After an arrest, a criminal defendant will appear before a judge to determine whether the defendant should be released on bail or held in jail. This can be done at a bail hearing or combined with an arraignment which is where a formal reading of the charges is made.
If the judge decides to allow the defendant to be released on bail, the judge will set the amount of bail which must be posted and whether the bail must be posted in cash or can be posted in the form of a bail bond.
If allowed by the judge, a criminal defendant may purchase a bail bond if the cash bail is un affordable. To obtain a bail bond, a criminal defendant may have to post collateral and will have to pay a nonrefundable fee of between 10% and 15% to a ball bond agent.
If a criminal defendant is facing jail time, the state will provide a criminal lawyer or public defender to represent the defendant for free at the bail hearing or arraignment. Most criminal defendants who will later hire a private criminal lawyer, will use the public defender to represent them at the arraignment.
Of course, you are entitled to hire a criminal lawyer to represent you at the arraignment or bail hearing. The question is should you take advantage of a free court appointed criminal lawyer when it may cost you hundreds of dollars to retain a criminal lawyer to represent you.
Each case is different and it is not possible here to provide advice as to what to do. However, generally if a criminal defendant has a prior criminal history or if the charges are a serious misdemeanor or felony it is worth hiring a criminal lawyer for the bail hearing.
The prosecutor will request a high bail. The public defender will usually very quickly rattle off a few general statements and request that the judge set a “reasonable bail”. I have never seen a public defender invest the same amount of time, as a private criminal lawyer, to determine all of the necessary information or to present a lengthy argument to release the defendant “ROR” (without bail) or to argue for lower bail after the judge issues an undesired bail.
Any competent criminal lawyer knows what information to ask their clients and what needs to be presented to the judge to have their client released ROR, without bail or with an affordable bail. What’s the difference between a public defender and hiring your own criminal lawyer? The public defender is representing many defendants, while your own criminal lawyer is there representing only you. The difference is simply time. It is not possible for the public defender to spend 15-20 minutes with every defendant.
The public defender simply does not have the same amount time available as a private lawyer. Unfortunately, money can make a difference. When you hire a criminal lawyer for a bail hearing or arraignment, you will get the undivided attention of your lawyer. The extra 15-20 minutes that your lawyer will spend speaking to you can make the difference between your being released or staying in jail.
I have represented numerous criminal clients at arraignments and believe that many of my clients would have remained in jail for at least a few days while trying to post a high bail, if they had been represented by a court-appointed lawyer. In fact, on several occasions, the judge told my client that he or she was very lucky to be represented by a lawyer who put so much effort into requesting ROR (released on own recognizance).
Almost all my clients have been immediately released ROR or with very low bail because I took the time to determine the necessary information and present it to the judge. Only twice as my client been held in jail while trying to post a higher bail. I always spend at least 15 minutes speaking with my client and family members, if present, before the bail hearing to obtain the information I need.
While representing my client before a judge, I will take several minutes to present all of this information to the judge. On rare occasions when I felt the bail was set too high, I continued to argue for a lower bail and was successful in getting the judge to lower it. A court-appointed lawyer has to move quickly to to the large number of defendants and typically does not have the time to continue arguing on your behalf.
Additionally, a private criminal lawyer may request things that a public defender may not. For instance, a private criminal lawyer may request, and may or may not be successful, that your drivers license be returned and that your privileges not be revoked and if your car was impounded, that it be returned to you.
If you have a prior criminal history or have been arrested for a serious misdemeanor or felony, or simply will feel more comfortable knowing that you have the undivided attention of your own criminal lawyer, seriously consider hiring your own lawyer represent you at your bail hearing or arraignment. Even if you are unsure, you should call a criminal lawyer for a free consultation. Most criminal lawyers will provide a free consultation, but be sure to ask if your consultation is free.