Criminal Law Legal Topics

Using Real Property to Post Bail? You’ll Need Double

The posting of bail became very interesting recently with the case of Tiffany Li, the real-estate heiress charged with murder who was released from jail after posting an “unprecedented” $35 million in bail. How did she do it? By using a huge amount in real property equity.

Instead of a deposit of money, the defendant, or anyone else on his or her behalf, may meet a bond requirement by giving as security an equity in real property. But it has to be a lot of real estate equity—real estate equity is allowed as bail only when its value is equal to twice the amount of any required cash deposit. Pen C §1298.

In the case of Tiffany Li, she met the $35 million in bail by submitting $4 million in cash and $62 million in real property equity. She reportedly came up with that amount of equity with the help of “between 15 and 20 family members, friends and business associates.” The District Attorney wanted an even higher bail out of concern that she’s a flight risk. Li’s codefendants in the murder are being held in jail; as Li’s attorney explained, “their lawyers didn’t ask for bail because they don’t have the resources to post a multimillion-dollar bail bond like Li did.”

If your client is planning to use real estate equity for posting bail, come prepared: defense counsel should coordinate with county counsel on the adequacy of the posting papers before the hearing. Keep in mind that the district attorney may seek the county counsel’s advice on requirements for these papers. Ideally, defense counsel can take an approved package to the district attorney and the court.

If double the bail in real estate equity is not an option, consider these other ways to post bail:

  • Deposit of Cash, Check, Money Order, Traveler’s Check. The defendant, or anyone on his or her behalf, may deposit with the court clerk, or with the law enforcement agency having custody of the defendant, the sum set by the applicable bail schedule or in the order allowing bail. A personal check, bank cashier’s check, money order, or traveler’s check may be accepted in payment of a bail deposit for a nonfelony offense on certain conditions, including satisfactory identification. But some courts and law enforcement agencies don’t accept all of these alternatives to cash, particularly when the amount is large or when a check is from a defendant in custody.
  • Undertaking of Bail (Bail Bond). A bail bond is a document, executed by a surety, that’s a promise to pay the face amount of the bond equivalent to the sum set as bail, unless the defendant fulfills the conditions of the bond. Pen C §1269. Typically, a defendant agrees to “appear and answer any charge in an accusatory pleading … in whatever court it may be prosecuted, and … at all times hold himself or herself amenable to the orders and process of the court, and if convicted, will appear for pronouncement of judgment or grant of probation.” Pen C §1278(a).

For less serious offenses, defense counsel might consider advising clients to hold off on immediately posting bail following arrest because the client might be released on his or her own recognizance at arrangement or even before arrangement if jail space is tight.

For more on securing or preventing out-of-custody status, turn to CEB’s “crim law bible” California Criminal Law Procedure and Practice, chap 5.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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