If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense in Minnesota, it helps to understand a little bit about bail and the bail bonds process. Here’s an overview of what you need to know.

1. Bail Acts as an Assurance That You Will Show Up for Your Trial

If you have been arrested, you may have to post bail to get out of jail. The bail is basically a financial promise to the courts that you will show up for your trial. If you don’t show up, you lose that money.

2. Bail Usually Gets Set at an Arraignment Hearing

In most cases, you go before a judge shortly after your arrest, and the judge sets bail at that point. That is called an arraignment hearing. The amount of bail varies based on the specifics of the situation — the type of crime, your criminal record and whether or not you present a threat to the public. In some cases, the courts will set bail automatically using software or a bail schedule.

3. A Lawyer Can Help at Your Arraignment Hearing

Ideally, you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to contact a defense attorney. Rather, you may want to contact a defense attorney immediately. In addition to helping with the actual trial, these professionals can help at the arraignment. In particular, they can attempt to convince the judge that you deserve a lower bail amount.

4. Bail Can Be Conditional or Unconditional

Conditional bail is when you have to post a certain amount of money but also meet certain conditions. The conditions vary from case to case. For example, if you have been charged with a DUI, you may not be allowed to drink, and if you have been charged with domestic violence against your spouse, you may not be allowed to return to your home.

Unconditional bail has no conditions. You just have to post the dollar amount set by the courts.

5. You Almost Always Have a Right to Unconditional Bail

If you are accused of a state crime, you have a legal right to unconditional bail except if you are accused of first-degree murder. In most cases, the courts may offer you a choice between conditional and unconditional bail. Typically, if you agree to the conditions, you get to pay a lower bail amount. If you prefer unconditional bail, prepare to pay more.

6. Minnesota Ties Bail Amounts to Fine Amounts

In Minnesota, the maximum amount of bail for certain crimes is directly tied to the fine for those crimes. For instance, if you have been accused of a DUI, bail can only be up to four times the amount of the maximum fine for that crime. For a domestic assault, the bail can be 10 times the maximum fine. A lawyer can give you additional specifics for your particular situation.

7. Posting Bail Reduces Your Chances of Being Found Guilty

Regardless of the amount of your bail, you may want to pay it. When you post bail, you get to leave the jail until your trial. That makes it much easier to prepare.

You can meet with your criminal defense attorneys in the comfort of their office or your home. You don’t have to worry about meeting in jail. You can also sleep in a comfortable bed and ensure that you look well rested for your trial. You don’t have to show up looking tired and worn out after spending days or weeks in jail.

Most importantly, posting bail and getting out directly relates to better trial outcomes. People who can’t post bail are 25 percent more likely to plead guilty.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense, contact Mesenbourg & Sarratori Law Offices, P.A. today. We can help you with every step of the process from the moment of your arrest through the arraignment and criminal trial.