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What You Need To Know About Bail Reform in Harris County

Bail Bond Hearing Courtroom in Houston Harris County

For the past few years, Harris County has been working on a proposed agreement to fix its bail system. The Harris County Bail system was declared unconstitutional in 2016 after several plaintiffs filed lawsuits against the county for being jailed for low-level offenses. Hey called the judicial practices unconstitutional and protested ordering for the release of misdemeanor defendants within jail within 24 hours of being arrested. An appellate court later ruled for bail hearings to take place within two days of the arrest to allow defendants to argue for lower bonds.

What’s the current state of bail reform in Harris County?

In July 2019, officials in Harris county votes to finally settle the bail lawsuit that had been ongoing for nearly two years. The changes in the reform system implement a change that calls for rapid release of defendants who were arrested for misdemeanor offenders, with the exception of domestic violence offenses, or people who have had multiple DUIs. The law also forced the county to look into ways to make the pretrial process more inclusive to everyone involved. They began initiating weekly designated hours for defendants to appear in front of a judge to reschedule appearances without the risk of returning to jail.

The county also implemented a risk-assessment system that determines the likelihood that a defendant will commit a similar crime if they are released from jail. There’s a lot of debate on the accuracy of these tools and whether or not the information they produce is reliable.

What does the Harris County case mean for the future of bail reform?

During the trial, evidence came out with incriminating findings that defendants were unfairly treated during their bail lawsuits. The Harris County decree includes language that reads like a warning for others who might continue to ignore the ordinates set by the reform.

During the case, evidence can out that paying high bail amounts doesn’t affect public safety or a defendant’s likelihood to show up for court appearances. In fact, they found that defendants were more likely to falsely plead guilty in order to be released from jail because they can’t afford the bail.

Criminal justice reform advocates say that the outcome of the case in Harris County could be a tipping point for many other counties across the country who want to see similar changes.

Some people do have their objections to the outcome. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has publicly objected to the settlement because it doesn’t do enough to protect victim’s rights. She thinks the new system could put victims of abusers in danger by allowing offenders to continue committing crimes right after being jailed.

If you’ve been arrested for a crime in Houston, and are unsure about the circumstances around your bail, it’s time to contact an attorney who can help. Consulting a qualified and experienced attorney, instead of finding information online, can help you understand the unique details of your circumstances, and what it means for your case moving forward.

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What You Need To Know About Posting Bond in Houston or Harris County

Surety Bond Bail Bond Harris County Houston

In Harris County or Houston City, there are pretty standard processes for being released from jail after an arrest. Depending on the circumstances, here is what you need to know about posting bond after an arrest in Houston or Harris County. 

After an arrest, you will be processed and booked at the local jail facility, where you will also learn how much bail you must pay to be released. There is usually a schedule that lists out all of the costs that are associated with misdemeanor crimes and certain felonies. If you’re charged with higher-level offenses, then you might not find out your bail amount until after you’ve had a bond hearing in front of a judge. 

If you find out how much you owe, and can pay the full amount, you will arrange with the officers to make a payment. If you cannot afford the amount in cash, then you may contact a relative or co-signer to vouch for your ability to pay in the future. If you require a co-signed to help make bond, then they need to understand the stakes of co-signing for you. Co-signers will be required to present financial information and proof of collateral or resources to pay the money owed. 

When it comes to how you can post bond and gain release from jail, most defendants have three different options. 

A surety bond is primarily used when the defendant isn’t able to afford to pay their bond in cash. In this case, they will use their resources to pay for their legal representation and form a surety bond between the court and a bail bond company. If the bail bond company agrees to pay the entire amount of the bond, then they will do so in exchange for 10% of the bond amount upfront. If the defendant fails to show up to any court hearing, then the bond is forfeited, and the defendant will be required to pay the entire amount of the bond immediately. 

A personal recognizance bond is when a judge permits the defendant to be released from jail without paying any money. These bonds are usually the work of experienced criminal defense attorneys that can make a very good case for release for the defendant. Personal recognizance bonds are only ever considered during misdemeanor cases that do not include any drugs or violence. 

Cash bonds can be used in two situations. The first is when the defendant has money to pay the entire bond upfront or can borrow it from a friend or family. The second time the judge may require a cash bond is if the defendant is considered a flight risk, or has failed to pay any court fees or fines associated with other cases. With cash bonds, the court will hold the money as long as the case is active. The defendant will get their money back if they show up for all hearings, despite as to whether or not they’re found guilty. 

Depending on the jail, this process may be a bit different from place to place. However, if you are arrested in Houston or Harris country, you can count on your bond posting process to resemble what we’ve just outlined. 

Before you make any impactful decisions regarding your bond, be sure to consult a qualified attorney or speak to legal representation to get a full overview of your options. 

If you’re facing misdemeanor or felony charges in the Houston or Harris Country area, contact the office of Christopher T. Gore to find out how he can help represent your case. 

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A Breakdown of the Texas Justice System

Texas Justice System

The Texas justice system has streamlined processes and produces that are followed following every arrest leading up to the trial. If you’ve been arrested, your situation will be unique to the charges you face; however, there are some standard procedures that you can expect to occur after you’ve been arrested in Texas.

The arrest

During the arrest itself, the officer is required to read your Miranda rights, which include that you have the right to remain silent and that anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. They will also inform you of your right to have an attorney, and that if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you.

Facing the judge

After the arrest, the law requires you to be seen by a judge within at least 48 hours. The judge will explain what you are facing and what the charges meanwhile making sure that you understand your rights. After appearing before the judge, you will be given a reasonable amount of time to consult with an attorney and set up a bond.

The bail/bond hearing

Once you’ve consulted with a lawyer, they will request a bond hearing. The bond hearing is when the judge decides upon the conditions you must follow to make sure that you return to court for your hearing. If you are being held in jail, they will determine a bail amount that you can pay to be released until your trial. The amount set for your bail is determined on a case by case basis. Your attorney can help negotiate a reasonable bail amount depending on the circumstances of your case.

Filing the charges

After bail is set, then the prosecutor will file charges via a complaint, information, or an indictment, depending on the case. A complaint is used for Class C misdemeanors, an information request is used for Class A and B misdemeanors, and an indictment is used for felonies. Indictments are almost always presented to grand juries of 12 people who will vote to determine if the defendant is guilty.

The Arraignment

After charges are filed, you are expected to appear in court and hear your charges read in open court. You will be given a copy of the complaint and have the option to enter a plea or to request a continuance. If you either the defense or the prosecution need to investigate further or explore additional evidence, then a continuance will be granted. If you and your attorney come to an agreement with the prosecution about a plea bargain, then you will present this to judge and announce how you will plead. The judge has the right to accept or reject a plea agreement.

The Trial

There are two parts to trials that take place in Texas. The guilt/innocence phase is where the state will try and prove that the defendant is guilty by presenting their evidence and calling witnesses. The defense will also be able to cross-examine the witnesses and present their case in favor of the defendant.

After the guilt/innocence phase, the judge or jury will deliberate and announce their verdict to the court.

After the verdict is announced, if the defendant is found guilty, you move on to the punishment phase. During this phase, the judge will announce their recommendation for sentencing or set another date for a sentencing hearing.

While this is a pretty accurate depiction of the justice system’s process following an arrest, remember that each case is unique and may be treated differently. It’s highly recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney that can help you navigate the logistics of your case. If you’re looking for a criminal defense attorney you understand the circumstances of your case in Texas, contact Christopher T. Gore for more info on how he can represent you.

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The Five Types of Felony Charges in Texas and Their Penalties

Scales of Justice Felony Charges

Texas takes it’s felony charges very seriously. Nearly all felony crimes committed in Texas have punishments that require either state prison or jail time. They are offenses that you cannot take lightly given the severe penalties that come with them.

If you or a loved one is being charged with a felony offense, you may have questions about what will happen next. While each situation is unique, Texas has specific classifications that the courts must follow. Each felony designation carries its own potential punishments. The first step is understanding the different types of felonies in Texas and the punishments that come with those offenses.

Types of Felonies

In Texas, felonies fall under the category of capital felonies. A capital offense encompasses first, second and third-degree felonies, or state jail felonies.

State Jail Felonies

When the state considers a crime to be a felony but fails to designate it under one of the three felony categories, it is deemed a state jail felony. Some examples state jail felony crimes include theft of a firearm, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle or possessing less than one gram of a controlled substance. State jail felonies can be punishable by up to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Third Degree Felonies

The lowest designation of a felony is a third-degree felony, which is punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A few examples of crimes that are designated as third-degree felonies include promoting prostitution, indecent exposure to a child, and committing assault while intoxicated.

Second Degree Felonies

Second-degree felonies in Texas include crimes such as manslaughter, arson, and sexual assault. A second-degree felony conviction can result in up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up $10,000.

First Degree Felonies

Crimes, including sexual assault against a child, aggravated kidnapping, or armed robbery, are considered first degree felonies. First-degree felony convictions in texas come with a sentence of five years up to life in prison as well as a $10,000 fine.

Capital Felonies

In Texas, capital felonies include the murder of a public official, or when coupled with another felony such as sexual assault or armed robbery. Capitol felonies committed in texas are punishable by death or life in prison without parole.

There are laws in place about classifications and what constitutes different types of felonies. However, the severity of the punishment is still correlated to the crime. Judges often take into consideration the defendant’s record and circumstances under which the crime was committed when designating the overall charges and punishments.

If you’ve been charged with a felony offense, it’s vital to take these circumstances seriously. Don’t rely on internet advice to guide you into taking the next steps. It’s time to retain a Houston criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help secure the best possible outcome for your situation.

If you are facing felony charges, call the offices of Christopher T. Gore to find out how he can represent your case.

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What to Expect at Your First Meeting With Your Criminal Defense Attorney

Coffee Meeting with Criminal Defense Attorney

It’s common to feel a bit nervous or anxious before meeting with your attorney for the first time. You should know that your attorney is here for you, and wants you to feel comfortable talking to them about the sensitive information in your case. The more information they have, and the more comfortable you feel talking to them, the better they will be able to represent you. 

The first meeting is an opportunity for you to get to know each other and for you to tell your story. This is also when your attorney will ask f for the information they need to begin crafting your defense.

Regardless of why you’ve hired a criminal defense attorney, there are a few things you can anticipate will happen during this initial meeting. 

Come prepared with necessary information

During this meeting, your attorney will ask you for all of the essential information about yourself. This information can include, but is not limited to: 

  • Contact information including name, address, date of birth, email and social security number 
  • Your current Immigration status
  • Education history and status
  • Your arrest record including what happened with the case and if you served any jail time, probation, or fines you paid. 
  • Past and present employment status and work history
  • Marital status
  • If you have any illnesses or recent hospitalization 

Having this information ready for your attorney will save time during the meeting and allow you to spend more time discussing the case and asking questions. 

Come ready with specific questions 

To make the most out of your time on this first meeting, begin thinking of questions, you want to ask your attorney before you arrive at their office. Ask questions about how frequently you will meet with or hear from your attorney, and what you can expect moving forward. 

Listen to your lawyer and ask clarifying questions

It’s important to ask questions you have about your case and trial, but remember to listen to what your lawyer has to say. They will likely have done a bit of their own research. Now is the time to listen to their findings and ask any clarifying questions about things that may be confusing or new to you. Lastly, make a note of important dates or events you need to prepare for that will affect your trial. During this meeting, take note of the timeline of your case and any other proceedings. You will need this information to know how to prepare for what’s to come.  

Depending on your situation, what happens during your first meeting could vary. 

It’s smart to research what to expect, but always remember that what you read on the internet is not to be confused with actual legal advice. A qualified Houston criminal defense attorney knows the latest Texas state laws and is there to support you throughout your trial. 

If you are facing a criminal offense in Houston, call the offices of Christoper T. Gore and learn more about how he can represent your case. 

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How Your Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You

Criminal Defense Legal Team Can Help

Depending on your crime and charges, you may be facing severe consequences and penalties. Despite what you know about your case, you need a qualified attorney to put you in the best position to move forward. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands your state’s system and can speak the language of the prosecutors trying your case. An attorney who is familiar with your situation and has handled similar cases will help level the playing field and make a case for your defense.

Here are just some of the ways you will benefit from having a criminal defense attorney represent you. 

Analyze the charges against you 

Sometimes, it can be challenging to know how the charges against you were decided, and what those charges mean. Your lawyer will be able to look into your specific circumstances and make sure that the case against you aligns with what actually happened. They will be allowed to visit the scene of the crime and interview witnesses in your case. Your lawyer will also have access to official reports, documents, and physical evidence that the prosecution may use against you. They will be able to identify if there are any holes in the evidence or gaps in proof that could help prove reasonable doubt in your case. 

Investigate arresting officer’s conduct 

There are times when the offices involved in charges against you did not follow protocol when collecting evidence. This is a violation of your constitutional rights, and an attorney can help determine if this happened in your case and how unlawful evidence can be dropped from the case. 

Help you understand what is happening

The legal system contains many moving pieces and can seem complicated if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Your attorney can help you understand what’s happening with your proceedings. Beyond that, they will protect you from being taken advantage of or being tricked or coerced into saying things you don’t want to say. 

Build a case for your defense

Perhaps you have an alibi for the crime or acted in self-defense before your arrest. Your lawyer will gather your case’s information to build your defense in a way that weakens the case against you. This could mean finding holes in the evidence or determining the reliability of the witnesses. 

Help you make decisions

Once your attorney gathers all of the information they need on your case, they’ll be able to give you advice on which choices to make moving forward. They can foresee what may or may not happen at trial.  Your attorney will advise you on whether or not you should take a plea, whether you should testify, or any provide strategic solutions that could help the outcome of your case. 

Represent you at your trial 

Your attorney will work and speak on your behalf in front of the judge or jury. A seasoned criminal law attorney will know the right things to say to present your defense. 

At the time, it may seem like a good idea to get advice from the internet and attempt to represent yourself. However, online information should not take the place of real legal advice from a qualified attorney. Every case is different, and you need an attorney that can help you make the best choices to benefit your future. 

If you’re looking for a Houston criminal defense attorney, call the offices of Christopher T. Gore. Tell us about your case, and we will let you know how we can best represent you moving forward.

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Dealing with Felony Charges in Houston, Texas

Houston Texas Hearing Courtroom

Being convicted of a felony is a consequential event that should be taken seriously. A felony charge can come with severe consequences that can follow you for the rest of your life. In Texas, felonies can come with hefty punishments including prison time, costly fines, and in more severe cases, the death penalty. Felonies can also make it more challenging to secure employment and could affect your record for your entire life. 

In Texas, being charged with a felony usually comes after committing a crime that involves inflicting substantial or grave harm onto another person. Additionally, some white-collar crimes such as fraud or embezzlement are also classified as felonies. 

In Texas, felonies are classified into five categories: Capital Felony, First Degree Felony, Second Degree Felony, Third Degree Felony, and State Jail Felony.

Let’s go over how different crimes fall under each classification and the potential punishment for each. 

Capital Felonies

The most serious felonies are labeled as capital offenses, and they come with the most severe punishment, including life in prison without parole or possibly the death penalty. Murder of a public servant is one example of a capital felony offense. 

First Degree Felony

First Degree felony offenses are the next most serious classification following Capital Felonies. Examples of First Degree Felonies include aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, and murder. 

First Degree Felonies may be punished with Punishments for a first-degree felony may include life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Second Degree Felony

Second Degree felonies include certain domestic violence offenses, including causing serious injury to a family member. Under Texas law, a second-degree felony could be punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000

Third Degree Felony

Third-degree felonies, while less grave than the first two, still carry serious punishment and can result in up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A common third-degree felony is the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in an amount of 5-50 pounds. 

State Jail Felony

State Jail Felonies don’t carry a particular designation or have specific sentences. They are often viewed on a case-by-case basis. State Jail Felonies can be punishable with 180 days to two years of jail time and a monetary fine of up to $10,000. 

What to do if you’re charged with a felony

If you’ve been charged with a felony, don’t take the situation lightly. It’s time to find an attorney who understands the severity of the situation and can help you know what it means for your life moving forward. 

Even though felony crimes carry serious weight, the right Houston felony attorney can help you manage the outcome of your situation and know what to expect moving forward. 

The right felony defense attorney will be able to understand your situation and offer you the best options available for your unique situation. 

Remember that the internet is not the right place to find legal advice specific to your case. Every case is different, and you need a personalized plan that will apply to your unique situation. If you are facing a misdemeanor offense in Houston, call  Christoper T. Gore. Learn more about how he can best represent your case and help you move forward. 

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What is considered a Misdemeanor in Texas

Houston Texas Misdemeanor Legal System

In Texas, crimes are categorized based on the seriousness of the offense. How aggressively you are punished for a crime defends on how that crime is classified under Texas law. While misdemeanors may be considered “lesser” criminal acts under some systems, the punishment for these crimes depends on how it is classified. Misdemeanors can fall under one of three categories: Class A misdemeanor, a Class B misdemeanor, or a Class C misdemeanor. 

Depending on the crime and how it is classified, you may be facing severe fines, jail time, or a combination of the two. 

What is a Class A misdemeanor?

A Class A misdemeanor is the most serious of the three classifications. Penalties for crimes that fall under Class A include a mandatory jail sentence of up to one year, and you may be required to pay a fine of up to $4,000. 

Crimes that fall under Class A misdemeanors in Texas include: 

  • Assault with bodily injury
  • Perjury
  • Carrying a weapon unlawfully 
  • Second offense DWI (driving while intoxicated) 
  • Possession of 2-4 ounces of marijuana

What is a Class B misdemeanor?

Class B misdemeanors are less severe than Class A offenses but still, carry significant consequences. If found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, you could face a mandatory sentence of 180 days in jail and pay up to $2,000 in fines. 

Common class B misdemeanors include:

  • Prostitution
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Possession of certain drugs 
  • First offense DWI
  • Indecent exposure 

What is a Class C misdemeanor?

Class C misdemeanors carry the least significant punishment, but the consequences can still bring long-term effects. With crimes that fall under class C, there aren’t specific overarching punishments for the entire classification. Each crime has an appropriate punishment, and the classification does not carry any mandatory jail time for offenses. However, under Texas law, you will be required to pay a fine of up to $500. 

Class C misdemeanors in Texas include:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol as a minor 
  • Petty theft 
  • DIsorderly conduct 
  • Possession of tobacco or alcohol as a minor
  • Simple assault 

What to do if you’re charged with a misdemeanor

Have you been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Houston? Having a misdemeanor on your record can make things more difficult for you in the future when it comes to finding a job and in other areas of your life. 

After the arrest, remember to stay calm and take the necessary steps to find an attorney who can help. Regardless of the crime, it’s vital to hire a trusted Houston Misdemeanor attorney to represent your case. The right attorney will understand the most up to date state laws and can provide advice that keeps your best interests in mind. 

Remember that the internet is not the right place to find legal advice specific to your case. Every case is different, and you need a personalized plan that will apply to your unique situation. If you are facing a misdemeanor offense in Houston, call  Christoper T. Gore. Learn more about how he can best represent your case and help you move forward. 

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CBD Oil & the Texas Compassionate Use Act

There’s a lot of buzz around the growing CBD and cannabis industry, and the effects CBD oil can have on people dealing with various ailments. While the industry is growing and becoming more mainstream, there are still a lot of unanswered questions around it, which can cause quite a bit of confusion with consumers, especially in the state of Texas.

The Texas Compassionate Use Act, Explained

The Texas Compassionate Use Act, passed in 2015, established a registry of physicians use low-THC cannabis to treat patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. This legislation raised some questions about how this impacts residents and public safety.  As of this year, this law only covers the medical use of low-THC cannabis as prescribed by a physician and strictly excludes “smoking” as a form of consumption.

The Compassionate Use Act is limited and only applies to patients in the state of Texas with intractable epilepsy.

In 2017, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued licenses to three organizations that have the legal right to dispense low-THC products to qualified patients. The permits gave these specific organizations the authority to grow, process and distribute low-THC cannabis to patients with a valid prescription. Currently, these three organizations include Cansortium Texas, Compassionate Cultivation and, Surterra Texas.

If the state determines a greater need for access to more registered organizations, then they will begin the process of reviving and issuing additional licenses.

Once a physician issues a prescription, the organization then dispenses the product which includes a label with information that would assist law enforcement in confirming the legitimacy of the medicine and present proof of the patients legal right to possession of the product.

This Act does not give private citizens the right to grow their own cannabis, even if it is a low-THC strain. All patients are required to purchase their low-THC marijuana from a licensed dispensing organization.

Under the Texas Occupations Code, “Low-THC Cannabis” is defined as a Cannabis Sativa that does not contain more than 0.5 percent by weight of tetrahydrocannabinol and 10 percent by weight of cannabidiol.

On a related note, CBD is making it’s way into millions of households nationwide as a way to curb anxiety and treat another number of issues including headaches, acne and more. While CBD is a legal substance in the United States, it’s unregulated nature can make it difficult to understand the real effects of the product both physically and legally.

Things to Watch Out for with CBD Oil

The fact of the matter is that CBD oil is not approved or regulated by the FDA, so it can be difficult for consumers to know exactly what they’re getting. It’s possible that certain CBD products include traces of THC, which would make the product illegal in the state of Texas.

If you are found in possession of CBD oil or gummies that contain traces of THC, you could be charged with a felony due to the concentrated nature of the substance. Even though CBD is not an illegal substance is still is not protected or regulated nationally under the law, which means you will lose in court under the argument that you didn’t know it contained THC.

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Understand the Logistics of a Jail Visit

Jail Wall

The visit will likely be conducted either via a telephone and closed circuit tv screen or through a dividing glass wall. Prepare yourself for the fact that you might not be allowed to make any physical contact with your loved one during the visit. You may not pass them any notes, money or personal items. Visitation rooms tend to get crowded and hectic during open hours. People from all walks of life will surround you. Be respectful of them and their right to visit their loved ones but don’t be afraid to ask that others are respectful of your visit as well. If someone is interfering with your right to have a meaningful visit with your loved one, notify a corrections officer.

Prepare what you want to talk about

Plan ahead regarding what you want to discuss with your loved one during the visit. Time will be limited to about 15-30 minutes, and extensions are not likely to be granted. To avoid running out of time, make a list of the things that need to be addressed. Important talking points include:

  • Does your loved one require you to bring prescription medication to the jail?
  • Is there housing or employment issues that need o to be taken care of for your or your loved one while they’re incarcerated?
  • Does your loved one need help retaining an attorney?

As a general matter, county jails will not allow inmates to release items in their personal property to civilians; however, most prisons make exceptions for crucial things like house keys and government benefit cards. If you need to retrieve something from your loved one’s belongings, you will have to fill out the proper documentation first.

Never discuss the facts of a pending criminal case when visiting. While most jail visits are not recorded (unlike inmate phone calls), you never know who is listening. If you have relevant, confidential information regarding the case, its best to go through an attorney rather than tell them in person.

Though it may be difficult, try to keep the conversation as positive as possible. Remind your loved one that you support them and encourage them to take part in any programming provided at the jail such as anger management classes or AA meetings.

Expect a request for money

Prepare yourself for the fact that your loved one will likely ask you to give them some money for phone calls and commissary. Commissary is similar to a general store that operates within the jail. Inmates can buy snacks, toiletries, and other personal items to help make their stay more tolerable. You will not be allowed to hand over cash during your visit, but you may be able to transfer money to your loved one using a kiosk in the lobby. The officials at the jail will have information about transferring money.

Know the rules and follow them

Don’t ask for special treatment from the jail officials or corrections officers. Respect the rules and follow them at all times while at the jail. It’s important to be polite to the corrections officers. Although the officers may not always show you the same courtesy, try to remember that they have a very stressful and challenging job. If you think you are being treated poorly, explain how you called ahead to learn the rules, what you were told, and what you need. Then politely ask to speak to a supervisor.