I’m in Jail. How do I get out?
You will need to bond out to be released from the jail. There are five types of bonds all set by a State District Court Judge, and in St. Tammany, the elected Judges employ one Magistrate Judge who can also set your bond. The five bonds are, as follows:
- A "Personal Recognizance" or "PR" Bond, that is a bond in which one of the elected Judges of the 22nd Judicial District Court or the Magistrate employed by those Judges releases you without your posting any money, property or security. These are not very common since the Judge or Magistrate must consider the severity of the charge and your criminal history to allow you to avoid posting or paying a bond. Bonds for misdemeanors are now pre-set by the Judges and those bond amounts are not ordinarily altered absent unusual circumstances. Bonds for felonies are set by a Judge or the Magistrate after a thorough review of the charges against you and your prior criminal record. It will ordinarily take an experienced criminal defense attorney to advocate with a Judge or the Magistrate to release you on this type of bond. You will be required to promise or give your word to appear in Court on the date and time assigned for your arraignment;
- A Personal Surety or “Signature” Bond is one in which a Judge or the Magistrate can order that you be released on the signature of a person of suitable age and discretion who essentially signs a guarantee or form of promissory note that if you do not appear in Court on the date and time that you are set to do so (per notice given to you when you are released from jail), that this person will pay the cash or property equivalent of that bond. The person signing that bond must also pay a $30 fee to the St. Tammany Parish Jail to process that signature bond and must attest that they have sufficient cash or property to pay that bond if you fail to appear in Court as promised. A Signature Bond also avoids the cost of paying a commercial bond company to post your bail as will be discussed below. Again, an experienced criminal defense attorney can contact a Judge or the Magistrate to immediately advocate for your release on a Signature Bond;
- A Cash Bond is one in which a Judge or the Magistrate set the amount for you to bond out of jail. While, as will be discussed below, you are entitled to a hearing within 72 hours of your arrest to know the criminal charge(s) against you and for a Judge or the Magistrate to consider whether you are bond eligible and the amount of the bond, it is very likely that you can have a Judge or the Magistrate set your bond before the 72 hour hearing. Again, an experienced criminal defense attorney can communicate with a Judge or the Magistrate to discuss an early setting of the bond, if a bond setting has not already taken place. You do not need to hire a commercial bondsman to post this bond and thus pay a premium to that bondsman for posting your bond; rather, you can deposit the entire cash amount at the jail to get released;
- A Commercial Surety Bond is one in which a commercially licensed bond company, which is regulated by the Louisiana Department of Insurance, posts the bond. If you do not have the ability yourself to post the bond or the full amount of the bond set by a Judge or the Magistrate, you can enter into a contract with a bondsman who will receive 12% of the amount of the bond as a non-refundable commission or premium in return for his posting the entire or the balance of the amount of the bond needed for your release. Routinely, the bondsman will require a co-signor on the bond to best ensure that you will appear in Court on the date and time you are first set to appear after you leave jail; and
- A Property Bond, the final type of bond, is one in which you or someone on your behalf posts a piece of improved or unimproved land to cover the cost of the bail amount. The land must be located in the State of Louisiana, and the Court will place a mortgage on that property after reviewing the title and ensuring that the property has enough value to pay the bond if forfeited.
Seeking the Earliest Possible Release
If you are arrested, and seek the earliest possible release from jail, you have the option of contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney to make inquiry with a Judge or the Magistrate of the type of bond that can be issued and the amount of the bond, if any. Otherwise, in most cases, the Magistrate will set the bond without the necessity of an attorney intervening in the process. If the bond is not set, the 72 hour hearing will determine whether a bond shall be set and, if so, the type of bond to be issued and the amount of that bond. As mentioned, in misdemeanor cases the bond is pre-set absent unusual circumstances and you can choose to explore whether a Judge or the Magistrate will issue a PR or Signature Bond to avoid your posting the full amount of the Bond in cash or property or paying a premium to a commercial bondsman. The more serious the criminal charge against you, the more likely it will be that the bond setting will take longer before your release from jail. If you are charged with driving under the influence or DUI, you will be required to stay in jail a minimum of 8 hours under law to ensure that you are no longer under the influence or impaired before your release.
If you fail to appear in Court on the date and time set for your arraignment or any subsequent hearing you promise to attend, the Judge will immediately issue a warrant for your arrest or a bench warrant and the bond will be forfeited. If you are afterwards picked up by law enforcement, you will go straight to jail and you are not likely able to get out of jail again until a decision is made by the District Attorney not to prosecute you, or until your trial and/or sentencing if you plea to a charge or are found guilty of a crime at trial. The bond posted will be collected from the one posting it and, if the bond is issued by a commercial bondsman, the bondsman and the co-signor on the bond will be required to pay the remainder of the bond. By law, there are only 180 days to seek reimbursement of the bond once paid.