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Criminal Justice System: Bail, Arrests, Jail

Bail describes the release of a criminal offender after an arrest prior to the end of the criminal case. A bond typically involves the defendant or someone on the defendant’s behalf paying the amount granted to the court. The money guarantees that the defendant returns to court for the remainder of the process. Bail is not a punishment given prior to an individual guilty of any crime. It is a way to ensure that the offender is to return to court without having to be brought into custody.

Bail plays a significant role in the criminal justice system. It serves the purpose of ensuring there is enough space in jail for more severe cases. Bail also ensures that the defendant will return to court. Individuals on bail can be released at any time during their legal process.

In reality, anytime an individual is arrested, there will be three possible outcomes which are the offender being released, the arrestee is charged and released on bail, or the offender is charged and remains in custody until their case has ended.


When police arrest suspects, they are physically detained and brought into custody. Typically, individuals under arrest are placed into a police vehicle and then transported to jail or criminal facility for the administrative process known as “booking.” Sometimes the police will release the offender without filing charges, but if charges are filed, the defendant will have remain in custody until released on bail. Other factors involve a court’s judgment or until the case is resolved.


As stated before, the booking or administrative process is the stage that follows an arrest. During this part of your legal process, the police perform a series of tasks. These tasks involve recording personal information such as entering their name, date of birth, age, taking fingerprints, and retrieving any physical possessions the defendant may have, placing them into storage. The authorities also search for any warrants, performing a health evaluation, and finally place you in a holding area.

Pre-trial Release

Following the defendant’s arrest and booking, one of three things will happen. First, the police can

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release the detainee with a written notice to appear in court. Secondly, the authorities can release the defendant only after they pay the bail amount. Thirdly, the law enforcement can keep the defendant in custody until a court holds a bail hearing.

State law decides which of the three options applies to the given situation. In reality, arrests for low-level crimes, such as public intoxication or shoplifting will more often lead to the defendant being released with a notice to appear. More severe offenses, such as assault or other violent crimes, will result in the offender remaining in custody until a court can hold a bail hearing.

Bail Schedules

These are typically lists of the bail amount that applies to individual crimes in any jurisdiction. For instance, a sate’s bail schedule may set bail for the crime off disorderly conduct at $1,000 or a set $5,000 bond for burglary or robbery.

States laws decipher not only what bail amounts are appropriate for each crime. They also decide whether police can release a defendant without requiring bail. Additionally, they determine whether or not defendants are allowed to post bond following the booking or if they must wait for a bail hearing. States also grant judges with the jurisdiction over increasing or decreasing bail when the court deems it appropriate.

Bail Conditions

Not only do courts determine a bail amount that defendant must pay to be released. They also impose additional limitations or restrictions on offenders when determining bail. These particular restrictions are similar to those placed upon probationers. Violating terms can result in being taken into custody and your bail being surrendered.

Sentence Bail

In many cases, bail is a possible option even after a person has been convicted or sentenced for a crime. Usually, once a court issues a jail or prison sentence, the defendant must begin serving their sentence immediately. For instance, if a judge sentences someone to five years in prison, the court officer or bailiff will take the accused into custody and transfer them to a detention center where they will begin serving their sentence.

Although courts can allow criminal offenders to be released on bail after a conviction or sentencing if the defendant files an appeal. If a court sentences an offender to five years in prison but the accused files an appeal of the conviction, the sentencing court may grant that defendant and permit them to remain out of custody until the appellate court has looked over the appeal.

Bail Payment Procedures

Every single jurisdiction has its own policies on how bail is determined and who can and cannot be released. Each jurisdiction also has its way of how bail payments must be made. Usually, the payment process requires the individual to travel to a specific location such as the courthouse or jail. The cashier or clerk at the location is responsible for receiving bail payments. Upon the payer’s visit, they must provide the clerk with specific information such as the name of the defendant, the case number, and the bail amount to be paid. The payer is then required to pay the appropriate bail amount.

Once the clerk’s office has received the bond payment, the corrections officials who have the defendant in custody will release the defendant from jail. In some cases, the bail release happens almost immediately because most likely, the clerk is located in the same facility as the jail. In other situations, it may take several hours or more for the offender to be released.

Bail payments must be made in cash or with some ofter form of approved payment. All of the following methods are accepted: debit/credit card, cashier’s check, traveler’s checks, or money orders. Accepted payment amounts vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Harris County, TX Bail Bonds

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Harris County, TX Fun Facts

  1. A monumental case, Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil, Co., was held in the Harris County Courthouse. This had the most significant civil award in history: $10.35 billion from Texaco.
  2. The original mosaic tiles still line the floors in the courthouse.
  3. During the most recent renovations, a large stone that had been covered in dirt and vines was uncovered, only to discover that it was the original cornerstone from 1883.
  4. For more fun facts on Harris County, TX, search here.