In serious felony cases, such as vehicular homicide, aggravated assault, and homicide, the case typically begins with the suspect being arrested. Frequently, a bond is set in the first hearing within 24 hours of arrest. That bond is typically high. You need to understand how a bond works. If the bond is set, for instance, at $100,000, the bondsman will require that you post collateral, such as equity in a house in the amount of $100,000, the full amount of the bond. In addition, you will have to pay the bondsman a premium equal to a percentage of the bond. For example, the bondsman may require a ten percent premium, or $10,000 for a $100,000 bond. If the case is dismissed, or resolved, the bond is exonerated. That means the lien on your house will be released. You will not, however, get the premium back (for instance, the $10,000 used in my example).
Frequently, when people are arrested, there is a splash of publicity, and the magistrate at the initial appearance sets a very high bond. Families, desperate to get a loved one out of the jail, mortgage everything to post that bond. The premium is gone, even if the case is dismissed within days.
I recognize that having a loved one sitting in jail is terrifying, but consider the following facts. First, a competent lawyer can frequently get the bond very substantially reduced within a couple of weeks of arrest. The media attention dies down. Positive facts can be developed. Once the case gets assigned to a judge, rather than a magistrate, the judge is much more likely to reduce the bond.
Please keep this fact in mind: I have been representing defendants in criminal cases for over 35 years. I have represented many individuals who have been held in the Pima County Jail. The food is bad, and medical and dental care are worse, but I have never had a client who was seriously injured in the Pima County Jail.
If you or a loved one are charged with a crime, take your time. Research the attorney. If you know attorneys who practice in other areas of the law, ask them which criminal defense attorneys they respect. Most importantly, meet with the attorney. Make sure that the attorney can knowledgeably answer all of your questions and is someone that you can communicate with easily.
Getting through the criminal justice system is a confusing, nerve-wracking experience. The consequences can and will affect the rest of your life. Having a highly skilled and experienced lawyer that you have confidence in can make all of the difference.