Jail Release on Personal Bond in Austin, Texas

helpIf someone you care about was arrested for assault or a related offense in Travis County, call The Pace Law Firm, P.C., at (512) 480-9020 to discuss jail release on personal bond. Our phone is answered 24 hours a day.

Most people arrested in Travis County are first taken to the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center at 509 West 11th Street in downtown Austin. This facility has at least one magistrate judge available 24/7 to discuss recent arrests with criminal defense attorneys. Our firm has a proven record of getting personal bonds signed by the jail magistrate at all hours of the day and night, even on weekends and holidays.

NOTE: We defend people charged with assault in Williamson County, but this article describes the emergency jail release process in Travis County only.  Williamson County does not have a 24×7 personal bond system. For jail release in Williamson County, we recommend calling Freedom Bail Bonds in Georgetown.

This page contains general answers to common questions about how jail release on personal bond operates in Travis County, Texas. This page does NOT contain information about federal cases or jail release in Williamson County.

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What is personal bond?

keys-to-freedomPersonal Recognizance Bond, aka “personal bond” is an agreement that allows a person who’s been arrested and charged with a criminal offense to be released without posting bail. In exchange for pretrial release, the person promises to abide by a set of conditions designed to ensure that he stays out of trouble and attends all required court dates.

Travis County does not collect any money at the time of release but charges a $40 personal bond fee, which is due within 7 days.

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What do you charge to help someone get personal bond?

When we are hired to defend someone against a criminal charge, we do not charge an additional fee to seek personal bond for our client, even if that means going downtown to Central Booking in the middle of the night or on the weekend. The amount of our fee for handling the criminal case primarily depends on the level of the alleged offense(s).

We do not offer jail release as a stand-alone service but, unlike a bail bonding company’s fee, the money paid to us when we’re hired for jail release is applied to the attorney fee for handling the criminal case.

You can call us 24 hours a day / 7 days a week at (512) 480-9020 if someone you care about was just arrested in Travis County, Texas, and you need a criminal defense attorney to help get him or her out of jail.

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What is the role of Pretrial Services?

When a person is arrested in Travis County, he is usually taken to Central Booking at the Blackwell/Thurman Criminal Justice Center in downtown Austin. While there, most defendants are interviewed by Pretrial Services to determine whether they qualify for automatic release on personal bond.

checklistQualifying for personal bond depends on many factors, such as the nature of the allegations, prior criminal history, personal references, employment references, and having a stable local address. During the screening process, a case worker may call the defendant’s references and any alleged victims before making a recommendation about whether personal bond should be granted automatically.

TIP: If you want to increase the chance that someone you care about will be released on personal bond, you should answer any calls from numbers starting with (512) 854-XXXX … regardless of the last 4 digits.

You may be able to determine if someone has already been recommended for personal bond by calling Pretrial Services directly at (512) 854-9381. There is sometimes a significant delay between the time personal bond is granted and the defendant is actually released from custody.

TIP: If the alleged victim in an assault case supports the defendant’s release on person bond, he or she should visit Pretrial Services investigation office in person and complete the seven-question form.

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Who decides if personal bond will be granted?

gavelPretrial Services makes a recommendation about whether personal bond should be granted automatically but a judge makes the ultimate decision about whether to grant personal bond. It is also up to a judge to determine the amount of bail, the conditions of bond, and which types of bond are acceptable in a specific case.

In Travis County, magistrate judges make the initial decision about personal bond in most new cases that have not yet been officially assigned to a specific court.

The law does not allow magistrate judges to grant personal bond to a person charged with certain higher-level felonies. In those cases, person bond can only be approved by the judge of the court in which the case is pending. There are other circumstances where the magistrates may be unwilling to authorize personal bond, even for a defendant that might otherwise qualify.

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What factors are considered in the decision?

burning-questionFirst and foremost, the judge or magistrate judge must believe that, if released, the defendant is likely to stay out of trouble and attend all required court dates. In making that determination, the magistrate will primarily consider the allegations described by the arresting officer and information gathered by Pretrial Services while screening the case.

Without any additional information, the magistrate will usually follow the recommendation made by Pretrial Services. If personal bond is initially denied, a defendant’s attorney may present additional information and request reconsideration.

The act of hiring a lawyer demonstrates that the defendant is taking the case seriously and is more likely to attend court when required. Pretrial Services occasionally changes its position and recommends personal bond simply because an attorney is hired. In many cases, having a lawyer advocate for personal bond also increases the chance that a magistrate will agree to grant personal bond even if Pretrial Services does not recommend it.

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Who are the magistrate judges?

City of Austin municipal court judges serve as magistrate judges for Travis County in the basement of the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center in downtown Austin.

There is normally a magistrate on duty 24 hours a day for judicial operations like advising defendants of their rights, signing warrants, and considering personal bonds. They are not, however, the judges that will ultimately preside over a defendant’s criminal case. Most cases will ultimately be assigned to an elected state judge in either a criminal district court or county court at law.

There are also magistrate judges in federal court but this FAQ page discusses only state criminal courts in Travis County, Texas.

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How can an attorney expedite the personal bond process?

timeGetting out of jail on personal bond involves a lot of red tape, with paperwork that generally moves from law enforcement, to the magistrate judges, to Pretrial Services, back to the magistrate judges, back to Pretrial Services, then ultimately to the Travis County Sheriff’s office, which operates the jail. Communication and coordination between these groups frequently operates at sub-optimal efficiency. Even when Pretrial Services recommends a person for personal bond, having a criminal defense attorney walk the application through the bureaucratic process can sometimes shave hours off the time it takes for a bond to be processed.

When a defense attorney approaches a magistrate judge to request personal bond for her client, the case is often moved to the front of the line. If the defendant’s application for personal bond has hit a snag due to incorrect or incomplete information, an attorney may be able to find the missing details and correct the problem, thereby keeping the process moving. There are also certain formal steps, like the magistrate advising the defendant of his rights, that a defense attorney can sometimes waive, thereby shortening the process.

Having an attorney expedite the personal bond process is a luxury in situations where Pretrial Services would have recommended a defendant for personal bond anyway. They evaluate 40,000 arrestees per year so the system does eventually work for many people in due course of time. The problem is that Pretrial Services does not proactively notify an arrestee or his loved ones if it recommends against personal bond or if the screening process hits a snag.

Most clients that we have represented for jail release feel strongly that even one extra hour in jail is too much and they appreciate any time saved. Their loved ones also appreciate knowing that they have done everything they can to help when we are actively working on a jail release.

Call 24/7 (512) 480-9020 for Jail Release in Travis County
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What happens if personal bond is not granted automatically?

jail-releaseIf personal bond is not recommended by Pretrial Services, an attorney may be able to determine which factors influenced the decision and request reconsideration, perhaps after taking corrective action.

For example, in a domestic assault case, we might discover that Pretrial Services recommended against personal bond because the duty officer was unable to contact the our client’s personal references and the judge was concerned that further violence might occur because the defendant and the alleged victim live together.

In this example, we might discuss these issues with our client and/or the client’s family to find a solution. Perhaps we can obtain alternative personal references, help the client identify alternate living arrangements that will satisfy the judge, and help the alleged victim make contact with Pretrial Services to communicate that he or she is not afraid of the defendant and wants him or her to be released. We can often bring helpful information back to Pretrial Services or the judge and ask them to reconsider personal bond.

If a case has not yet been assigned to a specific criminal court, an attorney may approach the magistrate on duty to ask him or her to reconsider granting personal bond. Once the case is assigned to a specific court, however, local rules require the attorney to first approach the presiding judge of that court. If that judge is unavailable, then the attorney may be able to approach another judge.

When the presiding judge of the assigned court simply won’t agree to an ordinary personal bond, an attorney may still be able to convince the judge to allow a “cash deposit bond,” which is essentially a secured personal bond.

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What is a cash deposit bond?

A cash deposit bond is a personal bond that is secured by a refundable deposit. Travis County is one of the only counties in Texas that allows defendants, through their attorneys, to put up a percentage of the bond amount in order to secure a personal bond when a judge is otherwise reluctant to grant it.piggy-bank

Like a surety bond, the amount of the required deposit is typically 10% of the total bond amount.  Unlike a surety bond, the money paid on a cash deposit bond is returned at the end of the case if the defendant attends all court appearances as required.  Cash deposit bonds are fairly uncommon, even with that financial incentive. Last year only about 1 in 200 arrests resulted in a cash deposit bond.

The only forms of payment the Bonding Desk accepts are cash, cashier’s checks, money orders, and checks drawn on attorney IOLTA trust accounts.

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What if neither personal bond nor cash deposit bond is an option?

Just under half of all arrests in Travis County result in personal bond. When personal bond is denied and a cash deposit bond isn’t feasible, the other common pre-trial jail release options are posting a cash bond and hiring a bail bonding company to post a surety bond.

There are other rare situations that allow pre-trial release after several months but those are primarily procedural safeguards designed to prevent potential government abuses like infinite detention without filing formal charges or holding defendants for longer terms than they could possibly be sentenced if found guilty at trial.

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What is a cash bond?

Paying the full amount of the bond at the Bonding Desk is known as posting a “cash bond.” The jail charges a small fee for posting a cash bond but it is trivial compared to a bail bondsman’s fee.

A cash bond is returned to the defendant at the end of the case so long cash-moneyas he attends all required court appearances. An advantage of posting a cash bond over obtaining personal bond is that additional bond conditions (beyond attending court and staying out of trouble) are not usually imposed on cash bonds.

The only forms of payment the Bonding Desk accepts are cash, cashier’s checks, money orders, and checks drawn on attorney IOLTA trust accounts. All payments must be made in the exact amount of the bond.

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What is a surety bond?

A surety bond is one that’s posted by a bail bondsman or a bail bonding company for a fee. For many people, this is the only viable option for pretrial release when personal bond is denied.

To post a surety bond, a bail bonding company typically charges a non-refundable fee of roughly 10% to 15% of the bond amount. This fee is analogous to interest on an expedited loan for the full the bond amount. Another way that a bail bond is similar to a bank loan is that co-signors and/or expensive collateral like real-estate may also be required. Some bonding companies even offer a discount to defendants that hire a lawyer quickly because it lowers the risk that the bond will be forfeited. So, as with a traditional loan, the reduced risk results in more favorable terms for the consumer.

Many bail bonding companies also require their clients to check in every week. Bail bonding companies are responsible for the full bond amount when defendants jump bail so they take their responsibility to keep track of their clients very seriously.

Those that can afford it sometimes choose a surety bond even when they qualify for personal bond to minimize the inconvenient conditions that are more often imposed on personal bonds. Some Travis County judges have recently broken with tradition and have begun adding these conditions to surety bonds as well.

I can help you determine if a surety bond is desirable or necessary. This is a service that I provide free of charge when I’m hired to defend someone against criminal charges.

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How long does it take to be released?

A defendant is usually released 2 to 6 hours after bond is posted but the wait can be as short as 45 minutes or as long as 12 hours or more when there are a lot of arrests during a shift, if the jail’s Release Desk is under-staffed, or if a condition must be met first, such as installation of an ankle monitor (see below.) An attorney may be able to expedite the process of getting a personal bond posted after an arrest but cannot speed up the processing that occurs after the bond is posted.

hourglass-timerIn family violence and stalking cases, the law allows release on bond to be delayed for a period of time to notify the alleged victim. Defendants in family violence cases may also be further detained for up to an additional 48 hours when the judge believes that violence may continue and the defendant was previously arrested for a related offense.

When the judge requires the defendant to be fitted with a GPS ankle monitor before leaving jail, release is delayed until the GPS device is installed and the GPS vendor is paid.

Other issues that commonly block, delay, or complicate a release are an active warrant from another jurisdiction, an ICE immigration hold, or a parole hold.

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What happens after the defendant is released?

The defendant may need a ride home upon release. Personal property like mobile phones, wallets, and purses are returned, but it is not unusual for phone batteries to be weak or discharged. Calling to arrange a ride might be difficult if the defendant does not happen to have spare change to operate the pay phone, so it is best to have someone at the jail waiting if possible, especially for those released during the night.

Before release, the defendant is also given instructions about appearing in court and the conditions of bond. The first court appearance date is often only a few days from the date of release.

Call 24/7 (512) 480-9020 for Jail Release in Travis County
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What are conditions of bond?

Conditions of bond are things that a defendant must do or refrain from doing to ensure that his or her bond is not revoked. Ordinary conditions of bond include:

  • Attending court when required.
  • Staying out of trouble.

Under some circumstances, additional conditions may be imposed, including:

  • Supervision and monitoring by Pretrial Services.
  • Drug or alcohol monitoring, e.g., Ignition Interlock or SCRAM bracelet.ankle-monitor
  • GPS monitoring with home curfew or confinement.
  • No-contact with the alleged victim.
  • Stay 200 yards away from the alleged victim and their home.  Note: This condition can amount to an eviction when the defendant and alleged victim live together.
  • Mandatory evaluation and counseling through the Travis County Counseling and Education Services, at your expense.

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What happens if I violate the conditions of personal bond?

shacklesIf you violate the conditions of your personal bond, then the court may revoke it. If your bond is revoked, an arrest warrant will be issued and you may not be unable to get another personal bond.

Defendants in Family Violence cases should pay special attention to the results of their TCCES evaluation. The BIPP classes are almost always recommended but they are not required as a condition of bond. Any other classes recommended by TCCES are required and failure to attend those classes will cause Pretrial Services to seek a bond revocation. Consult your attorney if you are not sure if any specific TCCES recommendation is a condition of your bond.

If your personal bond is revoked for failure to attend a required court appearance, then Travis County may also file a civil lawsuit against you for the amount of the bond. If you stop attending required court appearances in a felony case, then you may also be charged with bail jumping, which may make you ineligible for any type of pre-trial release.

Call 24/7 (512) 480-9020 for Jail Release in Travis County
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