When you are arrested for a crime, it is easy to assume that you will have to sit in jail until your court appearance. In fact, many judges allow defendants to post bail and secure their release from police custody.
However, when the bail amount is more than you can afford, you wonder how long do you stay in jail if you can’t make bail. The length of your stay in custody will depend on a variety of factors, some of which are beyond your ability to control.
What Happens When You Cannot Post Bail?
The question of how long do you stay in jail if you can’t make bail depends on the circumstances of your criminal case. In most cases, defendants are given the opportunity to post bail in order to get out of police custody faster. Judges typically set bail amounts in the hundreds or thousands of dollars to compel defendants to comply with the requirements of their future court dates.
Because bail amounts are so high, many people in jail simply cannot afford to pay them. When they cannot pay their own bail, they have no choice but to remain in police custody until their next court appearance.
The amount of time that someone spends in jail can be quite lengthy depending on the type of crime of which he or she has been accused. It is not uncommon for even misdemeanor defendants to languish in jail for a week or more before they appear before the judge for their trial or sentencing.
Rather than spend this amount of time in jail, many people want to do everything possible to raise their bail and secure their release. They prefer to go home to their families and be an active part of their criminal defenses rather than sit behind bars and have limited contact with their lawyer and loved ones.
Factors that Determine Your Length of Time in Jail
The amount of time that you wait behind bars if you cannot post your own bail will depend on a variety of factors. Perhaps the foremost involves the type of crime for which you have been arrested.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor like driving under the influence or shoplifting, you more than likely will remain in jail for up to a week before you appear before the judge. During your court appearance, you then will find out if you will be sentenced to a longer jail sentence or be released to pay a fine, serve probation or perform community service.
However, if you are charged with a felony like murder, rape, burglary or another serious crime, you likely will spend a significantly longer period of time behind bars. You could sit in jail for months or even up to a year while evidence is gathered, witnesses are interviewed and your court makes its way through the court docket.
If the jail is at full capacity, you could spend less time in custody. Overcrowding is a significant reason for why some defendants are released and allowed back into the community prior to their court dates.
If the jail that you are booked into is at its maximum capacity, you could have your bail lowered to make it more affordable for you to pay. If you are charged with a non-violent offense like shoplifting or fraud, you could even be released on your own recognizance.
Your criminal defense lawyer will also be crucial to the amount of time that you wait behind bars. Your attorney will engage in negotiations with the prosecution to work out a plea deal or have the charges lowered or dropped. The amount of time that it takes for the prosecutor and your lawyer to work out a deal or agree to go to trial will influence the time that you have to wait in jail if you cannot post your own bail.
Getting Out of Jail Faster
Even if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you may not want to spend any time in jail if possible. You want to use every opportunity to raise and pay your bail so that you can go home.
If your offense is non-violent or a misdemeanor, you could ask the judge to release you own your own recognizance or ROR. You could be eligible for ROR, otherwise known as a signature bond if you:
- Have no prior criminal history or arrest record
- Are gainfully employed
- Have ties to the community
- Own a house titled in your name
- Have a good credit score
If you cannot be released on a signature bond, you could use some sort of collateral to secure your bail. The court will allow you to sign over possession of a liquid asset that is worth the same amount as your bail. Examples of liquid assets that you can sign over to the court include:
- Recreational vehicles like a motorcycle
- Investments like stocks or bonds
- Real estate like your home or a plot of land
You also have the option of asking a friend or relative to front the bail money for you. While it may not be ideal to borrow the cash from someone that you have a close relationship with, it allows you to bail yourself out of jail and go home before your court appearance.
Your last option would be to contact a bail bondsman to arrange for a bail bond to be paid for your release. The bail bondsman will post 10 percent of your bail to get you out of jail.
You have to secure that 10 percent as well as the rest of your bail amount with collateral like your paycheck, a car or your home. If you do not show up to your next court appearance, you forfeit the collateral so that the rest of your bail can be paid to the court.
Many arraignment judges will offer defendants the opportunity to post bail to secure their release from police custody. Even so, some people cannot afford to pay this amount of money. The amount of time that you spend behind bars if you cannot post your own bail will depend factors like the charges against you, your prior criminal history and other factors.