If you have been arrested for a crime in Wyoming, the first time you go before the judge is your initial appearance. This is where the you will hear the charges against you and learn of the maximum penalty for the crime of which you’ve been accused, and be read your constitutional rights. And unless you’ve been charged with a capital offense (e.g., murder), bond will be addressed.
While “bail” and “bond” are sometimes used interchangeably, they’re not the same thing. Bail is money. A bond is, essentially, a promise that you will appear at all your court dates. Unless you or your family member is willing and able to post your bail by giving the court money (a cash bond) a bail bondsman puts up the funds required to keep you out of jail until your trial.
Here is the caveat: Under Wyoming law, “the judge of the court having jurisdiction may admit the defendant to bail in any sum he deems proper. The judge allowing bail may at any time revoke or amend the order admitting the defendant to bail.” The law also states that “excessive bail is not required.” What does this mean for you, as the defendant? While the judge can set the bail as he or she sees fit, it is generally tied to the severity of the crime of which you’ve been accused, and not on your ability to pay. It further means that “If there is a breach of condition of a bond, the court shall declare a forfeiture of the bail.” In other words, once you have been granted bail, you are expected to live up to all conditions and terms of your pretrial release.
Under Wyoming § 7-10-102 authorizes R. Cr. P. 46.1 (d), in making a determination on pretrial release, the judge may consider “whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community, take into account the available information concerning”:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including whether the offense is a crime of violence or involves a narcotic drug
- The weight of the evidence against the person
- The history and characteristics of the person including: the person’s character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, and record concerning appearance at court proceedings; and whether, at the time of the current offense or arrest, the person was on probation, on parole, or on other release pending trial, sentencing, appeal, or completion of sentence for an offense under federal, state, or local law
- The nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person’s release
Types of bonds
Assuming you do not wish to sit in jail while awaiting trial, you will want to seek pretrial release through a bond. The most common types of bonds include:
- Signature bonds: If you have been charged with a lesser offense and are not considered a flight risk or a danger to others, if you’ve lived in the same place for a long time, and if you have reasonably good credit, you may be able to obtain a pretrial release without having to put up cashor pledging assets. This is called Release on Personal Recognizance or Promise to Appear. Your signature is your bond when you sign an agreement that you will appear in court as required.
- Unsecured bonds: Another name for a signature bond.
- Secured bonds: When the bondsman posts your bail, he or she is called a “surety,” which is why secured bond is also called a surety bond. The surety is actually a corporation that is on the Federal surety list, and the bail bondsman is their agent and is liable for the surety. In turn, they require a guarantee that they will not be liable if you (the defendant) fail to appear. How much you have to pay for the bond depends on what bail is set at, but the bail bondsman’s fee is generally 10 percent. Therefore, if bail is set at $10,000, you would have to pay a premium of $1,000 in advance. This is the bail bondsman’s fee and it is not refundable. There are typically additional charges for expenses.If you don’t have the ability to pay for a bondsman, then you or another person on your behalf (family, friend) will have to post the full amount to secure your release.Oftentimes the judge will use the terms “cash only bond” interchangeably with the term “secured bond.” For instance, a “$5,000 cash or surety bond” means you (or the bondsman) has to come up with the full amount of money to get you out of jail.
What happens if you don’t show up for court? If you were released on an unsecured/signature the Court could reset your bond in a higher amount and impose additional conditions upon you such as limiting who you have contact with, where you can travel, where you can work, etc. If you had a secured bond, the bondsman may forfeit, or lose, a portion or the entire amount of bail. He or she is authorized to arrest you, often by using a bounty hunter. They can then not only bring you to court, but also file a civil lawsuit against you to recoup their losses. If you pledged assets such as a vehicle or real estate, they may be subject to forfeiture.
When you skip bail, you haven’t shown up for court as promised. The judge can order a bench warrant for your arrest. Not only will you face penalties for not honoring your bond, your criminal record may forever reflect the fact that you failed to appear for court, something that could effect you in future court proceedings.
Learn more about how our Sheridan criminal law attorneys can help you
The bail bond process can be complicated, but we can help ensure that you understand your options and make the choice that is right for you. To discuss your needs with one of our experienced Wyoming defense lawyers, please call us at (307) 672-7491 or contact us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation.