Napa Court (Historic Courthouse)

The historic courthouse in Napa, California, makes history by protecting the legal system in the state. It also IS history just by being there. It dates back to 1878 when the cornerstone of the first building was laid before an audience of about 1,000 and the stirring music of the Napa Brass Band. The county treasurer, tax assessor, sheriff, district attorney, and the superintendent of schools all moved in. A few years later, in 1916, a second building was added to house the expanding Hall of Records. In 1978, a third building was added between the two. Some future renovations were needed to mesh old with new, and that resulted in a 2006 rededication. This time the Napa High School Marching Band provided the stirring music.

Surrounded by history, the work of the court goes on in the historic courthouse. The Civil Division operates from there. This covers areas of mental health and small claims, which may not exceed $10,000. It is also the court for processing cases of juvenile delinquency. Family law cases are tried there, involving marital and domestic relationships and cases of domestic violence.

Napa Court also handles the important process of bail bonding. In California as in most states, anyone charged with a crime less than first-degree murder who wants to stay out of jail until the trial must produce bail money. A charge of first-degree murder is generally not open to a bail option. Bail money can often run into the thousands of dollars, which may not be an option for many people. A bail bondsman is a person who pledges that the money will be paid to the court, called a surety bond, if the person charged does not appear in court when requested. The bail bond fee is usually about 10 percent of the total amount of the bail money and is not refundable. The California Department of Insurance sets the amount required for all bail bonds that are handled in the Napa Court. These bonds are good for one year only.

Bail bond cases that are processed in Napa Court are the most common way of getting out of jail in California and elsewhere. A case bond that equals all of the bond money can be delivered to the court for release. An O.R., release on own recognizance, may also be granted if the person charged is considered to be only a slight risk, such as someone with no criminal record and charged with a non-violent offense. A Cite Out may also be used much in the way a traffic ticket is handled. The charged person must appear in court at the appointed time, but does not have to go to jail.

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