Now you can pay bail online

Now you can pay bail online

Traditionally, the only way to post bail for someone in New York City was to make the payment in person at one of the jails or courts. A fax message was then sent to the facility holding the person to indicate that their bail was posted and they were free to go.

The system’s flaws became glaringly evident in mid-April when a broken fax machine forced inmates to remain behind bars, even though friends and family had posted bail. Now, bail set at $2,500 or less can be paid online with a credit or debit card.

Who is eligible for online bail?

Even if an arrestee’s bail does not exceed $2,500, some conditions and limitations can affect their eligibility. They include:

  • A judge has to set credit cards as an approved form of bail payment for the person in question
  • There can be no surety conditions that apply to the person’s case, such as a surety interview
  • There can be no warrants or additional holds on the person
  • The jail must have finished processing the person and entered them into the Inmate Lookup Service

The latter condition is the biggest drawback to the online bail system, as it can take hours for an inmate to appear in the system. It is technically more expedient to pay the bail to the courthouse cashier if you attend the arraignment, but for those who are unable to make it to court, online bail is a huge improvement over the old system.

How to pay someone’s bail online

After a defendant has been entered into the Inmate Lookup Service with an assigned housing facility, their bail can be paid using any Internet-enabled device. Simply enter their first and last name, Book and Case Number, or NYSID. Once their record appears, it will indicate whether they are eligible for online bail payment. If they are, then the “Pay Bail” button will be blue. If they have not been entered into the system yet or are ineligible to be bailed out online, it will be gray.

If the button is blue, then click on it to access the online payment portal. As the surety, you will need to enter your personal information and relationship to the inmate as well as your credit or debit card details. One significant advantage of the new system is that different cards can be used to pay the required amount, so multiple friends or family members can work together to bail a loved one out, although the full amount must be paid within 24 hours after the first installment goes through.

After making the payment, the Department of Corrections will run a check to confirm that there are no restrictions that prevent the detainee from being released after bail has been paid. You will receive an email confirming whether the payment was approved and whether your friend or family member is cleared for discharge.

Online bail refunds

Approximately eight weeks after the arrestee’s case has been resolved, the Department of Finance will refund you the bail amount, less the initial transaction fee of 2.49%. Bear in mind that if the person you bailed out does not abide by the terms of their release, the amount you paid may be forfeited.

The NYS Office of Court Administration set the current payment cap, although the mayor’s office has indicated that it hopes to raise the limit by the end of this year. A spokesman confirmed that last year, one-third of all pre-trial detainees had their bail set at $2,500 or less.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, then it is critical to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney. Julie Rendelman has over 20 years of legal experience and offers free consultations. She is familiar with the latest developments in New York and federal criminal law and fights to protect the rights of all of her clients. Call 212-951-1232 to reach Ms. Rendelman’s office.