Bail is the means by which the government ensures the accused’s appearance at trial while allowing the accused to be “at liberty” before trial.
In some jurisdictions, the amount of bail required is preset for certain types of arrests, and posting bail can be a quick and efficient procedure.
Otherwise, bail must be set by a magistrate, usually within 24 hours, again depending upon locale and availability of a magistrate.
Bail is posted when the accused deposits cash at the jail, a bail bondsman “bonds out” the accused, or the accused signs a “personal recognizance” bond (basically a promise to appear). At the time of release, the jail is supposed to inform the accused in writing of the accused’s “court date”.
A bail bondsman acts as a “surety”, kind of a co-signer, promising the accused will appear for court. The accused must pay a non-refundable fee to the bondsman. The bondsman may be held responsible for paying the full amount of the bail, if the accused fails to appear for court. The accused is also liable for the full amount.
The accused basically promises to appear in court until his case is final. Failing to appear for court is a crime in and of itself and will result in posted bail being forfeited and a new warrant issued for the accused.
Sometimes these warrants have a notation of “no bond”. A new bond, if any, will be set only after a hearing. The new bond will likely be much higher than the previous bond, given the person’s history of failing to appear for court as required.
Judges may require so-called “reasonable” conditions of bail prior to trial. Such conditions include requiring the accused to report to a probation department, pay a pretrial supervision fee, and undergo drug testing and evaluation. The accused is normally required to refrain from using illegal drugs, avoid the alleged victim, and maintain employment, among other conditions.
Faithfully appearing at court dates results in the return of cash bail at the end of the case, minus a handling fee authorized for the clerk which holds and dispenses the money.
*All answers are for people 21 years or older, do not involve enhancements, are not exclusive, and are limited to Texas.