Bail Bonds and the Fairfax County Virginia court system
Bail in the simplest terms is the concept of providing something of monetary value as collateral to ensure the appearance in court of an individual who has been charged with a crime. Bail as a function of the justice system has been in existence since midevial times, was adopted in the United States during the colonial period, and was later officially added as the eighth amendment to our American constitution.
The concept of bail is quite simple, the court will require that in order to be released from incarceration a defensive must provide a sum of money to be held by the court that is significant enough to outweigh the temptation to flee from justice. In order to recover the funds the defensive must make good on their obligation to the court. This is why the amount of bail is directly related to the seriousness of the charge and potential punishment should the defendant be found guilty.
Fairfax County is unique in respect to bail due to the size of the court system. Most county courts arraign inmates in person however Fairfax county General District Court judges will actually arraign inmates via a video teleconference. The Hearings begin actually with the Fairfax County Court Services representative reviewing the files from inmates that were arrested and interviewing via video any individuals who have not already been reviewed by court services. Their intent is to identify inmates who may qualify to be released into the Fairfax County Court Services Supervised Release Program. This program generally is a type of probation that inmates can voluntarily submit to in order to be released without a secured bond. After all inmates have been interviewed court will be brought into session. This is called an arraignment but it Fairfax County it really is not. The inmate will not enter a plea however the judge will read the charges he is accused of, review and change their bond amount as they see fit, and ask the inmate if they intend to hire their own attorney or would like court appointed counsel.
Who sets bail?
In Fairfax County Virginia bail is set by either the Magistrate or a Judge. When a person is arrested they are detained and transported to the Fairfax Adult Detention Center where they are booked into the system and shortly thereafter taken in front of the Magistrate for a very basic hearing on bail. Fairfax County is so large and the court system so busy that their are at least three Fairfax County Magistrates on duty at any one time. The Magistrate will then take into account the seriousness of the charge as well as the persons criminal record to determine if bail is appropriate in the case. If the Magistrate finds that bail is appropriate they will set the bail in one of two ways.
1) A PR or personal recognizance bond will be set. In this case bail is set although no money will be collected however the defendant will be obliged to repay the full amount of the bail should they fail to appear in court at the appointed time. If a PR bond is not set by the Magistrate Fairfax County Court Services will interview the inmate as well and could potentially recommend the bond be changed to PR to the judge when the inmate is arraigned the next court session.
2) Cash or corporate surety. If the charge or criminal record warrants the Magistrate will require that the bail actually be posted with the court before releasing the inmate. In this situation either the full amount of the bond must be posted IN CASH with the Magistrate or a third party, or surety, must be used. This is the function of the bail bondsman in Virginia.
In the event that the Magistrate required the bail actually be posted many people will employ the services of a bail bondsman to put up the bail for them in exchange for a fee. When the bail bondsman posts the bond with the Magistrate they are agreeing to guarantee the defenders appearance in court or to forfeit the bail.
Why does the court put people in the position of needing a bail bondsman?
Simply put the court knows that if the defensive fails to show up for their court date the bail bondsman will search for the defendant and return them to the custody of the court system without the involvement of the Fairfax County Police. By involving a third party the court system can save tax revenue and still ensure that the accused is brought to justice.
What is legally happening when someone bails out of jail?
Essentially when you employ the services of a bail bondsman you are being discharged into their custody as an officer of the court. In exchange for taking financial responsibility for the appearance of the deficit the state of Virginia grants the bail bondsman control over the activities of the individual. The bail bondsman can stipulate conditions on the bond to monitor the defenders behavior until the case is finalized. Once the defensive finishes the case the bail bondsman is released from liability on the bond and the debtor is removed from the bondsman's custody.
What is Fairfax County Jail like?
If you are arrested in Fairfax County you will find yourself in a very large facility with over 1200 inmates run by the Sheriff's department. This jail is a multi floor facility connected with the court system with the booking area located in the basement. After seeing the Magistrate and then being booked you will be placed in one of the intake holding cells directly across the walkway from the booking desks. These cells are medium sized rooms with chairs bolted to the floor with a television and one telephone. It is here you will stay for around 18 hours or longer if you tell the deputies that you intend to bond out of jail. The meals will only be bologna sandwiches and milk. If you are held with no bond, or can not make your bond, you will always be moved upstairs to what is called general population. Here you will be put into a "pod" which is a group of cells that open into a common area. This is a much more comfortable area to be due to the increased space and amenities such as card tables, phones, beds, and showers. The food will be delivered to the pod and are hot institutional meals. Visitation at Fairfax Jail is limited to 1 visit per week with a maximum of 3 people for up to 20 minutes and is connected on Saturday and Sunday only. Any visitors must register at least one day ahead and must adhere to strict dress codes and rules. Fairfax County does not allow contact visitation therefore the inmate will be behind a glass window and you will speak to them over a telephone.