a fixed schedule without regard to the individual or his or her circumstances.
Bail reform is a hot topic and many legislative changes have been proposed. Until those changes become law, the reality is that most people accused of a criminal will need the help of a criminal defense attorney in order to get a bail reduced or waived.
Usually, this means that the person was arrested for probation or parole violation; or that the person was released from jail initially but violated a condition of bond. In these situations, it is often still possible to get bail set, but you will almost always need the assistance of a criminal defense attorney to file a Motion and/or set a bail reduction hearing with the Judge.
2. Keeping a Criminal Arrest off your Record?
While most people use the term “criminal record” in ordinary speech, there are actually two different types of records that an individual has. One type of record is your arrest record. In this country, an arrest is a public record, and it is always public information, at least initially. However, an arrest is not the same as a conviction.
An arrest is just an accusation, and not everyone accused of a crime is ultimately found guilty or convicted. An arrest record merely shows what you have been arrested for and not whether you were ultimately found guilty. A conviction record displays crimes that you have either plead guilty to or been found guilty of by a judge or jury. With few exceptions, a conviction record is permanent.
The first step to keeping a clean record is to resolve your case without a conviction. As long as you do not plead guilty and you are not found guilty by a judge or jury, you will not have a conviction record to worry about. The first step is thus to dispose of your pending criminal case in a way that avoids a criminal conviction. One way to accomplish is by getting your case dismissed, either by agreement of the prosecutor or by order of the Judge. Another way is by going to trial and getting a not guilty verdict. Sometimes this easier said than done, while other times, it may be easier than you may think.
Once your case is no longer pending, and you have avoided a conviction, you can keep a clean record by expunging or sealing the arrest record. If you were able to obtain a dismissal without having to do any type of probation at all, you will typically be able to petition for an expunction. If your case was dismissed after successfully completed deferred probation, you may be able to non-disclose or “seal” your arrest record.
Expunging an arrest record permanently destroys all official records of the arrest and removes it from the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal History Information database. Texas law also requires any private companies purchasing criminal records or information from the State to remove any reference to an expunged offense in their records as well. Under Texas law, you are permitted to deny having ever been arrested or charged in employment and other applications, if you have been granted an expunction.
Sealing a record refers removes an arrest record from the public domain, but it does not permanently destroy all records of it. For example, while the arrest record would not appear in a background check performed by a private company or a landlord, law enforcement and government agencies would still have a record of the arrest.
3. Pretrial Diversion.
Pretrial diversion programs are programs offered by the District Attorney’s office to certain defendants as an alternative to prosecution. Typically, you will need a defense attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor or to submit an application for you in order to get accepted to pretrial diversion. Pretrial diversion programs vary in length and can be as short as 60 days (for a misdemeanor in Dallas) or as long as 18 months (felony drug treatment court). Pretrial diversion is a great option for qualifying clients because the reward for successfully completing the program is the dismissal of your case.
There are many types of pretrial diversions programs available depending on the County that your case is being prosecuted in, your criminal history, and the type of charge of offense that you were charged with. A few examples of pretrial diversions program include:
- First-Offender Program: Program leading to dismissal of qualifying misdemeanors and felonies for first-time offenders (Denton, Collin, Tarrant). Length: 9 to 12 months
- Memo Dismissal Program: Program leading to dismissal of qualifying misdemeanors (not DWIs) in Dallas County. Length: 60 days
- Divert Court / Drug Treatment Court: Program leading to dismissal of first-time felony offenders who are willing to undergo court supervised drug treatment. Length: 18 months
- Veteran’s Court: Program leading to dismissal of qualifying misdemeanor(s) or felony(s) available to military veterans arrested as a result of a substance or alcohol abuse problem and/or a mental illness. Length: 9 to 12 months
- Mental Health Court: Program leading to dismissal of qualifying cases for persons suffering from a mental illness. Length: Variable
Yes, there are still options for getting your case dismissed even if you do not qualify for pretrial diversion. Pretrial diversion programs are formal programs offered by certain counties whose availability is determined by factors such as funding, county policies, and available space. However, trial prosecutors will sometimes offer conditional dismissals or even straight out dismiss a case, when circumstances warrant.
A conditional dismissal is very similar to pretrial diversion but is simply a private agreement between you and the prosecutor that requires the State to dismiss the case upon you completing certain agreed upon conditions. Typical conditions may include completing a class, performing certain number of community service hours, and/or passing a drug test.
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