What is bail in Wisconsin? Do I get the bail money back when the case over?
When someone is arrested and taken to jail, there are only two ways to get out of jail. One way is if the charges against the person are dismissed. The other way, which is much more common, is if the arrested person or someone on his or her behalf is able to post bail. Bail is also commonly referred to as “bond.”
In Wisconsin, bail consists of two parts: (1) the amount of money that needs to be posted and (2) the conditions or rules that need to be followed while out on bail. When someone is arrested in Wisconsin, that person must be brought in front of a court commissioner within a few days. The court commissioner then sets an amount of bail and conditions of bail, also known as “bond conditions.”
The amount of bail can either be cash or a signature bond. For example, if the commissioner sets bail at $500 cash, then the arrested person or his or her family or friends must post $500 in cash to get the arrested person out of jail. If the commissioner sets a $500 signature bond, the arrested person can simply sign the bail form and by signing the bail form the arrested person is promising to pay $500 if he or she violates the conditions of bail. No cash needs to be posted if the commissioner sets a signature bond.
A commissioner can also set a co-signature bond, which means the bail form must be signed by two people (often the arrested person and his or her parent), or a combination of cash and a signature bond. For example, the commissioner may set a $500 cash bond along with a $500 signature bond. The arrested person would then need to sign the bail form and post $500 before he or she would be released.
Any money posted for bail will be returned to the person who posted it about two weeks after the case is over. However, the court will likely take court costs (about $700) and any restitution that is owed out of the bail money before returning it to the person who posted it.
In addition, the commissioner will impose conditions of bail, also known as “bond conditions.” These are rules the arrested person must abide by while out on bail. If the person violates these conditions he or she could be charged with bail jumping, have his or her bail revoked, and/or forfeit the bail money that was posted. These conditions often require the arrested person to (1) not contact any victims or witnesses of the crimes alleged, (2) make all court appearances, and (3) not use any drugs or alcohol. The commissioner may set additional conditions in certain circumstances, such as house arrest or GPS monitoring.
What Factors Does the Court Commissioner Consider?
In setting bail, the court commissioner must take into account all of the factors listed in Wisconsin Statutes Section 969.01. The most significant factors are the following:
- criminal record
- nature of the charges (whether they are violent)
- ability to post cash for bail
- ties to the community such as family, school, and employment
- whether the person has been out on bail in the past and whether he or she has made all of his or her court dates and followed the bail conditions.
What Can an Experienced Lawyer Do for Me?
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can drastically reduce the amount and conditions of your bail. The court commissioner has tremendous discretion in setting the amount and conditions of your bail. Hiring an inexperienced lawyer will likely result in a high amount of cash bail and many bail conditions, including house arrest. That means that even if the arrested person can post the high cash bail, he or she will be confined to his or her home 24 hours per day until the case is over.
An experienced defense lawyer will know which arguments the court commissioner finds persuasive and will likely be able to get you a low cash bail or a signature bond. An experienced defense lawyer should also be able to convince the court commissioner that few, if any, bail conditions are necessary. This will allow the arrested person to resume his or her normal activities upon release from jail.
Hiring an experienced defense lawyer can often make the difference between sitting in jail for six to nine months while your case is pending and being out of jail and free to resume your daily activities and spend time with family and friends while your case is pending.
Call for a Free Consultation
Call experienced Racine criminal defense attorney Christopher Glinski for a free consultation at (262) 632-1555. Attorney Glinski has handled hundreds of criminal cases and was recently recognized as one of the Top 40 Trial Lawyers under 40 in Wisconsin and has been nationally recognized as one of the top 100 criminal defense lawyers.