The first time you have to bond out of jail is an experience most people aren’t prepared for. Whether you’re the person waiting in jail, or the friend or family member working to help from outside, this guide will help you through the ordeal.
The first thing you need to know is that getting arrested in real life is not like what you see on television. You may not hear ‘You have the right to remain silent…’ and no one’s going to offer you the ‘one phone call’ you always hear about. You do have rights, but it won’t seem like it right away.
Understand that while your arrest may have seemed to happen quickly, your time in processing at the jail may seem to last for days. The jail officers aren’t going anywhere, and for he time being neither are you, so they don’t feel any need to hurry.
You’re unlikely to have any contact with anyone until you’ve sat around a while, been fingerprinted and photographed, sat some more, been questions, and then waited a while more. You may also get showered (if you’re lucky), or deloused (if you’re not so lucky). But at some point you should be locked into a room, and that’s when you can start to try to call out.
Your holding area will probably look like a row of really small bedrooms around a larger ‘day-room’ wit a television and tables and chairs. The telephone is almost always located in the day-room. There’s often only one, for everyone to share. While you’re waiting your turn, talk to the other inmates.
You probably didn’t come in to jail the first time knowing the names or phone numbers of any bondsmen, and the jail staff probably won’t have the time or inclination to get you that information. Your cell-mates are your best source of help at this point.
There will be two groups of people in the day-room. Some of them will look panicked, may be crying, and will keep trying to use the phone to call family or friends for moral support. Those people won’t be able to help you.
The people you’re looking for are calm. They’re watching television, and chatting as if they don’t have anywhere they’d rather be. Those folks have been there long enough to know the system; that’s why they’re calm. They can help you.
Tell them what you’re accused of (now is not the time to discuss whether or not you did it), and ask them which local bondsman can help you. They’ll probably also be able to tell you what you’ll need to provide (how much money and information), and what you’re demeanor should be like on the phone.
Your bondsman will want to be assured of several things. First that you have someone on the outside waiting with money for them. Don’t worry if you don’t know the exact amount. The bondsmen will need to cal the jail office to verify it anyway.
Next, you’ll probably need someone to sign for you. A parent, or other adult, will have to swear to the bondsman that they’ll make sure to keep track of you and make sure you come to court when you’re scheduled to. Some bondsmen will also want you to post some kind of property, as collateral to insure your appearance. Your home, or your car, are typical choices for property collateral. You keep them for now, but you sign papers saying the bondsman gets them if you no-show at court.
Once you get a bondsman to talk to you, he’ll tell you to sit tight and wait for him to come to the jail and get you out. You may be waiting a while. Face it, he knows you’re not going anywhere. He may wait until he has two or three people there and then come get them all at once. Often, a bondsman will work several adjacent counties, so he may have a bit of drive time before he gets to you.
Try to be patient, and resist the urge to phone them repeatedly asking ‘how soon?’. They’ll come when they come, and then you’ll still have to sit through an interview in person. It’s not over until you’re out the door, so be honest, polite, and patient. He’ll ask you a million questions, some of them personal. You’ll have to list every family member you have, plus and friends and employers, for references. It’s hard to remember all those names, addresses and phone numbers during what is sure to be a stressful time; just do the best you can.
If you get through all that, without doing or saying anything to spook the one guy who can help you, you’ll probably still go back into your cell for a while. The jailers will have some paperwork to do, and then they’ll get you back into your street clothes and ask you to sign a form sating you got your personal property back. (Sign it, no matter what’s missing, be this is a bad time to argue!) Then you’ll be led out to an area where the bondsman is waiting.
After he’s got his money, you’ll probably get one last pep talk about showing up for court or else, and then you’re free to go. If your bondsman is really nice, (and you’ve made a good impression) you might even get a ride home..