How to Handle a Call From Jail

One of the worst phone calls you can get at any time of the day, especially after midnight, is from a friend or family member to tell you that he or she has been taken to jail. This is both a difficult call to make as well as to receive. It can bring a lot of stress, frustration and anger. In order to get through this tough situation, you will want to know the best way to handle it.

1. Don’t lose your cool

Your first reaction when you get the call from jail is to yell and scream, to let your loved one know how angry and disappointed you are to be put in that situation. Remember, being arrested is one of the lowest points in his or her life. This person is reaching out to you for help and understanding. No matter how much you scold them, they have already been giving themselves a much harsher mental beating. Instead, remain calm and ask where they are being held. Find out what they have been charged with and how much their bail will be. Reassure them that you will help them through this trouble.

2. Help them get home

While it may be tempting to let your loved one stew in a jail cell in order to teach them a lesson, it is generally advised that people who can be bailed out of jail do so as soon as possible. Jails can be very overcrowded and dangerous. In some cases, for more minor offenses, the person may obtain a release from jail after signing a ticket and receiving a court date. This is what is known as being “released on their own recognizance.” Other times, they will have to post bail in order to be released. The amount of bail will depend on the crime(s) that he or she is charged with. The full bail will need to be paid, usually in cash, to the jail or courthouse.

If the bail that is set is too high for you to easily afford, you can seek the help of a licensed bail bondsman who will explain how bail works as well as  the bail cost and fees . With a bail bondsman, you will only have to pay a small percentage of the bail amount as a fee. In most states, this is 10% of the total bail. For instance, if bail is $10,000 then you would pay a bondsman $1,000. The bail bondsman will then go to the courthouse or jail and post bail for your loved one.

No matter how you choose to get your loved one out of jail, know that the condition of his or her release is that they will return to court to face their charges on a set date. If your friend or family member does not show up for court, they will be re-arrested. If you paid the full bail amount to get them released, that money will not be returned to you. If you signed a bail bond agreement, you could be stuck repaying the bondsman for the money they posted for bail. For this reason, it is important to make sure that he or she gets to court for the hearing.

3. Speak with an attorney

As soon as possible, find an attorney that your loved one can consult with about the case. The attorney will be able to advise them on what steps need to be taken through their legal troubles. Calling for an attorney while in custody won’t help get them out of jail faster. The only reason to contact an attorney while he or she is still in jail is if they are facing serious charges.  Remember these circumstances are much easier to fight on the outside and not behind bars.

No one wants to be in this situation, but it can happen to any family at any time. The important thing is that you stay calm, do what you can to get your friend or loved one released from jail and help them find an attorney.


 Published:  1/16/2012