If you are arrested for a DWI in Texas, you may be released from jail long before your trial through a process known as bail. In return for meeting conditions set out by the judge, you may be released with a promise to the court that you will return for your subsequent court hearings. In fact, the United States Constitution guarantees you the right to bail that isn't excessive. But what does that mean for you? The bail process can be confusing and often has a disparate impact on those with limited financial means. How can you ensure that you are being treated fairly?
The short answer is to consult with an experienced Houston DWI attorney. In most cases, bail for DUI in Texas can be negotiated with the prosecutor in your case. That means your best bet at freedom without having to spend money you don't have is by relying on an experienced Houston DWI attorney. An experienced attorney can use that experience to give you realistic expectations on what the judge's bail decision may look like.
If you are facing charges in Houston or the surrounding counties, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. Doug Murphy is a fierce advocate for his clients, from obtaining a reasonable bail all the way through a jury trial. With extensive experience in Houston area courts, Doug Murphy knows how to make the best case for reasonable bail.
How does Texas define bail?
Bail is a series of pre-trial conditions a defendant agrees to comply with in exchange for release from jail until trial. It is essentially a conditional release in which a defendant promises to return to court for trial and meet other conditions. In the United States, the most common condition for bail is the payment of a monetary bond to the court. Known as a bail bond, this money is held by the court as a guarantee that the defendant will appear at trial.
As long as the defendant meets all of the conditions of bail and appears at all court dates, the money will be returned at the end of the case. However, if a defendant fails to appear at a hearing as promised, the money is forfeited. What's more, that defendant will also likely face a warrant for a charge of failure to appear.
Reasonable Bail v. Excessive Bail
Outside of a few exceptions, bail is a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The 8th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that “excessive bail shall not be required,” which effectively guarantees that if you have a right to reasonable bail, you must have a right to bail, period. Excessive bail is any monetary bail amount that is impossible for a defendant to come up with.
Cash Bail v. Fairness
Over the years, cash bail in the United States has come under significant scrutiny. Many have argued that the cash bail system has a disparate impact on those with lower economic status. In some cases, defendants will spend years in prison awaiting trial on minor charges because they have no assets in which to secure bail.
This criticism of the cash bail system has led states like New Jersey and Alaska to abolish the use of cash bail in most cases. Texas, on the other hand, still uses the cash bail system. Your best bet on being treated fairly during the bail process is to consult with a Texas DUI attorney immediately.
How is bail set in Texas after a DWI?
When you are arrested for DWI and taken to jail, you will typically have to wait until law enforcement is convinced you have sobered up. Even then, there's no guarantee you will be released immediately. There are actually three different ways you can obtain your release from jail in Texas: (1) released on your own recognizance; (2) cash bail; or (3) surety bail.
Released on your Personal Recognizance bond (PR bond): Better known as PR bond, being released on your personal recognizance means you simply sign a form agreeing to appear at court on your court date. No money changes hands. This is only used for the least serious cases.
Cash Bail: In most cases, the court will set a bail amount that you must meet to get out of jail. A cash bail is paying the full amount of the bail directly to the court. This is an expensive option given that bail can run into thousands of dollars.
Surety Bail: Surety bail involves the use of a licensed bail bondsman. You will pay a premium to the bondsmen, who will then cover the full amount of your bond.
Surety Bond Charges and Fees
In Texas, your bail bondsman will charge you a fee of 10% of the total bail amount in order to secure your release. While this will save you from having to come up with 100% of the bond, the bondsmen will keep the 10% as a fee even if you appear at every court date. Consider the following example:
You have been arrested for intoxication manslaughter in Houston. Given the seriousness of the charge and prior conviction for failure to appear, release on your own recognizance is out of the question. Under the Harris County guidelines, bail will be set at $50,000. You have two options: come up with the $50,000 yourself or enlist the help of a bondsmen.
To obtain your release through a surety bond, you will be required to pay 10% of the bond to the bondsmen, which is $5,000. The bondsmen will then post the full $50,000 on your behalf with the court to secure your release. As long as you make your court dates, you will never need to pay the $50,000 bond, but you will also not get back the $5,000 paid to the bondsmen.
For many, even 10% of the bond is financially out of reach. That's why many bondsmen will lend a defendant the 10% fee. This means that the bondsmen put the full amount up front, but due to interest, it will ultimately cost the defendant more in the long run.
It is often common for collateral to be put up in place of cash. In some cases, ownership to a vehicle or even a house will be put up to secure a bond.
Is bail different for a misdemeanor DWI and a felony DWI?
Typically, yes. Each bail schedule is different from one county to another. However, in most counties, a felony DWI carries a higher bail amount than a misdemeanor. More severe DWI-related charges like intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter carry even higher bail requirements.
For example, in Harris County, a felony DWI can require a bond of up to $35,000. For a first offense DWI, which is a misdemeanor, the charge can carry a bond of $500 if you aren't released on your own recognizance.
This is another area where hiring one of Houston's best DWI Defense lawyers can make a huge difference in your case. Charges are frequently downgraded or dismissed, and the difference in bond amounts for a felony DWI versus a misdemeanor DWI can be huge.
If you have been charged with a DWI in Houston, Texas, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today. Attorney Doug Murphy is an experienced trial attorney that has practiced across Harris County and surrounding areas. He can help you understand the charges against you and potentially help you obtain an acquittal or the dismissal of the charges against you.
How is bail calculated for a Texas DWI?
There is no statewide standard for bail in Texas. Bail is primarily handled on the county level, with many jurisdictions releasing its own bail schedule. These schedules will actually set out the bail amount in many cases, which means a bail amount can be set without seeing a judge first.
For more serious crimes, a hearing in front of a judge will be required before bail can be set. Those serious crimes include:
- Any capital felony
- Any first-degree felony
- Family Violence
- Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear
- Unlawful Possession of Firearm by Felon
In addition, if the current criminal charge us unrelated to the above-listed crimes, there is still a chance you may be required to appear before a judge at a hearing in order for bail to be set. Those circumstances include situations where your current arrest occurred while:
- On bail for any felony charge;
- On bail with multiple pending misdemeanor cases stemming from different arrest events;
- On felony probation or deferred adjudication;
- Violating certain court orders or conditions of bond (family violence, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking);
- Involving a felony with a deadly weapon;
- Involving a felony with a prior felony conviction; and/or
- Involving a felony with two prior felony convictions (higher than state jail felony).
For more common charges, Harris County has a table that spells out the standard bond recommendation. The recommended bond varies depending on the specific charge and the risk a defendant poses.
|Offense||Below Average Risk
|Above Average Risk (5)|
|State Jail Felony||Presumption PR Bond
for Listed Offenses or $1,000
|No Early Presentment --
Refer to Magistrate for Bond
|Third Degree Felony||Presumption PR Bond
for Listed Offenses or $2,500
|Second Degree Felony||$10,000||$20,000||$30,000|
|- Intoxication Offenses
- Deadly Conduct
- Injury to child or elderly
|- Agg Assault Offenses
- Sexual Assaults
- Intoxication Manslaughter
- Compelling Prostitution
The Risk Levels listed in the table consider two factors: violent criminal activity and previous failure to appear charges. A score between 1 and 5 is given each defendant depending on their criminal history, and the corresponding bail recommendations go up as the risk level rises.
Do minors arrested for DUI have to pay bail in Texas?
No, minors arrested for DUI do not pay bail in Houston, Texas. There is no bail system for minors in Texas. Like with most cases, the judge in a case will decide what is in the best interest of the child. In most minor cases, a juvenile will be released into the custody of a parent or guardian.
If the judge believes it is best for the juvenile to stay in custody, the minor will be held in a juvenile facility until the case is resolved or it is in the juvenile's best interest to return home. Juveniles are entitled to a determination regarding detention within two working days of being detained. If the detention occurs on a Friday or a Saturday, the decision must be made the following Monday. A parent or guardian must be notified of the hearing, but if the parent or guardian cannot be reached, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to be present on behalf of the minor.
Hiring the Best DWI Attorney in Houston
Your freedom is important to you, both for your peace of mind and your ability to make a living. Houston DWI / DUI Attorney Doug Murphy understands that spending any more time than necessary behind bars is an enormous burden. Whether it is serving a sentence due to a conviction or waiting for your initial release after an arrest, you need every advantage you can get when it comes to securing your release. In Harris County, that means only hiring the best Houston DUI lawyer possible.
When it comes to Houston DUI attorneys and Houston DWI attorneys, Doug Murphy is unmatched. Doug Murphy is a Board Certified expert in both DWI defense law and criminal law. In fact, he is one of only two attorneys in the State of Texas to be certified as an expert in both. When it comes to hiring a DWI defense attorney, board certification is one of the most important factors to consider. An attorney must display a proven track record and pass a difficult examination process to be certified as an expert in Texas. As a dual-expert, you can rely on Doug Murphy to have the skills and experience you need to obtain a positive outcome in your DWI case.
At heart, Doug Murphy is a trial lawyer. While many Houston DWI lawyers are content to quickly settle your case and make a quick payday, Doug Murphy treats every case as if it will go to trial. He understands that his clients are best served through an aggressive approach to each case instead of just hoping for a good plea bargain. In many cases, this approach has led to the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. obtaining acquittals or having charges dismissed by the prosecutor. If you would like to discuss your case with Houston's top DUI lawyer, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today for your free consultation.