What is bail and how does it work in Mississippi?

If I have learned one thing about jail, it is this:  it is better to be out than in.  Most of the time you won’t have a choice in the matter, and so when you are arrested, one of several things is going to happen:

  • they are going to let you go;
  • they are going to keep you in jail;
  • you are going to get ROR’d (released on your own recognizance) until your trial; or
  • you will be released after posting bail.

The terms “bail” and “bond” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.  “Bail” is the money or something else of value that you deposit with the court in order to secure your release until your case can go to trial.  A “bond” is a percentage of your bail amount that you can put up to gain your release. 

You have a constitutional right to bail that is not excessive, guaranteed by both the U.S. Constitution and the Mississippi Constitution.  Mississippi courts will consider the following factors when setting your bail after your arrest: 

  1. length of residence in the community;
  2. employment status and history and financial condition;
  3. family ties and relationships;
  4. reputation, character and mental condition;
  5. prior criminal record, including any record of prior release on recognizance or on bail;
  6. identity of responsible members of the community who would vouch for defendant’s reliability;
  7. nature of the offense charge and the apparent probability of conviction and the likely sentence, insofar as these factors are relevant to the risk of nonappearance; and
  8. Any other factors indicating ties to the community or bearing on the risk of willful failure to appear.

Shook v. State, 511 So.2d 1386, 1387 (Miss. 1987).  In practice, your bail may be set anywhere from $1000.00 for a misdemeanor to hundreds of thousands of dollars when it comes to very serious crimes.  If you believe your bail was set too high, you need to get a lawyer involved to request a hearing on your behalf to get your bail reduced.  But once your bail has been set, there are generally three options available to you:

  1. Cash bond – you can deposit the entire amount of your bail in cash.  The court will hold your money until you make all of your court appearances and your case is over.  At the end of your case, if you have made all of your appearances, you will receive all of your money back, minus court costs, fines, etc., if any.
  2. Property bond – the court will post a lien on property you own, and if you don’t make all of your appearances the court will foreclose on your property to obtain the bail amount.  Property bonds are rarely an option.
  3. Bail bond – a bail bond is a contract between you and a bonding agent whereby this agent pays your bail, and guarantees to the court that you will make your appearances.  Because most people can’t come up with the entire amount of their bail in cash, a bail agent is involved in most cases.   

Bail premium amounts (the amount you must pay the bail agent) in Mississippi are established by law. Section 83-39-25 of the Mississippi Code Annotated states that the bail premium shall be ten percent, or $50.00, whichever is greater, for a resident of Mississippi.  For a nonresident, or a person charged with a capital offense, the bail premium shall be fifteen percent, or $50.00, whichever is greater.  For example, if your bail is set at $50,000.00, you are looking at approximately $5000.00, plus incidental fees and costs.  Unlike posting a cash bond, you will NOT get this premium back.

In practice, if you or a close friend or a family member have been arrested, you should call a lawyer or a bail agent immediately.  I work closely with several bail agents, and have them on call 24 hours a day.  But if you call the bail agent first, try to have as much of the following information as possible:

  • Arrested person’s full name, date of birth and place of birth
  • Jail name and city or state the person was arrested
  • The date the person was arrested
  • Type of crime charged
  • Amount of bail
  • A major credit card

It is the bail agent’s job to get you out of jail.  It is my job to keep you out.  If you have any questions regarding bail issues, or need help getting bail reduced in a case, give me a call at 601-991-1099.  If you live outside of Jackson, Mississippi, call my Toll-Free Line at 866-991-1555.  Or you can e-mail me at clarence@guthriefirm.com.