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Understanding bail, bonds and others issues after an arrest

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There are a lot of things that can happen from the day a person is arrested through the day his or her case is ultimately resolved. If you are involved in the criminal justice system, knowing what to expect can help reduce the level of stress you are feeling.

No matter what charges you are facing, these basic points might help you to understand what is going on and what may happen next.

Bail versus bond

Bail is the amount of money that a court requires for you to post in order to be released from jail. The judge bases the amount of bail on a number of factors, including your criminal history, ties to the area and current charges.

The judge may require that you post the entire amount in cash or by signing over valuable assets. If you pay with cash or assets, those are returned to you if you appear in court as ordered. A bond is a promise to pay the full amount of bail if you don't appear in court as you are supposed to.

Using a bail bondsman

You may use a bail bondsman in certain circumstances. A bail bondsman works with the court system to help people get out of jail for less money. He or she requires you to put down a certain percentage of the bail amount. While this allows you to be released from jail, you won't get this money back at the end of your case.

What is "own recognizance?"

Another option that occurs in some cases is that a judge will allow you to be release on your own recognizance. This means that you will sign a document swearing that you will attend all court dates, and you don't have to pay any money to get out.

Plea bargains versus a jury trial

Most criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains. This is a process in which you and your criminal defense attorney and the prosecution come to an agreement about the charges against you and your possible sentence. The judge presiding over your case will have to approve the plea bargain and handle the official sentencing.

If you don't have a plea deal and opt to take your case to court, you will have either a jury trial or you might be able to request a bench trial. A jury trial occurs in front of a jury of your peers who will hear the case and determine whether you are guilty or not guilty. A bench trial means that the judge hears the evidence and determines the outcome of your case.

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