A bail bond allows someone who is being charged with a crime to get out of jail after they have been arrested and remain so until their case is tried in court. Although each state is governed by its own bail bond system, the main principles are the same in every state. Once bail has been posted, the defendant is no longer required to stay in police custody and can remain out of jail until their scheduled trial date. If you or a loved one have been charged with a criminal offense, understanding how a bail bond works can allow you to obtain freedom until your case is scheduled in criminal court. If bail is not posted, a jail stay is required until the pending trial date.
- Understand the Basic Terms: With the understanding that the defendant will appear in court on the trial date, bail is the money or property deposited to promise the court that the person will return to court for the trial. The actual promise to the court to forfeit the bail money if the defendant does not return is called the bail bond which can be made by the defendant or the surety, someone other than the defendant, who promises to pay on their behalf. A surety can be a friend, family member, or a professional bail bond agent.
- Allow the Judge to Determine and Set Bail: A judge has the authority to set bail or not, taking into consideration if the defendant is a risk or danger to the community. Bail considerations will not be offered if the defendant is considered a flight risk – not likely to return to the court for trial – or would be dangerous in the community if not contained. The bail amount is set accordingly, high enough that the defendant will not simply forfeit the monetary amount and disappear.
- Post Bail: Once bail has been set by the Judge during the initial court hearing, bail can be posted by defendants or sureties with the court clerk during regular business hours or after hours at the jail. A receipt will be provided by either the court or the jail as proof of bail bond posting.
- Court Date Scheduled: Do not miss this date. If the defendant fails to return to court on this date, a forfeiture hearing is rescheduled, and a warrant for arrest is issued. There will be an opportunity at this new date to explain the reason the court date was missed; however, if there is not a valid excuse or the defendant doesn’t show again, the court will keep the bond amount.
Choose to Sign with a Professional Bail Bondsman: A bail agent or bail bondsman can act as a surety and post bail for the defendant. There is usually a non-refundable fee of around 10% of the bail amount charged for this service. The bail agent forfeits the bond amount if the defendant fails to show up in court on the date scheduled. The agent is also authorized to make an arrest in order to bring the defendant to court. To recover the bail money, the agent may also bring a civil suit against the defendant or other persons involved, under provisions of the bail agreement, to recover the money that was used to pay the court.