When your loved one is arrested in Colorado, it may be possible to secure their release by posting a bail bond with the court. A bail bond serves as a monetary promise that your loved one will show up to all future court proceedings in return for getting to remain out of custody during the case.
Here are five key things to know:
- Once the criminal case ends, the judge will order that your bail money be returned to you (“exonerated”).
- Bail money gets exonerated whether or not the criminal charge leads to a dismissal, acquittal, or criminal conviction.
- Though if your loved one skips court, the judge can forfeit the bond – meaning that you lose the bail money forever.
- If you cannot afford cash bail, you can hire a bail bondsman at only 15% of the amount of the bond.
- For petty offenses and minor misdemeanors, it is often possible to get O.R. release without paying bail.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will answer the following faqs about Colorado bail bond laws:
- 1. What is the process of hiring a bail bondsman in Colorado?
- 2. How do judges set bail?
- 3. What kinds of bail bonds are there?
- 4. What are bond conditions?
- 5. Can people on bond in Colorado leave the state?
- 6. How long can Colorado jails hold people without bond?
- 7. Can bail conditions be appealed?
- 8. How long can people be held in jail without a bond in Colorado?
- 9. Can I ever get my premium back?
- 10. My loved one missed court by mistake. What do I do?
1. What is the process of hiring a bail bondsman in Colorado?
If your loved one is arrested in Colorado and you cannot afford bail on your own, you can easily find local bail bondsmen through a simple internet search. You can then call them or go to their office in person to discuss how to proceed.
When you hire a bail bondsman to get your loved one released, you are considered an indemnitor or co-signer. You must be at least 18 years old since a written contract is required.
For a bondsman to post a surety bond with the court, they will:
- charge you a non-refundable premium – usually 15% of the total bail amount, and
- secure collateral for the remaining 85% in the event your loved one misses court and the judge forfeits the bond.
Bail bondsmen typically accept credit card payments, and some also allow you to pay in installments. You may also need to pay extra if the bondsman has to store your collateral in a public storage facility.
Once the bondsman posts bail with the court, your loved one should be released within a few hours. As long as they obey all court orders and appear at future court hearings, you should not have to deal with the bail bondsman again.
However if your loved one skips court, the court will issue a bench warrant for their arrest and may forfeit the bail amount. This means the bail bondsman will:
- send out a bounty hunter to find your loved one and bring them to court, and
- use your collateral to reimburse themselves for the forfeited bond and any bounty-hunting expenses.
The possibility of forfeiture is why it is important not to take on the responsibility of hiring a bail bondsman unless you are sure your loved one will comply with court orders. Also be sure to keep a copy of your contract and get a receipt for your premium and collateral.2
Note that bail bondsmen are not allowed to solicit you – you must contact them. Though if your loved one contacts a bail agent while in custody and names you as a co-signer, it is okay for the agent to then call you.
See our related article, Fugitive Recovery Agent Colorado – How Bounty Hunters Work.
2. How do judges set bail?
Some violations such as minor traffic infractions require no bond. More serious violations, such as a class 1 felony for first-degree murder, have no bond amounts under the guidelines; therefore, the defendant would need to remain in custody pending the outcome of the case.
Judges have the discretion to veer from the bail schedule based on the defendant’s unique circumstances, such as whether they:
- have a history of missing court,
- pose a danger to the community, and
- have the financial ability to pay bail.
Courts in Colorado may use the Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool (CPAT) to determine whether an individual is likely to return to court and/or re-offend while on release. This involves assigning a score based on the following factors:
- Having a home or mobile phone
- Owning or renting a residence
- Contributing to residential payments
- Past or current problems with alcohol
- Past or current mental health treatment
- Age when first arrested
- Past jail sentence
- Past prison sentence
- Having active arrest warrants
- Having other pending cases
- Currently on supervision
- History of revoked bond or supervision
Based on the defendant’s score, they are assigned to a risk category that relates to their likelihood of
- making a court appearance or
- re-offending while on release.
Under state criminal law, level 1 is the lowest pretrial risk category with level 4 being the highest risk category.
If you cannot afford your loved one’s bail, the criminal defense attorney can always ask for a bail hearing to argue for a lower bail or even no bail. Though prosecutors will likely contest this and may ask for a higher bail.3
3. What kinds of bail bonds are there?
There are a number of types of bonds available to release your loved one from a Colorado jail. However, the court may only allow a certain type of bond, depending on their offense, risk assessment factor, and statutory conditions of release.
3.1. Personal recognizance bonds
- An “unsecured personal recognizance bond” allows your loved one to be released on their personal recognizance (PR), also called “own recognizance” or OR release. No security interest needs to be posted if they promise to appear at all future required court dates.
- An “unsecured personal recognizance bond with additional nonmonetary conditions” is similar to PR release but with additional conditions. An example would be wearing a GPS location-tracking anklet during pretrial release.4
Note that the district attorney has to give their approval before your loved one can be released on a PR bond if either:
- they are facing felony charges or were convicted of one in the last five years;
- they are facing class 1 misdemeanor charges or were convicted of one in the last two years; or
- they previously failed to appear on a bail bond.5
3.2. Bonds with secured conditions
- A “bond with secured monetary condition” is where your loved one gets released in exchange for posting bail directly or through a bail bondsman.6
- In rare cases, some courts consent to a “bond with secured real estate conditions.” Also called a property bond, this is when the court places a lien on your property to ensure their appearance. The equity in the property must be no less than one-and-a-half times the bail amount. If the defendant does not appear, the court may foreclose on the property. 7
4. What are bond conditions?
Every defendant who gets arrested and released on bond in Colorado has to promise to appear at future court dates.
Defendants out on bond also have to acknowledge and comply with the “mandatory restraining order” that remains in place from their arraignment all the way to the final disposition. This means they cannot:
- retaliate against, or
- tamper with
any victims or witnesses in the case.8
In addition, the court may impose additional conditions such as:
- periodic telephone contact;
- periodic office visits;
- periodic visits to their home by police officers;
- periodic drug or alcohol testing;
- mental health or domestic violence counseling;
- substance abuse treatment;
- staying out of trouble (committing no new crimes);
- notifying the court of any change in residence/new address;
- pretrial work release; and
- electronic monitoring.
The purpose of granting bail and conditions is to avoid pretrial detention for defendants who pose little safety risk and are likely to appear for their court hearings. Though when defendants fail to follow these conditions, the trial court judge may
- raise the bail amount and/or harshen the bail conditions, or
- cause the bail money to be forfeited and remand them to jail (“revocation of bail”).
5. Can people on bond in Colorado leave the state?
It depends on the case. Usually the court’s permission as well as a “consent of surety” from the bail bondsman are required before defendants on bond can leave the state. Contact the court or bail bondsman if you are unsure.
6. How long can people be held in jail without a bond in Colorado?
Colorado law requires arrestees to be brought before a judge within 48 hours for the initial bond setting. Though if the arrest occurred before a weekend or holiday, it is not unusual for more than 48 hours to pass before this first court appearance.9
7. Can bail conditions be appealed?
Yes, but it is an uphill battle in the state of Colorado. When an appeals court reviews a trial court’s bail decisions, it uses an “abuse of discretion” standard. This means that the appeals court will uphold the trial court’s bail decisions if it is at all reasonable. Bail can only be overturned if it is
- manifestly unfair and/or
When determining bail amounts and bond conditions, the judge is obligated to do the following four things:
- “consider all methods of bond and conditions of release to avoid unnecessary pretrial incarceration”;11
- determine that the bond condition is “reasonable and necessary to ensure the appearance of the person in court or the safety of any person or persons in the community”;12
- calculate what bail amount and conditions are necessary to protect public safety and maximize the odds of the defendant showing up to court “taking into consideration the individual characteristics of each person in custody, including the person’s financial condition”;13 and
- infer that the defendant is “eligible for release on bond with the appropriate and least restrictive conditions”.14
If the appeals court finds that the trial judge met these standards, it will likely uphold the bail conditions.
8. Is failing to appear a separate crime?
It can be. For instance if your loved one is out on bail for a felony charge – and then they knowingly fail to appear in court with the intent to avoid prosecution – the D.A. can charge them with a class 6 felony. The penalty is
- 1 year to 18 months in prison, and
- $1,000.00 to $100,000.00.
If your loved one is out on bond for a sex offense, failing to appear carries a minimum one year prison sentence with no chance of probation or a suspended sentence.15
9. Can I ever get my premium back?
Colorado courts can order your bail bondsman to return your premium, but it will usually do so only if:
- the criminal case gets dismissed shortly after you posted bond;
- the bail bondsman revokes the bond;
- you pay the bondsman, but they do not post bail in a timely manner; or
- another law enforcement agency has a hold on your loved one, so you posting bail through a bondsman did not result in them being released.
If at the case’s conclusion the bondsman fails to return the remaining balance of your collateral or has damaged your collateral, you can contact their insurer or the Division of Insurance to try to remedy the situation.
Note that if the bondsman put a lien on your property, the court will need to give you a “bond release” or “certificate of discharge” for you to give to the bondsman so the lien can be lifted.16
10. My loved one missed court by mistake. What do I do?
It is usually recommended that you contact the bail bondsman immediately and help them find your loved one. Ideally your loved one can surrender to the court before the court enters judgment on the bond.
A “consent of surety” by the bail bondsman is typically required for the court to reinstate their bond.16 The bondsman should not charge you an extra fee for this.
You will likely be responsible for the bondsman’s expenses if they have to search for and apprehend your loved one. If your loved one is never found or is found too late, you will likely be responsible for paying the bonding agent the entirety of the bail amount.
Although the bondsman may use physical force and threaten your loved one, they may never use physical force on you or threaten you. This is because you are the co-signer, not the defendant.
- Colorado Revised Statute 16-1-104. Note that bail bonding agents need a Colorado license and have an insurance company appointment or be a qualified cash bonding agent; the Division of Insurance handles enforcement and complaints.
- The premium receipt should say, “If a refund of premium is ordered by the Court after the bond is posted, premium will be returned in the amount and within the time specified by the court order. If the bail bond is not posted within twenty four hours, as required by law, all monies paid must be returned within seven days (7) after receipt of good funds. A separate Premium Receipt shall be prepared each time an insurance producer posts a Bail Bond with the court.” The collateral receipt should say, “Collateral will be returned after receipt of a copy of the Court Order that results in a release of the bond by the Court. Collateral will be returned within fourteen (14) calendar days. Pursuant to § 10-2-705(3.5)(d), C.R.S., applicable to the use of real property, your reconveyance of title, certificate of discharge, or a full release of any lien shall be provided within 35 days after receiving notice that the time for appealing an order that exonerated the bail bond has expired. Trust Deeds will be returned within thirty-five (35) calendar days. If the bail bond is not posted within twenty-four hours of receipt of full payment or a signed contract for payment, collateral must be returned and the lien released within seven days (7) after receipt of good funds.” 3 CCR 702-1.
- CRS 16-4-103.
- CRS 16-4-104.
- CRS 16-4-104.
- CRS 16-4-104(1)(c).
- CRS 16-4-104(1)(d); see also Fullerton v. County Court (Colo. App. 2005), 124 P.3d 866 (bail for defendants awaiting extradition before a governor’s warrant are governed by Colorado statute C.R.S. 16-19-117).
- CRS 16-4-105 subsection (8). CRS 18-1-1001. Note that tampering with, retaliating against, or contacting victims or witnesses in a case is a separate criminal offense.
- CRS 16-4-102.
- See People v. Jones, (2015) CO 20, 346 P.3d 44.
- CRS 16-4-103(4)(c).
- CRS 16-4-104(1)(c); CRS 16-4-105(7).
- CRS 16-4-103(3)(a).
- CRS 16-4-103(4)(a). See also H.B. 13-1236 (Concerning Pre -Trial Release From Custody). See also American Bar Association Standards of Criminal Justice Standard 10-1.4. Conditions of release:
“(a) Consistent with these Standards, each jurisdiction should adopt procedures designed to promote the release of defendants on their own recognizance or, when necessary, unsecured bond. Additional conditions should be imposed on release only when the need is demonstrated by the facts of the individual case reasonably to ensure appearance at court proceedings, to protect the community, victims, witnesses or any other person and to maintain the integrity of the judicial process. Whenever possible, methods for providing the appropriate judicial officer with reliable information relevant to the release decision should be developed, preferably through a pretrial services agency or function, as described in Standard 10-1.9.
(b) When release on personal recognizance is not appropriate reasonably to ensure the defendant’s appearance at court and to prevent the commission of criminal offenses that threaten the safety of the community or any person, constitutionally permissible non-financial conditions of release should be employed consistent with Standard 10-5.2.
(c) Release on financial conditions should be used only when no other conditions will ensure appearance. When financial conditions are imposed, the court should first consider releasing the defendant on an unsecured bond. If unsecured bond is not deemed a sufficient condition of release, and the court still seeks to impose monetary conditions, bail should be set at the lowest level necessary to ensure the defendant’s appearance and with regard to a defendant’s financial ability to post bond.
(d) Financial conditions should not be employed to respond to concerns for public safety.
(e) The judicial officer should not impose a financial condition of release that results in the pretrial detention of a defendant solely due to the defendant’s inability to pay.
(f) Consistent with the processes provided in these Standards, compensated sureties should be abolished. When financial bail is imposed, the defendant should be released on the deposit of cash or securities with the court of not more than ten percent of the amount of the bail, to be returned at the conclusion of the case.”
- CRS 18-8-212.
- CRS 10-23-108;