What To Do If You Get Arrested

In the event that you are arrested, for whatever reason, the most important thing is to be aware of your rights. Commonly called the Miranda Rights or Warnings–in deference to Miranda v. Arizona–these rights will be read to you by your arresting officer while you are in custody. These rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away for any reason.

You have the right to remain silent. If an officer asks you a question, you do not have to answer. Any statement that is coerced or made under duress or threat of force by police is inadmissible. If you do decide to respond, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. This is called waiving of your Miranda rights. After waiving your rights, anything you say can be used by police to aid in their investigation.

You are also entitled to an attorney. If you request an attorney, no statements made before the attorney’s arrival are admissible. You are allowed to choose your own attorney, but if you cannot afford to pay for one, one will be appointed for you.

Getting arrested can be troubling, but it is important to know that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, and, if any mistreatment does occur, you should inform your attorney immediately.

The Criminal Court Process: Arraignment

After you have been arrested, it is beneficial to know and understand what happens next. Unless you are representing yourself, which most people opt against, you are not expected to know the law inside and out. However, this is your life, and you should have a general idea of what lies ahead for you. Here is a step by step account of criminal procedure.

The next step after arrest is arraignment. Also known as a first appearance, this is where you are informed of the charges against you. Present in the courtroom are yourself, your attorney, the prosecutor, the judge and all other interested parties. All court proceedings are accessible to the public unless otherwise stated by the presiding judge. After the charge(s) has been read aloud, you are asked to enter a plea of “guilty,” “not guilty,” or, in some cases, “no contest.” A plea of “guilty” states that you have, in fact, committed the crime you are accused of, and are open to plea bargain negotiations. It is important to note that more than 95% of cases end in a plea bargain. Unlike Law & Order and other crime television shows, most cases do not go to trial.

If you choose to enter a plea of “not guilty”, you stating that you are indeed innocent of the crime(s) you have been accused of, and are willing to prove your innocence in court. This sets the wheels of justice in motion—which means defense and prosecution will now prepare for trial.

The third option is a plea of “no contest,” which is neither an admission of guilt or innocence. However, it does carry the same weight as a guilty plea without actual verbalization, and offers similar benefits/outcomes as a guilty plea. A “no contest” plea is also rarely used and only admissible in certain states.

After the plea is entered, the prosecution requests remand, which means that you will be kept in jail until trial. The judge can then offer a bail/bond amount (the distinction between the two will be discussed later) or order that you be released on your own recognizance (ROR). This is essentially trust that is placed in you by the court that you will not attempt to flee. There are many mitigating factors that may persuade a judge to release someone on their own recognizance. These include having no previous records, having strong familial/community ties, employment, and so on.

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment

There are a few Amendments included in the United States’ Bill of Rights that relate to Criminal Law. Here is important information to know about the Fourth Amendment.

Amendment IV

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment

There are a few Amendments included in the United States’ Bill of Rights that relate to Criminal Law. Here is important information to know about the Fifth Amendment.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Criminal Television: Effecting more than just entertainment

Let’s create a scenario. A man is shot dead in the middle of a busy Brooklyn street. He is later found a few blocks away from the crime scene, gun in his backpack, and blood on his shirt. A group of eye-witnesses immediately identify the man as the shooter. Is this evidence considered to be beyond a reasonable doubt to incriminate the man? In traditional trends of history, this would have been more than enough evidence to link the suspect to the crime. However, with the increasing interest in crime based shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Bones, jurors are shifting gears.

A new trend has emerged where jurors are no longer supporting convictions without DNA analysis. In a recent case, they have even let a man who was identified by multiple eye witnesses as a shooter walk free, due to lack of DNA evidence. This latest fad is being denoted as the CSI Syndrome, the CSI Infection, or most commonly, the CSI Effect. It essentially refers to the belief that jurors are holding a higher standard of actuality in order to support guilty convictions. They are demanding a significantly higher amount of forensic evidence from prosecution and are raising the bar for adequate standards of proof. As it has been found, jurors are holding circumstantial evidence to a much lower threshold than decades prior. What’s the issue with this up and coming trend? Reality and television have their vast differences.

Although in a television show it may be easy for an acting detective to conveniently find and collect a perfect fingerprint or DNA sample. In reality, this luck is rarely as painless. DNA fingerprint collection can be subjected to inaccuracy depending on the competency of the equipment and the lab personnel, it loses accuracy in proportion to time, and it can be nearly impossible to collect in public places that are flooding with fingerprints. There have been many cases of false imprisonment due to fingerprint identification errors by expert examiners—such as the arrest of Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield in connection to the Madrid terrorist bombing, when the fingerprint on a suitcase in Spain’s terrorist attack was found to be similar to his.

Three top ranking FBI analysts made the same identification mistake when they linked Mayfield’s fingerprint to this bombing. Following his false imprisonment the Federal Bureau of Investigation was required to recant their long standing belief that fingerprint identification was an exact science, yielding 100 percent certainty. Similarly, over the last 100 years there have been numerous cases in which convictions were reversed, following the establishment of faulty fingerprint identification.

The International Association of Identification (IAI) offers certification tests to people who are already working professional within this field. Astonishingly, over half of the examiners who take the test end up failing it. Furthermore, there are virtually no crime laboratories in the United States that require a person to be certified prior to working and no judge requires an examiner to be certified before testifying in court. For this reason, many believe that the issue is not the physical evidence, but rather, is the expert analyzing it. In the case of Rick Jackson, he was falsely imprisoned when two fingerprint analysts positively linked him to a bloody crime scene fingerprint. Although the prosecution had two analysts that confirmed this connection, the defense’s two certified analysts rejected the identification—thus proving human fallibility.

In regards to other DNA samples, such as blood, semen, skin, saliva, or hair, they are not excluded from imprecision either. Although it is thought that human DNA can potentially hold full genetic “blueprint,” nearly 95 percent of DNA is still not understood. An interesting article published by the United Kingdom’s WideShut Webcast: Alternative News and Views shed light on a novel controversy. Dating back to the era of the Romans, criminal trials have been marked by the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” However, with the rising popularity of crime scene DNA analysis, this ancient standard is being reversed. With DNA collection, a suspect is essentially guilty until proven innocent.

Similar to the human error’s provided in fingerprint identifications, these same fallibilities can occur with DNA collections as well. For example, in 2012, a man named Adam Scott was positively matched to the DNA found in a rape victim 300 miles away in Manchester. Scott, who had never been to Manchester and who was incarcerated on other unrelated charges at the time of the incident, was in no way connected to this crime, besides an unusual DNA match. How could this have happened? A private firm in England failed to properly dispose of a used plastic tray during part of the robotic DNA extraction process—thus contaminating their evidence and wrongfully incriminating an innocent man.

Despite the risk of human error being low in these specific areas of DNA collection, they do come with high costs. If a person is circumstantially and undeniably linked to a crime, is DNA analysis still needed to further validate their incrimination? Is it better to be safe than sorry? This relatively new phenomenon has gained international support since its first introduction into criminal investigation in 1986 and has actually resulted in the exoneration of 330 people within the United States (as of 09/03/2015). Of this 330 wrongfully convicted people, the average length of time served was 14 years, and their average age was 26.5 at the time of incarceration. 20 of the 330 were on death row and 16 others were charged with capital crimes. Due to the high success rate of DNA within our criminal justice system, should it become a regular part of our procedures? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Civil Forfeiture: The Legal Way to Steal

Over three decades ago, under President Ronald Reagan, the United States’ government commenced its War on Drugs. Through this initiative, a principle known as civil asset forfeiture came to rise, which allowed law enforcement to seize a person’s property without charging them with any crime(s). Despite originating as an effort to confiscate suspected drug money or vehicles, thus hindering drug dealing circles, civil forfeiture has escalated into a spiraling orb of governmental abuse, theft, and blatant injustice, with cops now being entitled to your cash, vehicles, real estate, bank accounts, firearms, and so on, without a criminal conviction.

Following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, President George Bush created the Department of Homeland Security and launched the (now popular) War on Terror. He allocated a massive budget for this new bureaucracy and empowered all forms of state and local law enforcement to assist the federal government in detecting/detaining potentially suspicious individuals. This effort essentially lacerated the underlying intention of civil forfeiture by placing opportunity for police power on a silver platter. Through the work of the Washington Post’s investigative journalists, the team was able to accumulate information from the Department of Justice— accentuating the alarming reality of this growing concern.

According to the Post’s findings, just shy of 62,000 seizures have been made without warrants or indictments. Together, these 62,000 seizures have resulted in the collection of $2.5 billion–$1.7 billion of which was given back to the respective law enforcement agencies. It has been found that of the $134.2 million that the NYPD collected in seizures lacking arrest, $27 million was given back to New York City’s finest. Los Angeles County Sheriffs received $24.3 million of the $126 million they collected. Los Angeles Police received $18.4 million of the $86.1 million they collected. Houston Police received $14.7 million of the $63.3 million they collected, among many other law enforcement agencies nationwide.

In 1985, the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Fund was recorded as $24 million for the year—in 2013, however, that number grew to over $2 billion. What is so tempting about taking people’s cars’ and money? Well, in New York City, records show that forfeiture funds were spent on food, gifts, and entertainment. In Georgia, forfeiture funds were spent to buy football tickets for the District Attorney’s office, and in Texas, this money was used to fund television ads for the District Attorney’s reelection.

Creation of stop-and-seizure programs have been supported by the United States Congress, and over the past decade, have been implemented into modern day policing. Programs such as Desert Snow have worked with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to train tens of thousands of law enforcement officers on stop-and seizure techniques, branding themselves and their work as “counterterrorism efforts.”  Desert Snow, a family owned company, has won millions in federal contracts to teach police officers “the art of roadside asset forfeiture.” In the five years that Desert snow was training these law enforcement officers, they were able to seize a total of $427 million. Desert Snow charges less than $600 to train these officers, and although these numbers may come off as being proof of a “successful investment,” most would disagree.

These Black Asphalt intelligence networks have seen 32% jumps since 2005—this is three times the rate of their police departments. With these officers getting more and more aggressive, there number of innocent people having their money taken away is following suit. It has been noted that majority of the people whom are judicially challenging seizures in federal courts are Black, Hispanic, or other minorities. People are being stopped and having their life savings sometimes taken away.

Tan Nguyen, for example, was driving home after winning $50,000 at the casino. Despite having the receipt, law enforcement still confiscated the money and threatened to tow Nguyen’s vehicle if he “spoke up about it.” By shelling out some money to hire an attorney, Nguyen got his money back nearly one year later. Another example of common types of unjustifiable civil forfeiture was when Detroit police raided The Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit’s monthly party. Although there wasn’t physical cash to take from the invitees, law enforcement decided to instead impound 40 vehicles. Each car owner had to pay a $900 impound fee, which resulted in $35,000 more dollar’s in Detroit’s pocket.

George Reby has $22,000 in cash taken from him in Monterey, Tennessee while he was on his way to buy a used car of eBay. He provided the officers with proof of the active bids, but regardless failed in dissuading the officer. A family in Philadelphia had their home seized after their son was arrested for selling $40 worth of heroin. Despite the parents having no knowledge about their son’s activities, their home was lost nonetheless. Keep in mind that Desert Snow was intended to stop terrorism… What any of these seizures have to do with terrorism is still unknown…

There are an innumerable number of cases in which innocent people are subjected to this legal form of robbery. New Mexico has been the only state to abolish civil forfeiture after the government took $800,000 from an Albuquerque man’s used car dealership. The adverse affect that his confiscation took on his health and business enticed New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez to illegalize the practice entirely. In Montana, state Governor Steve Bullock recently signed a law that required a criminal conviction to be obtained prior to seizing a person’s property through civil forfeiture. Although steps are being taking in the right direction, there still is not a clear answer as to when this abuse will come to end.

Sentencing Reform: A Much Needed Transition

Under the administration of President Obama, the White House has been taking many strides towards reforming our nation’s correctional system. Earlier this year, President Obama signed off on the early release of about 90 inmates, incarcerated for nonviolent drug related charges. Just this month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission unanimously agreed to release 6,000 more inmates that were serving time on similar charges, and come November there are 8,500 more prisoners that may potentially face the same fate. Out of 100,000 other inmates that are incarcerated on nonviolent drug offenses, up to 46,000 can possibly be released early from their sentences.

President Obama’s administration and the U.S. Sentencing Commission are embarking on a reformative journey of the federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Together they are working to tackle the currently imposed harsh mandatory sentencing laws, and to remedy the lack of fairness that is present within the system. Democrats and Republicans alike are showing to believe that mandatory prison sentences have led to mass incarceration rates, but have been utterly ineffective in reducing/deterring drug-related crimes.

Currently, 1 out of every 99 Americans is behind bars, and 1 out of every 31 adults is either locked up, or serving time on either parole or probation—meaning that 3.2 percent of our population is under some form of correctional supervision. The United States’ population constitutes 5 percent of the World population; however, we house 25 percent of world prisoners. It is no longer a secret that our justice system is in dire need of reform and attention. Starting under U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and significantly furthered under the current administration, change may soon be knocking.

The most alarming statistics relating to our incarceration rates pertain to racial disparities. Despite blacks and Hispanics making up only 1/4th of the national population, they represent about 60 percent of prisoners. According to the NAACP’s findings, African Americans now constitute almost 1 million out of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population and are incarcerated nearly 6 times more often than whites. As of 2001, 1 in every 6 black men had been incarcerated and if current trends continue, this statistic will grow to 1 in every 3.

It has been statistically noted that five times as many whites are using drugs as African Americans. Even though blacks represent 12 percent of the total drug users population, they are arrested 10 times more than whites because of drugs, make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and are 59 percent of those in state prisons for drug related crimes. Another major issue, are the sentencing disproportions. For example, African Americans serve essentially the same length sentences for drug offenses (58.7 months) as Whites do for violent crimes (61.7 months).

Juveniles within the black community constitute 58 percent of the youths admitted into state prisons, 44 percent of youths that get detained, and 46 percent of youths that are judicially waived to criminal court. Direct causes of these high incarceration rates within the black community have traditionally been related to inner city crime, low socioeconomic status, and quite frankly, policy imposed discrimination. Governmentally we have made efforts to “get tough on crime” and have been running full force with our “war on drugs.” A major contributing factor to so many African Americans getting harsher drug sentences than whites has to do with the sentencing variation between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Despite these two drugs only having 2 ingredient differences, sentencing disparity is 18:1 (prior to 2010, it was a 100:1 discrepancy).

Currently, the U.S. government is spending about $80 billion a year on corrections and our prison system is contributing significantly to the $200 billion annually allocated to public safety. According to the senior legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, Jesselyn McCurdy, told the New York Times, “Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war.” With all this being said, reform acts are finally being drafted by congress.

The new Sentencing Reform Act has been introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), ranking member John Conyers (D-MI), and representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D- TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), Mike Bishop (R-MI), and Paul Labrador (R-ID). Together, these six politicians are working to reduce mandatory sentences. For example, the Goodlatte-Conyers bill would include provisions to reduce the mandatory life without parole sentence for a third felony to a mandatory minimum term of 25-years, to reduce the 20-year mandatory minimum for second felony offenses to 15-years, to reduce the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for certain gun possession crimes to 10-years, and to reduce the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted of numerous gun related offenses to a mandatory term of 15-years. This bill will also more narrowly define which prior offenses can trigger longer mandatory minimum drug sentences, will attempt to reduce the crack-vs-powder sentencing disparities, and will significantly expand the drug “safety value” exception so that nonviolent drug offenders with non-serious criminal histories can receive sentences below the mandatory minimum term.

Many U.S. cities have seen an increase in homicide rates in recent years, prior to these 2015 releases. Some citizens find that letting more ex-convicts out of prison early will exacerbate this trending spike, while others claim the two are unrelated. Despite having an unknown outcome to come, this reform is a great move in the right direction.

What is the Prison-Industrial Complex?

Many may have heard of the military-industrial complex that gained prominence during our nation’s involvement in World War II and has continued religiously through the contemporary era. This term, which we were warned against by President Eisenhower, refers to the economic prosperity which results from being at war. Companies that may manufacture ammunition, steel, or the like, see major profits when our nation is at war–due to a higher demand–thus promoting more support for war.

The prison-industrial complex is a term that is very similar to the above referenced matter. It generally refers to the correlation between the rapid increase in the United States’ prison population and the political and economic influence of private prison companies. Dating back about three decades ago to the emergence of our War on Drugs, the prison-industrial complex was bureaucratically created (behind closed doors) with the United States’ criminal justice system. These agencies are responsible for supplying our prisons with services including prison labor, construction, surveillance technology and vendors, medical services, prison food, private probation companies, attorneys, lobbyist groups, and so on. A rampant widespread belief in the current era attributes the profits within this area of business to the questionable increase of our inmate population. Could these harsh sentences be purposefully intended to boost the profits of this $35 billion industry? Well, that is what many argue…

Multiple activist groups, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, take a stance against the prison-industrial complex. These groups claim that PIC is corrupt in that it supports a false belief that imprisonment is a solution to common social issues, including homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy. Many hold that businessmen feared the economic development of impoverished areas and in turn allocated more government budget to corrections. Since 1991 the overall national crime rate has decreased by a remarkable 20%, however, our incarceration rate has increased by over 50%. Why? In 1996 Steven R. Donziger, the head of the National Criminal Justice Commission, stated, “If crime is going up, then we need to build more prisons; and if crime is going down, it’s because we built more prisons—and building even more prisons will therefore drive crime down even lower.” This statement, which explains the popular sentiment of this era, was the driving force behind recent increases in inmate facilities and structures.

From 1984-1994, a ten year period, California built eight new maximum-security facilities, after their inmate population spike began to pose a severe threat to the safety of staff members, inmates, and even the general public. These new prisons have room for about 3,000 inmates each—with about one-third of their population serving life sentences—however they are currently exceeding this by a long run. Instead of attempting to alleviate this overcrowding by releasing nonviolent criminals, for decades we have solely focused on one thing—building more prisons.

Recently, under the Obama administration, legislators have finally begun to dedicate their efforts to sentencing reform. The United States currently holds just slightly less than a fourth of the world’s total prison population—that’s half a million more inmates than communist China. According to the NAACP, from 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people—a spike that certainly goes hand in hand with the prison-industrial complex.

Combating Staten Island’s Drug Epidemic

It is no secret that Staten Island has currently been taken over by drugs. The heroin and prescription pill epidemic that is now plaguing our community is one in which law enforcement and the court are fervently fighting to overpower—this battle, however, has proven to be one of the most troublesome yet.

Heroin in the 1980’s was recorded at being about 8 or 9 percent pure. A decade into the 2000’s, that percentage spiked to 40 percent pure. As per the last test conducted in 2015, heroin on our home territory is a remarkable 50 percent pure. What does this mean? It is more lethal than ever before. According to a West Brighton resident’s interview with the Staten Island Advance, twenty years ago you needed more than an entire teaspoon full of heroin to get your fix. Nowadays, however, with the severely higher potency of the drug, half a tablespoon could do the same damage.

From 2002-2013 heroin related deaths nearly quadrupled, and from 2011-2013 alone, deaths by heroin overdoses doubled. In 2013 Staten Island lost 32 residents related to heroin, and this number is increasing significantly in 2015. Although in the past Staten Island’s North Shore was recorded to have highest numbers of users, the South Shore is now wearing the grim crown, with Tottenville seeing a record high number of users. Although there is no way to accurately gage the precise reason that heroin usage has increased tenfold, many speculate that it is due to the borough’s new laws that have made prescription pills much more difficult and expensive to obtain. Just one pill of any prescription pain killers, such as OxyCotin, can sell for $40 or $50. Heroin on the other hand sells for as low as $6 to $8 a bag.

According to the findings from the CDC report, people at the highest risk of heroin abuse or dependence are non-Hispanic white males, ages 18-25, with an annual income of $20,000. Interestingly enough, the majority of these users are either uninsured or are Medicaid recipients. This shift in demographic has yielded a 104 percent change in the historical trend of heroin users. In recent years, it has been found that the percentage of females and people with much higher annual incomes using heroin has spiked as well.

What is Staten Island doing to combat this rapidly growing issue? Local, nonprofit organizations, such as Addicts Angels, and Our Lady Star of the Sea are fighting to raise awareness and to provide addicts and their families with the help that they need. Governmentally, we have implemented a drug court that places drug offenders in rehabilitative centers as opposed to keeping them in jail/prison. Under the supervision of Judge Allen Meyer, the Richmond County Drug Court began as a diversionary program with the end goal of providing suitable criminal offenders with substance abuse and mental health treatment, which, if successfully completed, will vacate the accused’s criminal conviction. The Staten Island Treatment Court, also known as SITC, was founded in 1999 and is labeled as a team that takes pride in their commitment “to serve eligible defendants,” as the city continuously fights for “a just resolution,” as  quoted by the project director, Ellen Burns. SITC is a court based program that essentially works with people facing either felony or misdemeanor drug charges that are also addicts/abusers themselves. Most participants spend a minimum of 9-12 months in treatment court and will (most of the time) not get convicted of their charged crimes if they successfully complete all aspects of the program.

Another way that we have begun to change in regards to this drug epidemic began at the 120th precinct in January of this year. Narcan atomizers are one of the most effective ways to save a person when they are overdosing. Previously, you had to inject the medication into a vein, which has proved to be a very difficult thing to do depending on environmental circumstances. The Narcan nasal-spray program is one in which all first responders (including policemen, firefighters, and E.M.T.s) only have to spray the medication through someone’s nostrils for it to take effect. This greatly minimizes an overdose victim’s likelihood of brain damage which begins four to six minutes after the lack of oxygen.

Although there is unfortunately no close end to this proliferating issue, the efforts of law enforcement agencies, the government, and our justice system are working diligently to contain Staten Island’s drug epidemic.

What is Bail?

Once you get arrested you are taken to jail where the booking process officially begins. This is the infamous part after an arrest in which you “enter the system.” Essentially, this means that an officer takes down all of your personal information including your date of birth and your sex; they collect information about all of your physical characteristics, such as piercings, tattoos, birth marks, height, weight, race, and so on, the officer inputs information about the alleged crime, and takes your mug shot as well as fingerprints. After this you enter the second phase in which you get arraigned. At this point you stand before the judge as he or she discusses the terms of your release—if any. You can be released on your own recognizance (ROR) and trusted to return for your future court date depending on the seriousness of the offense, the nature of your criminal record, the degree of threat that your release may pose on the public, and finally, how strong your ties to the community are, which minimize your risk to flee. You may also be released on conditional terms, which usually carry stipulations that may include doing community service and/or not getting in trouble again with the law for x-amount of time. If you abide by their conditions, your charges will most likely be dropped.

In many cases, however, the judge may not decide to let you leave so freely. If the judge feels as though the likelihood of you appearing in court is not as strong as he or she would like, they may seek a financial guarantee that will more likely secure the possibility of your return—commonly known as bail. Bail is defined as “a process by which you pay a set amount of money to obtain your release from police custody,” (FindLaw, 2015). If the alleged criminal shows up to their scheduled court hearing and follows through until the final disposition, their bail money will be returned. However, if one misses their court date, the bail money is essentially forfeited.

Although the process of bail proceedings vary between courts, the general process is one on which a hearing is held and the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney discuss whether or not they want to grant bail and how high/low is appropriate to set it at. During this hearing the court considers a variety of different aspects including the status of your physical and mental health, your financial resources, your family/community ties, any knowledge of a drug or alcohol problem, any criminal history, and the length of which you have been residing within your current community. Many times if a judge is originally planning on setting a higher bail, he may change his mind once he sees an alleged criminal’s family sitting in the court’s pews, or other mitigating factors.

Once bail is set and you are released, this does not necessarily mean that you are free. In many circumstances the court can impose a number of restrictions and conditions on your release. They prevent you from any possible travels; they may seize your guns and/or revoke your gun license, enforce a curfew by which you must adhere to, require drug, alcohol, medical, or psychological treatment, and so on.

Hypothetically speaking bail is set at $100,000 but you nor your family have this readily available in liquid cash, there is another way to go about getting released. If you have property that equals or surpasses the value of bail, you can contract a commercial bail bond agent that will pay it for you. Typically, a bond agent seeks anywhere from a 10 to 20 percent commission of the total bail and in return promises to pay the court the remaining amount if you fail to make it to your scheduled court date.