Most people can’t imagine ever being arrested, but it can happen to anyone. Getting behind the wheel after one drink too many or being involved in an argument that gets out of hand are two ways the average person could find himself in jail. If you wind up in that situation, you’re going to want to get out as quickly as possible, so you’ll need to know your options. The best option for you depends largely on your personal situation and your finances.
Ask to be released on your own recognizance.
The best and cheapest way to get out of jail can be to ask the judge to release you on your own recognizance, or O.R. This means that you’ll sign a document pledging to appear for all of your court dates. A judge is most likely to grant O.R. if he believes you’re more likely to stay than to flee. He’ll consider factors like:
. Whether you have family in the community
. Whether you have a job in the community
. How long you’ve lived there
. Whether you’ve been arrested before, and, if so, whether you made all of your court appearances
The time to ask the judge to release you on your own recognizance is at your first court appearance. Since this is the only way to get out of jail without financial risk, it’s a good idea to have an attorney like Maryland criminal lawyer Mike Rothman with you at this first court appearance to make the argument for you.
Ask to be released on a signature bond.
If the judge refuses to release you on your own recognizance, ask him to release you with a signature bond. The two are similar, but an article on eHow explains that, with a signature bond, you pledge to pay a set dollar amount if you don’t show up for your court dates. The catch is that you’ll need to convince the judge that you can actually pay the agreed-upon amount, so this may not be a realistic option for you if you’re broke.
Bail is money you pay the court to ensure you’ll show up when you’re supposed to. If you make all of your court appearances, you’ll get your money back.
Many jurisdictions have standard bail amounts for common, minor crimes. In those cases, you can arrange your release quickly. In other cases, you’ll have to appear before a judge, and you’ll remain in jail until that happens. Keep in mind that your best option is to be released on your own recognizance or with a signature bond. But, if the judge refuses to do that, ask him to reduce the amount of your bail to an amount you can afford.
Related: Getting out of debt
Get a bail bond.
A bail bond is a loan. You pay a bail bondsman a percentage of the bail – typically 10 percent – and he’ll post bail for you. The downside is that, while you get the full amount back if you post bail yourself, the money you pay the bondsman is gone. He may also require you to post some collateral to make sure you show up and to help recover his loss if you don’t. That’s typically an interest in your car or home, meaning that, if you don’t show up when you’re supposed to, the bondsman can sell that property and keep the money.
While it’s best to post bail yourself, that’s not always an option. A lot of people simply don’t have the money. And, if the judge thinks you’re a flight risk, or if you’re charged with a major crime like murder, the judge will probably set a bail that’s more than most people can afford. In that case, a bond might be your only option for getting out of jail while you await trial.
No one wants to stay in jail a minute longer than they have to. If you’re ever arrested, knowing your options is the best way to be quickly released.