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Was Your Teen Arrested? Understanding Bail and Legal Options

You get a call that your teen has been arrested. Panic is often the first feeling, and you may have a dozen questions and concerns running through your mind. It is important to deal with the situation in the right way and keep a cool head. Your teen will need your support and stability through this process. Knowledge and an understanding of the legal process is your best tool. Dealing with the police and the court is often easier and more straightforward than many people assume.

Get the Details

The first thing you should do is get all the details of your teen’s arrest. They are entitled to one phone call to you and to an attorney within an hour of being arrested. As the parent or guardian, you are also entitled to details of your teen’s arrest, assuming they are a minor and not emancipated. You should know what they were arrested for, the name of the arresting officer, the time and place of the arrest and where they are being held.

Arrest Does Not Mean Guilt

One of the most common fears when a teen is arrested is that they will face undue punishment or jail time merely for being arrested. It is important to realize the distinction between an arrest and a conviction. Police may arrest a person with any reasonable cause to believe a crime has occurred. This does not mean your teen is guilty or will be punished. The police are required to file a petition with the court detailing the crime within 48 hours. If they cannot present a reasonable case for holding the teen, then they must release them. The police may also choose to release the teen to their parents’ custody with a request to return for investigation or to appear before a probation officer or the court on a specified date.

The Bail and Bond Process

If the police do obtain permission to hold your teen beyond the 48-hour period, then he or she is entitled to a bail hearing. This hearing determines if the teen can be released from jail before their court date and what that release entails. A judge or court officer makes this decision depending on many factors. Your teen is entitled to legal representation during this hearing.

Bail is an amount of money given to the court as leverage to ensure accused persons will return on their court date. The amount of bail is determined by the judge based on several factors, including the severity of the crime and the likelihood the person will attempt to flee the court’s jurisdiction. The judge may also choose not the grant bail, meaning the person has no option to be released prior to their court date.

Bail amounts are often quite high and may well fall into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is more than the average person can hand to the court. Most people make use of bail bonds services to post bail. A bail bondsman is a certified businessman trusted by the court to assist people with bail. Rather than posting the actual cash, the bondsman will post a bond or an assurance that the person will appear. The bondsman then ensures the person does appear, or the accused, and their parent or guardian, will be liable to the bondsman for the amount.

Bail is not a fee to the court. Once a person has appeared, the bail amount is returned in full. A bail bondsman may charge a fee for their services, but the actual amount of bail is not owed to them.

An attorney may suggest a bond service and may even take care of the process for you, but anyone can approach a bail bondsman to help an accused out of jail. Once you have a bond or post the bail amount in cash, your teen is free to return home with you until the court date. There are often restrictions on where they can go or what they can do prior to the date. It is common for court dates to be many months in the future.

While an arrest is a serious situation, it is not cause for panic. Whether your minor is released to you without bail or whether you need to find a bondsman, the most important thing you can do is keep a cool head. Consult with an attorney if the crime is serious or if you have questions about the legal process.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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