Oklahoma DUI Bail & Bond Issues
WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?
Bail and bond issues
In the end, we will not remember
the words of our enemies,
But the silence of our friends.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
In Oklahoma, the right to bail is guaranteed by the Oklahoma Constitution. However, the Constitution doesn’t say how much bail should be set at. In certain circumstances, bail can be denied altogether.
Article Two, Section 8 of the Oklahoma Constitution states that all persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties. However, this same section outlines certain circumstances where bail may be denied. These circumstances include capital cases where the proof of guilt or presumption of guilt is evident (the presumption of innocence doesn’t apply here), violent offenses, felony offenses where the person has been convicted of two or more felony offenses arising from different transactions, and cases involving controlled dangerous substances where the maximum punishment is at least ten years. The presumption of guilt must be evident and great in all of these cases and there must be grounds that there are no conditions of release that would assure the safety of the community or any person.
The denial of bail is not usually an issue in DUI cases unless an accident is involved resulting in a death or a person charged with DUI continues to be arrested for new DUI charges while other charges are pending. In these situations, bail is still possible but the attorney must be able to present a plan to the court that guarantees the safety of the community. Usually, it will involve treatment and monitoring by either an ankle monitor, SCRAM, ignition interlock device, and/or pre-trial release programs.
A police officer may arrest a person without a warrant for crimes committed in his presence. In the alternative, an officer may arrest a person when there has been a warrant issued for the person’s arrest. If a warrant has been issued, the issuing judge sets a bond amount when signing the warrant. In DUI cases, the arrest is usually the result of the officer witnessing the alleged crime occurring.
In these cases, a judge is usually not immediately available to set bond. As such, most counties have a set bond schedule they use. Thus, bond is set according to what charges the police officer thinks is appropriate. The usual amount for a misdemeanor District Court DUI is $1000. If you have more than one charge, there will be additional bond required for each charge.
In the municipal courts, the amount of the bond is generally the amount of the maximum fine and court costs allowed under their municipal code. Each charge against a person will have a separate bond amount. The bond may be posted in cash or by retaining a bondsman to post the bond amount.
If the bond is posted in cash, this money is not lost as long as the defendant appears for his court appearances. At the end of the case, the cash bond is returned to the person posting the bond. However, some courts will apply the cash bond towards payment of any court costs or fines assessed against you.
Although they will take the fines and costs out of the bond regardless of who posted the cash bond, the court clerk will only return the remainder of the cash bond to the person posting the bond. Be sure to keep your cash bond receipt until the case is closed and to know whose name is on the bond.
If a bondsman is retained, they will charge a premium of ten to twenty percent of the amount of the bond plus any bond posting fees charged by the jail. For example, if the bond is $1000, a bondsman will charge usually in the range of $150 to $225 which includes his percentage plus jail fees. The bondsman’s percentage will depend on the amount of risk involved in writing the bond. This percentage is the fee or retainer that is paid to the bondsman who then posts the full amount of the bond and is not refundable. The person paying the bondsman is paying him to place a guarantee with the court that the bondsmen will pay the full amount of the bond if you don’t appear in court.
Most bonding companies will want a guarantee from the person posting the bond that you will appear. This assurance is usually in the form of a cosigner on the bond or posting collateral. Any cosigners are responsible to the bondsman for the amount of the bond if you don’t appear in court and the bond forfeited.
Almost all of the bonding contracts limit the length of the bond to one year. If the case is not resolved within the year, the bondsman will want a renewal fee paid. The longer the case takes, the longer the bondsman’s capital is tied up resulting in a decreased ability for the bondman to post new bonds. All bonding companies will have certain requirements pertaining to how often and in what form you must stay in contact with the bonding company.
In cases where the person has posted bond based on the charges the officer arrested you for, the bond amount may increase or decrease when charges are filed by the prosecutor’s office. The police officers are not attorneys and do not prosecute cases. As such, they will often either add too many charges or undercharge the defendant. After the arrest, the officer will complete his report and will forward that report to the prosecutor’s office where a prosecuting attorney will make a decision as to the appropriate charges based upon the evidence presented to him.
The prosecutor may decide not to charge the left of center ticket that was the probable cause for the DUI stop which will result in the bond decreasing. The prosecutor may find a prior charge making the case a felony resulting in the bond increasing. Rarely, but occasionally, the prosecutor will decline the charge and thus, the bond previously posted is exonerated. If the bond increases, the bondsman will require an additional proportionate fee be posted. If the bond decreases or is exonerated, you will not get a refund because the bondsman had to post the full amount to get you out of jail that night.
Be aware that every court and jurisdiction will have different rules and procedures concerning bonds. Some jurisdictions will “O.R.” a person charged with DUI after 24-72 hours. O.R. means the person is released on his own recognizance. If he fails to appear, he can be charged with further crimes for not appearing. One municipality requires that the surety bond posted by the bondsman be replaced with a cash bond before the case can proceed. Some municipalities allow local bar members to sign for an O.R. bond for their clients.
In serious cases where the bond can be thousands of dollars, an attorney may be able to get the bond reduced depending on the facts of the case. This reduction in bond can be achieved by agreement with the prosecutor or lowered by a judge in certain circumstances. The issues the judge and/or prosecutor will look at are the risk to the community, the defendant’s ties to the community (i.e. owns home, employed, family in community, etc.), risk of flight, the facts and seriousness of the alleged crime and possible punishment.