Bail has been set on a Loved One….What Should You Do?

Bail has been set on a Loved One….What Should You Do?

If a loved one has been taken into custody and bail is set by the judge, it is imperative that you know your options. The more you know, the quicker you will be able to get your loved one released. 

What is Bail? 

Bail is the money a defendant must pay to be released from jail once they are in custody. Bail essentially functions as collateral in ensuring a defendant returns to court for each court date for the remainder of his/her criminal case. 

How Can Bail be Paid? 

If a judge sets Cash Bail, several forms of payment can be used: cash, a cashier’s check, a money order up to $1000 (you can, however, pay with multiple money orders) and, in certain circumstances, a credit card.  

If you are paying with cash, you must pay the exact amount of the bail that is set by the judge.  In addition, once the bail is set, the person paying bail can pay it in the courthouse immediately following the arraignment. The court staff should be made aware that bail is being paid at the courthouse to try to avoid the defendant from being taken to jail. 

If you are unable to pay the cash bail immediately, you can pay bail in person, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at select Department of Correction facilities, regardless of where the defendant is being held. 

Can Bail be Paid by Credit Card? 

Bail can be paid via credit card if the judge setting bail explicitly states on the record that bail can be paid by credit card. If credit card payment is allowed, it can be used to pay bail in person or, as long as certain conditions are met, online.  

Can Bail Be Paid Online? 

The quick answer is “yes”, but there are conditions: 

  1. The judge must state on the record that bail is payable by credit card; 2. There can be no surety conditions placed by the judge requiring proof that the bail came from a legitimate source; and
  2. The defendant’s bail information must be logged into the Department of Corrections online system before the credit card information can be accepted.

Once the above conditions are met, bail can be paid from any computer or phone. While it’s possible to pay online while a defendant is still at the courthouse, you must

keep in mind that the logging in of information to the DOC system can take some time. Therefore, it is not unusal that a defendant will be sent to a facility before payment is processed.  

Assuming Conditions Have Been Met, How Do You Pay Bail Online? 

  1. Go to the DOC’s online inmate lookup portal. Search by the inmate’s first and last name, their New York State Identification Number, or their book and case number. 2. Once their inmate details page is shown, if they are eligible for online bail payment, the “Pay Bail” button at the bottom of the page will be blue, allowing you to access the online payment portal. (If the “Pay Bail” button is gray, the inmate is not eligible for online bail payment)
  2. Assuming it is blue, enter your name, billing address, personal information and payment information in order to make the bail payment. You may use multiple credit cards from multiple people to pay the full amount. Keep in mind, however, that all payments must be paid within 24 hours of the first transaction.

Several things to keep in mind when paying online: 

First, there is a two percent fee for processing credit card payments. In addition, personal checks cannot be used to pay bail. 

An important disclaimer: if the person you are paying bail for has a warrant, a hold, or an additional case, they may not be released until those additional issues are addressed and resolved. Before you authorize payment, you will be asked to indicate whether you want your payment to be processed even if the person is found to have a condition that prevents their release. DOC will conduct a check for these conditions after you have authorized your payment. 

Remember: if the person you paid bail for does not attend their required court appearances, the bail may be forfeited. 

What happens if you can’t afford the bail? 

It is not uncommon that loved ones find themselves in the stressful position of not being able to afford the entire bail amount. That is where bail bond companies may be the best option.  

With a bail bondsman, the company signs a contract, called a surety, in which it agrees to be liable for the full bail amount if a defendant fails to appear in court. 

In New York, a bail bondsman can charge a maximum of 10 percent of the bail amount as a premium and that amount is not refundable. 

Keep in mind, if you choose to use a bail bond company, make sure they are reputable.

What Is a Partially Secured or Unsecured Bond? 

A partially secured bond is a bond that requires some payment to be made upfront in order for the individual to be released. Once a judge signs off on a partially secured bond, you pay the amount. The partially secured bond is 100% refundable as long as the defendant returns to court as required. 

An unsecured bond does not require any money to be paid up front. The person simply promises to pay the amount indicated on the bond if the defendant fails to return to court. 

For both a partially secured and an unsecured bond, you will need obligors to sign off on the bond. Paperwork is required and you must swear before a judge that the information you provide is true. 

What happens to the money I paid once the case is finished? 

Once the criminal case is completed, you have the right to a refund of your cash bail. This refund exists even if the defendant was convicted of a crime. This is of course assuming the defendant has returned to court as required throughout the judicial process. The refund is usually mailed to the original address you provided when you paid the bail and should take about 8 weeks.  

If you have not received your money back, you can reach out to the Department of Finance at 212-908-7619. 

What happens to the money if the defendant fails to return to court? 

If a defendant fails to appear in court or otherwise violates the terms of their release, they may forfeit the amount of bail paid. If the defendant posted bond, which is money posted on their behalf, often by a bail bond company, the company then forfeits the money

If you or a loved one is in need of a criminal defense attorney, or has questions regarding the New York criminal justice system, feel free to call the Law Offices of Julie Rendelman at 212- 951-1232.