Bail bonds are something that few people have to deal with on a regular basis, and the laws and processes around securing a bond for a person in jail can be confusing. If you or your loved one is in need of bail, it is important to understand how the bail bond process works.
When an arrested individual lacks the cash or property necessary to meet the total cost of bail set for them, they can engage the services of a bail agent or “bondsman.” Bail agents negotiate the release of the accused person in exchange for a fee that typically amounts to eight to 10 percent of the full face value of the bail. After the fee has been negotiated and responsibility for the bail bond has been accepted by either the arrested individual or a co-signer, the bail agent deliver the bond to the jail, allowing the arrested individual to leave police custody.
Here is a detailed look at each step of the process:
A bail bond provides a financial reason for defendants to make scheduled court dates after being released from jail. Without bail bonds, people who cannot afford their bail would have to remain in jail from the moment of the arrest up until the end of the criminal trial, potentially several months or longer. Defendants who post bond, an amount typically 8-10 percent of the full face value of the bail, are released from jail, as the money is considered incentive to return when the trial starts. Bonds are usually posted through special agencies or bondsmen.
A bail bondsman is a licensed professional who helps defendants with the posting of a bond. Bail bondsmen typically work for bail agencies, and are insured professionals with a standing agreement with the courts. A bondsman performs a number of tasks, including:
Bonds may be posted by the defendant or by a friend or family member. As we detailed above, posting a bond usually involves contacting a bail agency or bondsman. The amount of the bond must then be paid in some way; bond agencies often accept cash or even credit cards. Large bonds might require a person to supply a valuable asset as collateral to secure the full amount. The agency usually charges a small fee for the services provided.
Release from jail can occur quickly after a bond is paid. Some defendants are released within an hour of paying the bond, other times it may be longer if the jail is overcrowded or very busy. Defendants sometimes have to follow specific guidelines or restrictions after release; this often includes checking in with the bond agency regularly.
If a friend or family member posts a bond for a defendant, then this person is called a co-signer. A co-signer accepts responsibility for making sure the defendant shows up at every court date on time. Co-signers are also responsible for ensuring defendants follow all the rules given during release. If the defendant decides to flee or break the law, then the co-signer becomes financially responsible for the bond.
Many things can happen if a defendant decides to flee and not show up for a court date. The judge at the trial will issue a bench warrant allowing the defendant to be arrested on sight. The bond agency may send out a bondsman to track down the defendant and bring them back to court. If the defendant does not return within a certain timeframe, then the bond is forfeited and the money and any collateral is lost.
In most cases, bail bonds last for the duration of the criminal trial, at which point the money used to secure the bond is returned. The bond money is returned regardless of the outcome of the trial. The bond agency returns all of the money, less any fees charged by the agency.