Arrest and Bond in AFV Cases - 2023 Travis County AFV Guide - Part 1
Bonding out after an arrest for an assault goes differently than other crimes. When a person is charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor like a first time DWI or a drug possession charge, they are often granted a Personal Recognizance Bond (at no charge) the next day. When a person is alleged to have committed a violent crime like domestic violence, it can be trickier to get a release so quickly. If a PR bond is granted at all, it can be days or weeks later. However, an attorney can often speed up the process.
Usually an arrest for Assault-FV will happen one of two ways. If the accused is on site when the police arrive and they decide to charge him, he will be arrested on the spot and taken to jail. If he has left before the police arrive, they can issue a warrant for arrest and execute the warrant at a later date. These scenarios play out very differently for the purpose of bond.
If not arrested on the day of the incident, a person can hire an attorney to arrange a walk-through. Be aware that the Travis County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) is now requiring an attorney for every walk-through. Previously you could set up a walk through with a bondsman only.
With a walk-through, the attorney can bring the case to the attention of a magistrate judge, who can sign a bond immediately or agree to sign the bond as the turn-in happens. This minimizes the uncertainty surrounding release, and can eliminate multiple days of custody while a bond is secured.
If you turn yourself in without a lawyer, you do this at your own risk. It can cost you time and possibly more money to pay a bondsman. Additionally, there is more uncertainty regarding whether you will be released at all.
Personal Recognizance Bond
Whether arranging a walk-through or seeking a jail-release after already being arrested, the best way to be released is with a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond. This is free except for a $20 or $40 fee to be paid later to Travis County Pretrial Services. If the magistrate judge does not grant a PR bond, you may have to pay a bondsman a percentage for a surety bond.
When deciding whether to grant a PR bond, a judge will consider a number of factors. In many cases, the biggest factor will be whether the alleged victim (sometimes referred to as complaining witness or “CW”) fears for his/her safety and wants to “press charges” (more on pressing charges in a later section). The Judge or Pretrial Services will actually call the CW directly to get his/her input. Based on their statement, the Judge could grant the PR bond, grant with conditions, or refuse to grant it at all.
Another big factor is criminal history. If a person has a previous conviction it can really hurt his/her chances at receiving a PR bond. It can be especially bad if there are multiple arrests and convictions for violent crimes. If there are multiple assaults where the current CW was also involved, the judge is not likely to grant immediate release and will likely require multiple bond conditions (discussed in the next section).
Other factors play into the decision as well. The Probable Cause Affidavit is a statement of the facts observed and attested to by the police officer. The Judge will consider the severity of what is alleged, and also look for evidence of what occurred beyond mere statements, such as bruising, bleeding, scratches, or other witnesses besides the complaining witness. The Judge will also look to mitigating factors, such as possible self-defense. Even though the magistrate judge is not determining guilt or innocence at this phase, the strength of the evidence does play a factor in most cases.
When a PR Bond is not granted, the judge will then set a bond amount. You can then bond out either by paying the full amount in cash, money order or cashier’s check. This amount would be returned after the case is disposed. Alternatively, you can pay a bondsman a percentage of the fee – usually about 10%. This amount will not be returned. Sometimes by calling a number of local bondsman, you can negotiate a better fee than 10%.
Bonds in misdemeanor AFV can be set as low as $5,000, meaning you would only need to pay about $500 to a bondsman for release. If there are multiple charges and/or felony charges, the bond amounts can go up to $50,000, $100,000 or even higher.
Bond Reduction Hearing
If a PR bond is not granted and the bond is set at a level that the defendant cannot afford, an attorney can set a bond reduction hearing. The judge can take in a number of factors in reducing bond, including the defendant’s ability to pay. The attorney can put on evidence – usually through testimony of the defendant and his/her family regarding the ability to pay, as well as ties to the community and facts that indicate he/she will not be a danger if released.
Based on this evidence, the judge may reduce bond. This is more relevant in felony cases where bond amounts tend to be higher, or when there are multiple charges where bond amounts add up to a significant sum. Bond reductions are rare in in misdemeanors where the bond is already set low.