Let’s assume that a family member has been arrested in Jackson Hole. You’re on the Internet trying to figure out how bail works in Wyoming.
When and how will your family member get out of jail?
Let me start with several caveats. I am providing information and making predictions. I am not making promises about what other people will do. I am not giving you specific legal advice. Remember, judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers change. Therefore, the answer to this question will change over time. It will depend on factors specific to the case that you don’t know, and shouldn’t know. If you’re talking to your family member while they’re jail, that conversation is occurring on a recorded line. Don’t say anything about the case.
While the specifics of bail for your family member are subject to change, the legal principles remain the same. I can tell you about the principles for bail in Teton County, Wyoming. If we talk on the phone, I can make some guesses about the specifics.
The Wyoming Constitution guarantees the right to bail, in all but capital cases. Our State Constitution further prohibits “excessive” bail.
Here is what Article 1, Section 14 of the Wyoming Constitution says:
All persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses when the proof is evident or the presumption great. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor shall cruel or unusual punishment be inflicted.
You might think this means it’s easy to get bail in Wyoming. Don’t be misled by the statement “excessive bail shall not be required.”
The Court’s analysis of “excessive” is not specific to your family member’s situation. Here’s what I mean. Imagine that your family member works in the service industry in Jackson Hole. He doesn’t earn a lot of money, but pays a lot in rent. That’s a common situation here. If that’s the case, the judge is not required to set a low bail just because your family member has a low income. The judge will set a bail that’s relative to the offense. Of course, there is some room to negotiate on this point.
What factors does the judge consider when setting bail?
There is a Court rule that Courts follow.
Rule 46.1(d) states the factors the Court should consider when setting conditions of release
The judicial officer shall, in determining whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community, take into account the available information concerning:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including whether the offense is a crime of violence or involves a narcotic drug;
- The weight of the evidence against the person;
- The history and characteristics of the person including:
- The person’s character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, and record concerning appearance at court proceedings; and
- Whether, at the time of the current offense or arrest, the person was on probation, on parole, or on other release pending trial, sentencing, appeal, or completion of sentence for an offense under federal, state, or local law; and
- The nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person’s release.
This rule boils down to two considerations. The Court looks at:
When considering flight risk, the Court is evaluating whether your family member is likely to come back to Court for the next hearing. If the defendant is released, will he come back? Or will he skip town?
One factor is whether your family member has ties to the community. Does he have a job here? Own property? Have family here? Have kids in the school district? Have a local driver’s license?
If your family member doesn’t that’s not the end of the world. In Teton County, we have a fair number of visitors and seasonal workers. It’s not unusual for someone out-of-state to get a DUI on their vacation. If that’s the case, the Court is likely to require some sort of bond. The more serious the offense, the higher the bond.
Public Safety Risk.
This is the risk that your family member will injure someone while out on bond. If it’s a second or third offense DUI, our local judges may require alcohol testing or monitoring as a condition of release. If it’s an assault case, the judge may enter a protection order. In a property crime case, the judge may order the person to stay away from the alleged victims. For serious cases, the judge could order an ankle bracelet or geo-tracking device or soberlink monitoring device.
What kinds of bondS are there?
- Own recognizance bond. An “OR bond” is the least restrictive bond. The person is given a court date and expected to appear.
- Signature bond. Also called a promise to appear. In this instance, the person signs a bond stating if they fail to appear, then they agree to forfeit a certain amount of money. So they don’t put any money up, but if they fail to show up, the Court will enter an order against them for a sum certain.
- Surety bond. This is a bond with a cash value, but they’re allowed to have a bail bondsman post the bond. On a $5,000 surety bond, you may put up 10% as fee. You don’t get that money back.
- Cash bond. This is just what it sounds like. They’re required to put up cash. I think the local jail takes debit card for this, and possibly credit cards, subject to a fee.
Who pays the bond?
Anyone can pay a bond. But whoever pays the bond is the one getting the money back when the case is over. So if sibling bails them out, the money is returned to sibling at the end of the case.
Can I put up my house or property as collateral?
You may be in the situation where you own valuable property like a real estate or a vehicle, but do not have access to cash. You may want to put up property for bail. In general, I have not seen the Courts in Teton County require a defendant to put up property as collateral for bail. I’ve heard of Courts in other states requiring someone to sign over title to real estate or a car for bail. It’s possible that a Court here would consider that. My guess is that is a realistic possibility only under extreme circumstances.
Can I pay fines out of the bonds?
In general, yes. If you put up the money, and there are fine associated with the case, then you can have the court deduct the fines from the bond and send you the rest back. But if you’re not the defendant in the case, you may have to give written permission to pay the fines out of the bail money. Typically, the Court prefers to return the money to the person who put up the bail