Your Loved One Got Arrested. Now What?
You never thought it would happen to you. The people you surround yourself with have never gotten more than a speeding ticket, so when you get the call that your loved one is in jail and needs help you have no idea what to do or where to start.
This situation can happen to anyone, no matter who you are. If it happens to you, you will probably feel a mixture of feelings, from confusion to anger to sadness. What happens next may vary slightly depending on your location, but in general is treated similarly across the nation.
After the arrest
When a person is arrested, they are taken to the police station. Upon arrival, they will have their picture and fingerprints taken and their personal information will be collected. This information will be entered into a database where it is stored. All personal items will be removed and kept safe. They will also have to take a sobriety test to determine if they are under the influence.
After all of that occurs, they will be able to make a phone call before being placed in a holding cell. They will get a hearing scheduled in front of a judge within a day or two. At this hearing the judge will decide whether they are eligible for bail and how much it should be. Some jurisdictions may assign a bail amount immediately depending on the offense.
Your role in the process
If your friend or loved one has called you for help, you have several options.
First, you can pay the bail straight out. This means that you pay the full amount of money being asked for. By paying this money, you are guaranteeing that the person that was arrested will show up for any court hearings. If they do not show up, you will not receive the money back.
If you can't or don't want to pay the full amount, you can contact a bail bondsman. A bail bondsman will take a percentage of the actual bail amount from you, along with some collateral. If the bail is set at $10,000 they may take $1,000 plus collateral. They will cover the bail, but you have to make sure that the person who was arrested shows up for court. If they don't show up for court, you are on the hook for the full amount. Bail bondsmen are very knowledgeable of the system and how it works, and are a helpful asset to have if you choose to use one.
You also have the option to not pay. You have no obligation to pay bail, especially if you feel like they are a flight risk or may not show up to court. Some judges will let people out without bail on their own recognizance. This typically only happens with crimes that are considered minor and defendants with no history in the court system. If this doesn't happen and no one pays the bail, the person may be transferred to a larger jail. They will remain in jail until their case goes to court.
It is never ideal to have to make the decision of whether or not to help a person with bail when they get in trouble with the law. Know that you have choices, and you should never feel obligated to risk your livelihood for another person!