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Gavel, Money and Open Handcuffs, Bail concept

How Bail Works in Washington

Nicholas George Law Firm PLLC  Oct. 20, 2023

On a typical day in Washington state, there are roughly 6,500 people being held in jail who have not been convicted of a crime, according to the Office of the Washington State Auditor. Many of these people who have been charged with a crime may be eligible for posting bail. Although many people may have a general idea of what bail is, they may not know exactly how it works.  

If you or a loved one is in a situation like this and are asking, “How does bail work?” reach out to the Nicholas George Law Firm PLLC for answers. Attorney Nicholas George is able to help those in and around the Kennewick, Washington, area and throughout Walla Walla, Spokane, Benton County, and Franklin County. Call today to learn more. 

What Is Bail?

Bail (also referred to as a “bail bond” or just a “bond,” though bonds are somewhat different), refers to the money someone must pay to get out of jail before they have to return for their court date. A bond, on the other hand, is money that someone else pays on behalf of the accused party, and this is typically done by using a bail bond company.  

The system of bail is set up to ensure that those who are arrested for crimes come back for their court date. For example, when someone is arrested they are usually held in jail until they can be seen by a judge and have a trial date set. Oftentimes, this trial date will be days, weeks, or even months away. During this interim time, the individual usually must wait in jail, but if a judge grants bail that person can agree to pay a set amount of money (say $10,000) and be allowed to stay at their home during this time. If they then return on their court date and fulfill all their other obligations, the $10,000 will be returned to them. If they do not return for their court date, they will not receive their money back.  

Who Qualifies for Bail in Washington?

Each state sets its own laws surrounding how and when bail is used. Washington bail requirements require a judge to look at three main considerations when deciding whether or not the arrestee qualifies for bail: 

  • The seriousness of the crime the individual was charged with. 

  • The criminal history of the person arrested. 

  • The likelihood that the individual will return for their court date (this is sometimes referred to as someone’s “flight risk”).  

How Is the Amount of Bail Determined?

In some cases, a judge may allow an arrestee to remain at home while waiting for their court date without being required to pay any bail. This is referred to as being released on your “own recognizance” or just “O.R.” This option is typically only available to those who have no criminal record and have only been charged with a non-violent crime.  

In other cases, a judge will have to determine the amount of bail to set, and they will generally do this by following a set bail schedule and taking the above factors into consideration.  

What are Bail Bonds?  

If someone can’t afford to pay bail on their own, they have an option to use a bail bondsman. A bond company is a for-profit business that pays bail for someone else in exchange for a fee, typically 10% of the total bail amount. For instance, if your bail is set at $10,000, the bondsman will charge you $1,000 as a fee for lending you the money. They will then post bail for you, and if you make it to all your court dates, the $10,000 will be returned and you will only owe the bondsman $1,000. If you do not attend your court dates, you will now owe the bondsman $11,000 plus interest for as long as it takes you to pay it back.  

The Bail Process in Washington  

Most people who are arrested for a crime will be seen by a judge within 48 hours. In most cases, you must stay in jail during this time. At your bail hearing a judge will determine first if you qualify for bail, and if you do they will set the amount. In some cases, a judge may deny bail altogether. Although it’s not required by law, it’s almost always in your best interest to consult with a criminal defense attorney before your first hearing and if possible have them represent you in court.  

Turn to Strong Legal Guidance   

If you live in the Kennewick, Washington, area and want to know more about how bail works in the state and how you can best address your concerns about bail, contact the Nicholas George Law Firm PLLC, to schedule a consultation.