Options to Consider If You Can’t Afford to Post Bail
By Tedia Gamino
If you’ve been arrested for a crime, you can post bail to be released from jail as you await your court date. Depending on the circumstances of your case, bail can range from hundreds of dollars, to thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands—and even into the millions. When bail is so high that you can’t afford to pay it, making it so that you have to stay in jail until your case is adjudicated, you have other options.
2 Things to Do If You Can’t Afford to Post Bail in Wisconsin
If you cannot post bail, these three options are common, and only one is allowed in Wisconsin:
- Ask for a lower bail amount
- Put up collateral
- Use a bail bondsman
Here’s a closer look at each option.
#1. Ask for a Lower Bail Amount
If you can’t post bail because you cannot afford to pay the set amount, your criminal defense lawyer can request that the bail be lowered because it presents an economic hardship. Decreasing the bail amount is at the discretion of the judge, so it’s important to have a criminal defense attorney who can advocate for you.
Is there an option #2. Can I put up Collateral as bail in Wisconsin?
Another way to secure your bail so that you don’t have to stay in jail is to put up collateral, in many states. Usually, this could be anything, like a car, real estate, or any other item with a value that’s equivalent to the amount of the bail. Trying to liquidate some of your assets to post bail can be a challenge and isn’t a very wise move. Instead of selling your assets, when you can put up collateral in lieu of bail, it’s a good idea to consider using them as collateral to secure your bail and get out of jail as you await your day in court. Unfortunately, bail in Wisconsin doesn’t work that way. In Wisconsin, if cash bail is ordered, you have to pay the cash (or you can use credit card, money order…). The only other bail option that doesn’t involve paying money outright is to get a signature bond. A signature bond amount is the amount you could be required to pay if you don’t comply with your bail terms.
Is there an option #3? Can you use a Bail Bondsman in Wisconsin?
In many states, you have the option to use a bail bondsman if you can’t post bail. The bondsman will pay the bail amount on your behalf and charge you a fee, which is often around 10 percent of the amount of the bail. The bondsman then has a vested interest in you showing up for court—because if you don’t show, they’ll lose the money they put up for you. However, Wisconsin is one of a minority of states that do not allow bail bondsmen. Why can’t you use a bail bondsman in Wisconsin? The practice was abolished in Wisconsin in the 1970s.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Lowering Your Bail?
If you’ve been criminally charged and have questions about excessively high bail, call our office at 414-383-6700 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys who can provide the guidance you need, and advocate on your behalf.
By Attorney Tedia Gamino