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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - How is a bond amount determined?

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - Brian Foley - Board Certified in Criminal Law

Bonds, also known as bail, are set in Houston, Texas according to Chapter 17 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. This chapter outlines the procedures for setting, collecting, and enforcing bonds for individuals who have been arrested and charged with a crime.

When an individual is arrested and charged with a crime, they will typically be taken to a jail or detention center for processing. During this process, a bail amount will be set by a judge or magistrate. The bail amount is determined based on the severity of the crime, the defendant's criminal history, and the likelihood of the defendant returning to court for their trial.

In Houston, bail amounts can be set using one of three methods: a bail schedule, a personal bond, or a secured bond. A bail schedule is a pre-determined list of bail amounts for specific crimes. This method is often used for low-level, non-violent offenses. A personal bond is when a defendant is released on their own recognizance and promises to return to court for their trial. This method is typically used for defendants who are considered low-risk and have strong ties to the community. A secured bond is when a defendant is required to pay a bail amount in order to be released from jail. This method is typically used for defendants who are considered a high-risk or flight risk.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure also allows for alternative forms of bail, such as electronic monitoring and pretrial services. These alternatives are often used for defendants who are considered low-risk and have strong ties to the community.

Once a bail amount has been set, the defendant has the option to pay the full amount in cash or to use the services of a bail bondsman. A bail bondsman is a professional who will post the bail amount on behalf of the defendant in exchange for a non-refundable fee, usually 10% of the total bail amount. The bail bondsman will also require collateral, such as property or a co-signer, to ensure that the defendant returns to court for their trial.

It is important to note that not all defendants are eligible for bail. In some cases, a judge may order that a defendant be held without bail, also known as being "held on no bond." This typically happens in cases where the defendant is considered a danger to the community or a flight risk.

Houston's Pretrial Services department plays an important role in the criminal justice system by providing information and recommendations to judges and magistrates regarding bond conditions for defendants. The department's mission is to ensure that defendants are released on the least restrictive conditions that will ensure their appearance at trial and protect public safety.

The Pretrial Services department conducts investigations and risk assessments on defendants who are being considered for release on bond. This includes gathering information about the defendant's criminal history, employment, family ties, and community support. The department also investigates any previous failures to appear in court and any other factors that may be relevant to the defendant's release on bond.

Based on the information gathered during the investigation, the Pretrial Services department makes recommendations to the judge or magistrate regarding the appropriate bond conditions for the defendant. These recommendations may include conditions such as electronic monitoring, drug testing, or community supervision. The department also monitors defendants who have been released on bond to ensure that they are complying with the conditions of their release.

One of the key functions of the Pretrial Services department is to provide judges and magistrates with the information they need to make informed decisions about bond conditions. By thoroughly investigating defendants and making recommendations based on the information gathered, the department helps to ensure that defendants are released on the least restrictive conditions possible while also protecting public safety.

According to Chapter 17 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, judges use several factors to set bond for defendants who have been arrested. These factors include:

  1. Assurance that the undertaking of bail will be complied with.

  2. Avoiding the use of bail as an instrument of oppression.

  3. The nature and circumstances of the offense committed, including whether it involves violence or is directed against a peace officer.

  4. The defendant's ability to make bail.

  5. Future safety of victims, law enforcement, and the community.

  6. The defendant's criminal history record, including any acts of family violence, pending criminal charges, and previous failures to appear in court.

  7. The defendant's citizenship status.

The judges must consider these factors and regulate the amount of bail and any conditions of bail in accordance with the constitution, the rules and the articles 17.20, 17.21, and 17.22


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