What Is the 90 Day Bond Rule in Georgia? What does "Indict or Release" Mean?

Posted by Megan GroutMar 05, 20240 Comments

90 Day Bond Rule
90 Day Indict or Release Rule

What Is the 90 Day Bond Rule In Georgia?

What Does "Indict or Release" Mean?

     If you have been arrested in Georgia, or know someone who has, the 90 day bond rule may be something you've heard about. But this is a rule that is often misunderstood by people in jail and it can lead to people making terrible mistakes with their freedom if they don't have a lawyer.

What does the law say about the 90 Day Bond Rule?

     Official Georgia Code Annotated Section 17-5-50 is titled "Right to Grand Jury Hearing Within 90 Days Where Bail is Refused; Right to Have Bail Set Absent Hearing Within 90 Day Period." The important part of this law says "Any person who is arrested for a crime and who is refused bail shall, within 90 days after the date of confinement, be entitled to have the charge against him or her heard by a grand jury having jurisdiction over the accused person... In the event no grand jury considers the charges against the accused person within the 90 day period of confinement ... the accused shall have bail set upon application to the court."

      (There is additional language in the statute that talks about death penalty cases but we will not discuss that here.)

What does this law mean?

     In simple terms, if someone is arrested and is a refused a bond, prosecutors are required to indict (formally charge the case) within 90 days of the arrest. If they do not indict it within that time frame, you have the right to file a motion for a bond and the court must grant you a bond.

Does this mean they have to dismiss my case within 90 days if I don't have a bond?

     No. Sometimes this law is called "Indict or Release" and people make the mistake of thinking that means if they don't indict the case in 90 days that a case is dismissed. "Release" doesn't mean dismissal. Release refers to the ability to be released because you are given a bond. 

Does this mean I will automatically get out once the judge sets my bond after 90 days?

     No. People make a terrible mistake of believing they don't need a lawyer because if they just sit in jail for 90 days, they will automatically get a bond on the 90th day. This is not what the law says. The law says the accused shall have bail set upon application to the court. This means even after 90 days, a motion has to be filed requesting that the judge schedule this case on their calendar for a bond hearing. Because people make a mistake in thinking they will get a bond on the 90th day, they panic when they get to that 90th day and nothing has happened. (Or they panic because they think their case is about to be dismissed and only then realize how wrong they were!)

    Also remember that when a bond hearing is requested, it can take weeks to get on the judge's calendar to have it heard. So if you waited until the 90th day and realized your mistake, even if a bond hearing was requested that day, it may still be several more weeks before the judge considers it. This is why having a lawyer from the beginning is so important if you are trying to get out of jail! A good lawyer will be familiar with the county where you are being held and know the smartest way to get you on that bond calendar as close to the 90th day as possible. That way, you haven't wasted extra time in jail when the law requires that you be given a bond.

Does the law require that the judge set a bond I can afford?

     No. If you look at the law, it does not say that the bond must be set at something that you can afford. It is up to the judge to decide what is a reasonable amount for the bond, based on different factors. And remember, for serious crimes, the prosecution will be arguing to the judge that the bond should be set very high because they don't want you to be able to get out even with a bond set. The judge will then look at the seriousness of the charges, your criminal history, the likelihood that you will come to court when required (your ties to Georgia), whether you are likely to commit more crimes if released, and whether you are a danger to witnesses or victims. If the judge feels that you may be a risk, the judge can set your bond very high. It could be 10 times more expensive than you can afford! So, even after 90 days, the judge may still have a way to keep you in jail. Of course, you can always seek to have your bond reduced through a Motion for Bond Reduction, but most judges won't consider a bond reduction for at least another 30 days, sometimes longer. 

     Again, this is why an experienced lawyer can help you. We handle bond motions regularly (sometimes multiple times each week!) and we know how to put forth the best arguments to the judge about why the bond should be set at an amount you can afford. 

When does the 90 day clock start ticking?

     The law says it must be 90 days after the date of confinement. So for most, this means 90 days from the date of your arrest. It is NOT 90 days from the date the crime occurred. If you were not arrested until several days/weeks/months after the crime occurred, none of that time while you were still out of jail will count. If you were arrested for the crime while in another jurisdiction (and held there), that time you were in the other jail should count for those 90 days. The same is true if you were being held somewhere else on a different crime, but the county here put a "hold" on you to come here next. Once that "hold" is placed, your lawyer will argue that should count toward the 90 day clock. 

Do I have to wait 90 days to get a bond?

     No! A lawyer can file for a bond hearing the same day you were arrested. The 90 day rule only applies to people who haven't gotten a bond any other way by the time the 90 days have passed. 

     In fact, smart lawyers know that sometimes it is smarter to file for the bond hearing right away, instead of wasting time to see if you get a bond at the initial "no bond" calendar that is usually held remotely from the jail within days or weeks of your arrest. A smart lawyer knows that with some crimes (or with people on probation), you will likely be denied a bond at that first automatic bond hearing. So it is smarter to just go ahead and file a motion for the kind of bond hearing that will bring you in front of a judge for a full-blown hearing with argument and possibly witnesses. This saves time in the long run and gives you a better chance of getting a bond. Call a lawyer that is familiar with the specific county where your case is pending. They will have the best inside knowledge on the fastest way to get you a bond that you can afford.