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Bail is a legal term meaning security, like cash or a bond, or property that is pledged or given to a court on behalf of someone accused of a crime that enables them to be released from jail until the time of their trial. A bail hearing, at which the amount of bail is determined by a judge, occurs some time after an arrest and is not the same as arraignment or trial.

The process of being set bail is different in every state, and Louisiana is no different. The Constitution guarantees every American the right to a speedy trial, which, through precedent, has come to include being charged and set bail promptly, but the definition of a “speedy trial” is different in every case. 

This is what you need to know about getting your bail set in Louisiana:

How long can I be held in jail before getting a bail hearing?

Often on TV police procedural, we will see police being given a 24-hour window between arrest, and either charging or releasing a suspect. However, like with most things on TV, the truth is often much more complicated.

For misdemeanors, there is often a bail schedule already in place. For instance, everyone arrested on suspicion of DUI must be held for at least eight hours before being released. Generally, anyone arrested on misdemeanor charges will be charged and released within 24 hours, unless they are arrested on a weekend; weekends and holidays do not count towards the total amount of time a person is held before being charged and set bail. 

Therefore, if you are arrested on a Saturday night, you will likely not appear before a judge until sometime Monday. If you appear before a judge at 8 AM Monday, according to the law you will have only been held without being charged for 8 hours, even though you were actually in jail anywhere from 36-48 hours.

This process gets more complicated the more serious the crime, but generally, not counting weekends and holidays, the majority of people will not be held longer than 72 hours before being charged and set bail. Staying in jail for 72 hours without being charged and set bail is the worst-case scenario. Ideally, you will be set bail and thus released before this.

However, this worst-case scenario is a reality for many, due to the overcrowding of jails and courtrooms. Keep in mind it is completely legal for police to deny you access to a phone during these 72 hours, making it even more difficult for you to be charged and released any earlier. Typically, the more you cooperate with police, the earlier you will be given a phone call and the better chance you have of being set bail and released without sitting in jail needlessly.

Can I be denied bail in Louisiana?

You can always be denied bail, in any state, though different states have different laws determining who can and cannot be denied bail. This is what a bail hearing is for: for a judge to determine if you should be granted bail, and if bail is granted, what the amount should be.

Judges do have the authority to release defendants without bail, even if the defendant is charged with a crime. This called being released on your own recognizance, or OR. For the most part, the defendants will be asked to sign a paper promising to return for their day in court. This will often be used for first-time defendants who commit small misdemeanor crimes.

When determining if bail should be granted or denied, the judge will look at multiple factors outlined in Louisiana CCRP Article 316, including but not limited to:

  • The nature of the crime
  • The criminal history of the defendant 
  • The ability of the defendant to give bail
  • The defendant’s history with substance abuse, and the results of a court-administered drug test (this test is voluntary, and the defendant’s participation or lack thereof will also be taken into account when fixing bail)
  • Whether or not the defendant poses any serious danger to a member or members of the community 
  • Whether or not the defendant is currently out on bail for a previous felony arrest

If the judge determines that the defendant is not a flight risk and not a danger to the community, bail will be fixed, and in most cases, paid, and the defendant will be released.

Louisiana has a specific law with regard to setting bail in cases of domestic abuse or violence, outlined in CCRP Article 313, also known as “Gwen’s Law”. Gwen’s Law states that any person charged with any felony crime related to domestic violence have a contradictory hearing, or a Gwen’s Law hearing, where in addition to the factors listed in Article 316, the judge also takes into account:

  • Any documented history of threats of suicide or threats of force towards victims; any history of strangulation, sexual assault, or death threats. 
  • The specific danger the defendant poses to the victim, to the family of the victim, or to the children of the victim

Based on these factors, a judge can deny bail on the basis of Gwen’s Law. This law was enacted due to the fact that in cases of domestic violence, a defendant may not pose a threat to the community and may not be a flight risk and thus qualify to have bail set, but may pose some type of threat to their own family.

What do I do if I cannot afford bail?

Unfortunately, this is a reality for many people, especially in Louisiana and in the Shreveport area. Most people can’t afford to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars, even to get out of jail. However, when you hire a bail bonds company, you thankfully only be required to pay 10 or 12% of your set bail amount.

If you’ve been incarcerated and charged with a crime in Louisiana or in the Shreveport area, or if you have questions about posting bail, call us today.

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