No one wants it to happen, but sometimes even the best of us end up on the wrong side of the law. This week’s article will be the first of a series that details the criminal law process.
Usually, a person enters the criminal justice system at the time of arrest. In a typical traffic stop arrest, the defendant is stopped by the police for a reason. The police should have a rational basis for the traffic stop; this usually involves moving violations, vehicle violations like missing lights or heavy tint, or erratic behavior by the driver or passenger in response to a police presence.
Once the stop is made, the police can generally detain and search the occupants of the vehicle so long as the search is done in the furtherance of officer safety. Searches can escalate depending on other circumstances such as the officer detecting evidence of drugs by its odor or by noticing that the occupants seem to be under the influence of drugs.
If an arrest occurs, the person becomes part of the criminal justice system. The defendant will be taken into custody, searched, and fingerprinted. At this point, a “mug shot” is usually taken. The judge (or in some instances a law enforcement official) may set the bond for release from jail.
Bond is the requisite amount of money needed to be posted to secure the defendant’s appearance at trial. The greater the flight risk a defendant presents, the greater the bond will be until the point at which the judge considers the defendant too great a flight risk and renders a decision that no bond can be posted.
Bond can be made in a variety of ways, but the most common is through the use of bail bondsmen. The bondsman provides the bond to the court and charges the defendant around 10% of the bond amount. This is commonly referred to as bail. If the defendant shows up at the trial date, the bondsman retains the 10% fee paid by the defendant. If the defendant does not show, then the bondsman is liable for the entirety of the bond unless he can secure the defendant’s appearance at court.
Next week’s article will address what happens when the defendant enters the court system.
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