Bail allows a defendant to be released from custody with security posted for the appearance of the defendant. Often, a bondsman will act as a surety for the release of the defendant in exchange for a percentage of the cost of the bail set. Many bail bondsmen will offer a reduced fee to defendants who are represented by a private attorney. Bail is a matter of right under the California Constitution unless the offense is punishable by death or a public safety exception is established. The public safety exception usually applies to certain felonies and sex crimes. Before a defendant appears in court, bail may be posted according to the county’s bail schedule, although judges have the discretion to set any reasonable amount of bail.

The California Constitution grants judges the discretion to release defendants on their own recognizance. Defendants charged only with a misdemeanor are entitled to release on their own recognizance, unless it will compromise public safety or it is determined that, if released, the defendant is likely to not appear in court again.

Who should I call first, a bail bondsman or a lawyer?

Jail is uncomfortable, and you may feel like the first thing to do is get out and worry about contacting a lawyer later, but in the long-term it is almost always in your legal and financial interest to call your lawyer first.  Your lawyer’s job is to protect your rights.  Bail bondsmen make their living by lending people money to get out of jail.

Your lawyer may be able to get the judge to lower your bail considerably—like by more than 50% –the bail bondsman cannot do that and, since his fee is a portion of what he’s lending you (usually 10% of the total bail), getting your bail reduced is not in his interest.

When you call a lawyer from jail, as you discuss whether or not to work with him or her, ask him whether he or she thinks getting your bail reduced is likely.  Generally, to get your bail lowered you will have to stay in jail for a day or so while your lawyer talks to the judge.  If you can stick it out, it’s almost always to your benefit to call your lawyer first.

Defendants in criminal cases who are represented by an attorney will often benefit when their attorney has “bail reduction” or “own recognizance” experience. San Mateo criminal defense attorney Thomas Greenberg has successfully reduced bail or secured own recognizance (OR) releases on thousands of cases. Before hiring the services of a bail bondsman, call defense attorney Thomas Greenberg. You may be able to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by setting up a free consultation with defense lawyer Thomas Greenberg.