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Welcome to FindLaw's DUI Law series. If you have been charged with a DUI, know someone who has, or just want to know about the law and how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, please come back each week for more information.
Hopefully you'll never get that call from jail, with a friend or family member on the other end saying they've been arrested for DUI and asking you for help getting them out. First off, you were probably asleep. Second, bail proceedings can be complicated and expensive.
But you're probably a good person and you're going to help, so here's what you need to know about bailing someone out of jail after a DUI.
Our current bail system is designed to guarantee that people charged with crimes show up at their trials. Rather than hold a potentially innocent person in jail that whole time, you can post a certain amount of money with the court, which will be returned when your trial is completed. The amount is usually determined based on a variety of factors, including the seriousness of the crime, the defendant's criminal history (or lack thereof), whether the defendant poses a safety risk to the community, and the likelihood the defendant will appear at trial.
In some DUI cases, a person can be released on his or her own recognizance, meaning no bail is required. In others, a jurisdiction may have a preset amount of bail for DUI cases, ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 depending on the severity of the incident (i.e., whether there was an accident involved, or the person recorded an extremely high BAC) and the person's history (first-time DUIs are generally less expensive than the second or third arrest).
Once the amount of bail is determined, courts generally ask for the full amount or at least some percentage of the total in order for a defendant to be released. If you can't afford the bail amount, you can hire a commercial bail bond agent or bail bondsman. A bail bondsman can pay your bail, charge a nonrefundable fee -- usually 10 to 20 percent of the total bail -- and is on the hook for the remaining amount to the court if you fail to appear for future court proceedings.
If you're posting bail on the behalf of someone else, you should be aware that the bail bond could constitute a three-party contract between you, the person, and the court, and you may become responsible for making sure the person appears in court. Courts can also limit those who may act as a surety for a criminal bond to licensed bond agents and friends and relatives of the defendant and the surety may forfeit to the court the amount of the bail if the defendant fails to appear in court as required.
Every DUI is different, and bail bond procedures can vary depending on where you live. If a friend or family member has been charged with drunk driving, you may want to contact a local DUI attorney about your bail options.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.