How Bail Bonds Work
When someone is arrested, they are taken to the county jail and are booked. In some instances, they are booked in the local police department before being transferred to the county jail. The individual that is arrested is called a Defendant until the conclusion of his or her trial. Following his or her arrest, the Defendant will be brought before a judge. Three things may happen:
- No Bail - Sometimes, the judge may decide that the Defendant must stay in jail until his or her trial is completed. This is referred to as a “no bail.” A bondsman cannot post a bail bond for these Defendants.
- Cash Only - Other times, the judge may permit bail and set a bail amount; however the judge will require the bail amount to be posted with the court in cash. This type of bail is referred to as a “cash only” bail. A bondsman cannot post a bail bond for these Defendants.
- Cash or Bond - Most of the time, the judge may permit bail and set a bail amount that can be satisfied with “cash or bond.” A bondsman can post a bail bond for these Defendants.
If the judge has given the Defendant the option of posting a bail bond, then the Defendant may turn to a bail bondsman to post the bail. Otherwise, the Defendant and his family will be forced to deposit the entire bail amount in cash with the court. For many Defendants, this is simply impossible.
A bail bondsman will post a bond with the State guaranteeing the Defendant’s appearance at court for the duration of the Defendant’s trial. The bondsman sends a bail agent to the county jail where the Defendant is located and the agent posts the bail bond. If the Defendant fails to appear in court and forfeits the bail, then the bondsman could be responsible to the State for the full bail amount.
Therefore, when the bondsman posts a bail bond it takes a significant risk. For taking this risk, the bondsman charges a fee. The fee is referred to as a premium. A premium is usually ten percent of the bail amount set by the judge. For example, if the bail amount is $50,000.00, then the premium owed to the bail bondsman will be $5,000.00. However, unlike the cash deposited with the court, a bail bondsman does not need the premium all at once. A bondsman can work out a payment arrangement whereby the Defendant can pay the premium in payments like a loan or a credit card. Once the bond is posted, the premium is non-refundable.
A bondsman will often ask family and friends of the Defendant to co-sign for the bail bond. This means that the friends and family of the Defendant promise to indemnify the bondsman for any expenses incurred by the bondsman as a result of posting the bond (for example, if the bail is forfeited and the bondsman is forced to hire bounty hunters to track down the Defendant). The co-signers also ensure that payments are made towards the premium, and that the Defendant makes all of his or her court appearances.
In some cases, the bondsman will ask for collateral in the form of cash or a lien on property. At the conclusion of the Defendant’s trial, any collateral held by the bondsman will be returned provided that the bondsman has not incurred any expenses. If the bondsman has incurred expenses, then the collateral may be used to satisfy the outstanding obligation.
This website provides information about the bail process. However, in no instance should this information be construed as legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice regarding a bail or another matter you must contact your attorney.