Frequently Asked Questions
What is bail?
Bail is money paid to the court to ensure that an arrested person who is released from jail will show up at all required court appearances.
Who can post bail for me?
You may post bail for yourself, have someone over 18 years old post it on your behalf or use a bondsman. Whoever posts bail for you assumes full responsibility for your appearance in court. If you fail to appear as required, a warrant will be issued for your immediate arrest and the bail will be forfeited.
How can I post bail?
Bail may be posted in the following manner:
A percentage may be posted for cash bonds. However, the person posting cash bail is liable for the full amount. If you appear for trial or the charges are disposed of before trial, the amount posted will be refunded. If you do not appear, all cash posted will be forfeited and the full amount of bail becomes due.
Property (e.g. land or home) may be used to post bail, provided that the net equity in the property meets or exceeds the amount of bail. To determine net equity deduct any liens, mortgages or deeds of trust, and ground rent, capitalized at 6 percent, from the assessed value of the property. When posting property, you need to present tax bills, assessment notices, copies of a recorded deed or other public records. Each person whose name appears on the tax bill must sign the form, unless a power of attorney has been executed by one or both parties authorizing another signature.
Acceptable intangible assets include:
a. Bankbooks and certificates of deposit accepted at 100 percent of stated value,
b. Letters of credit from a bank,
c. Certificates for stocks listed on the American or New York Stock Exchange, accepted at 75 percent of the present exchange quotation.
Only a clerk of the court may accept intangible assets. Present the required documents to a clerk at the court location where the case is pending.
Credit and Debit Cards
Bail may be charged on certain credit and debit cards. Although the court clerk accepts the card, an independent company processes the charge. The charge includes the amount of the bail and a service fee. (These charges will appear on your next credit or debit card statement.) The card and personal identification must be produced in person at the time of posting bail. (Contact the Superior/Municipal court clerk for information on cards accepted and the fees charged.)
Professional Bail Bondsman
A bail bondsman charges a non-refundable fee to post bail. In addition to the fee, the bondsman may require collateral security or property to secure your release. Collateral will be returned to the person who posted the bond after disposition of the charges. The service fee and collateral received must be displayed on the bail bond form. Make certain that the information is correct on the form, that you receive a receipt and that you understand the action the bondsman may take if you fail to meet your obligations.
Do I need a lawyer?
You are not required to have a lawyer. However, a lawyer will offer you legal advice, help defend you and protect your interests before the court.
How do I get a lawyer?
If you wish to hire a lawyer but do not know one, or if you wish to defend yourself but want to consult with a lawyer, the Lawyer Referral Service of the local Bar Association can help. Check the Yellow Pages under Lawyer Referral Service.
If the offense is one that is punishable by imprisonment and you want to hire a lawyer but cannot afford one, the state may supply you with a lawyer “free of charge”, if you meet eligibility requirements.
If you do not meet eligibility requirements for a public defender, many organizations and law firms provide free or low cost legal services. Contact the New Jersey State Bar Association or a local bar association for assistance.
When should I contact a lawyer?
Immediately! Your lawyer will need time to prepare your case for trial. If you have not hired your own lawyer or contacted the public defender by the time of your trial, the judge can make you go to trial without a lawyer. The public defender may refuse your case if you apply with less than 10 working days before trial.
What happens after I’m arrested?
After you are arrested, you will be taken before a Superior/Municipal Court Judge who determines if probable cause exists to charge you. The judge:
– ensures that you understand the charges against you and the possible penalties,
– advises you of your right to an attorney,
– advises you of your responsibilities in obtaining an attorney,
– decides whether you should be detained or released pending trial,
– and determines whether bail should be set.
You should provide the judge with any information requested.
What court will hear my case?
The Municipal Court hears most cases involving motor vehicle violations and criminal misdemeanors. The Superior Court hears cases involving serious felony crimes.