Bail just means you get out of jail before the trial. To stay out, you need to obey what the judge or magistrate tells you to do.
If the magistrate, clerk, or judge does not grant bail, you must either (a) stay in jail until trial, or (b) get your attorney to appeal.
Bond refers to the amount of money you need to put up before you are released.
I was released on my “own recognizance.” What does that mean?
There are three main types of bond. From least expensive to most:
1. “Own recognizance.” If you are released on your “own recognizance” no money (bond) is required. This is also referred to as a “signature bond” – you just sign your name and promise to appear.
2. “Unsecured bond.” An unsecured bond means that you do not need to pay anything upfront. You don’t need a bail bondsman. You just promise to pay the bond amount to the court if you fail to appear.
3. “Secured bond.” If your bond must be secured, then you will usually have to (a) pay the entire bond in cash, or, (b) pay a bail bondsman 10% of the bond amount.
If you can pay the entire amount yourself, then the court will return your money after trial (after taking out any fines and court costs.) Sometimes property is allowed as collateral.
If you do not have enough cash for the bond, you can hire a bail bondsman. In Virginia, you will usually pay a 10% non-refundable fee for the bond. If the judge set your bond at $5,000, you pay the bondsman $500. You do not get this money back . . . but you do get out of jail before trial. The bondsman must then guarantee your appearance in court.
I was given bail but the magistrate said I cannot leave Virginia. Can he do that?
He sure can. The Code of Virginia allows a magistrate, clerk, or judge to limit your travel, where you live, and who you associate with.
The judge can also require that you (1) keep your job or, if unemployed, you look for work; (2) continue or start school; (3) obey a curfew; (4) refrain from excessive use of alcohol, or use of any illegal or non-prescribed drug; (5) submit to drug & alcohol testing including wearing a SCRAM bracelet; and (6) submit to monitoring by pretrial services which commonly requires alcohol and drug testing. See Virginia Code 19.2-123.
My son was denied bail. What can I do?
Appeal. Your son’s attorney can appeal a lower judicial officer’s decision to the next higher judicial officer. The steps “up the judicial ladder” are:
(1) magistrate, or clerk
(2) General District Court
(3) Circuit Court
(4) Court of Appeals
(5) Supreme Court of Virginia
As a practical matter in most DWI cases, if the Circuit Court judge denies bail your son will need to stay in jail until trial.
And, its not just the lack of bail that can be appealed. The bond amount and the conditions of bond may also be appealed.
On the other hand, the prosecutor may also appeal the bail, bond amount, or conditions of bond.
My recognizance papers say I cannot leave the Commonwealth of Virginia before trial. I have a business trip coming up. Can I get this changed?
Possibly. Your attorney can ask the judge to amend the bond conditions. Usually, this is done in general district court. If you have a bondsman, the bondsman will also have to agree since he is guaranteeing your appearance.
Courts usually will grant travel for business and family reasons.
More information on bail and bond statutes for Virginia.