Virginia Bond Basics
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Virginia, one of the first issues that you will be confronted with is your pre-trial status, specifically, whether or not you will receive bond (otherwise known as “bail”).
For some offenses, you may simply receive a Summons, telling you when and where your next hearing is. This is common in many misdemeanors like Reckless Driving or Trespass. In this instance, you won’t be booked, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not you will need bond. You will be on your way after reviving the summons.
If, however, you have been arrested, one of the first encounters you will have with the Criminal Justice System will be in front of a Magistrate. That Magistrate will make an initial bond determination. You may be released on your own recognizance, released on an unsecured bond, given a secured bond, or you may be denied bond.
Released on Recognizance simply means that the Court is taking you on your word that you will attend all of your hearings, and any pre-trial obligations. You will be released without any other requirements.
Unsecured Bond means that there is an element of financial responsibility. The unsecured bond amount is money that you may be held responsible for if you do not comply with the obligations set by the Court, or if you fail to appear for your hearings. This a cash incentive to make sure you do what is required, but you will not have to pay “up-front.” Nor will you pay at all if you comply with any requirements and attend all of your hearings.
Secured Bond is traditional cash bond. You will be required to pay a certain amount to the Court in order to be released. There are two ways to satisfy this. First, you can pay the amount yourself. If you have the means to do this, then, after you comply with all of your obligations, your bond payment will be returned to you. If you do not, your bond may be forfeited. On the other hand, if you cannot afford this payment, you may elect to hire a bail-bond company. These are companies that pay your bond for you, and then recover that money from the Court once you comply with your obligations, and attend your trial. In return you will pay a fraction of the bond up-front, typically 10%. you will not get anything back; that 10% is the cost of their services.
The financial cost is not the only consideration for Bond Motions. The Court may impose a broad scope of other restrictions on you. These are typically intended to 1) promote public safety, and 2) ensure your appearance at future hearings. Bond considerations can include, but are not limited to:
- No contact with any alleged victim
- Stay away from particular residences or businesses
- Refrain from drug or alcohol use
- Drug testing
- Mental Health or Substance Abuse treatment or counseling
- Geographic limitations such as staying within the state, or a certain distance from the Courthouse
- Regular Check-Ins with “Pretrial Services”
- No driving
- GPS Monitoring
The first time this issues is decided will be in front of the Magistrate, as mentioned above. If you do not receive Bond then, the opportunity to address this issue may be at your Attorney Advisement/Arraignment. This is an early hearing to advise you of the charges against you, and of your right to hire an attorney. At this point, the issue of Bond may be addressed informally, in certain courts. If you are denied bond at this hearing, your next step is to file a formal Bond Motion.
This Motion is a chance to explain all the reasons you should not be held; why you are not a danger to society, and why you are not likely to abscond and skip your trial. This Motion may reference
- Your ties to the community such as friends and family
- The support of those same friends and family
- Employment, which tends to show stability and accountability
- Lack of criminal history, specifically a lack of any “failure to appear” or similar issues
- Any particular reasons why being held pre-trial is detrimental to you, such as health problems
This hearing will happen in either the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, or the General District Court, depending on your charge.
If your Motion is not granted at this stage, you may then appeal to the Circuit Court in your Jurisdiction, which will make its own determination.
After all of this, there may be situations where later motions are appropriate, though you cannot re-file repeatedly and make the same arguments. If there has been a change in circumstances, a Motion to Reconsider or Amend may be appropriate.