Court hearings can be very strenuous for both the accused and the families of those appearing in court. The decision to grant bail to a criminal accused is usually the very first decision a judge makes in a criminal case, and such a decision is not trivial. It ensures that the person convicted of a crime appears for further court dates.
To amplify the trauma of getting convicted, a considerable amount of money is now also demanded so the defendant can avoid going to jail while awaiting their court trial. The bail bond agency can step in here to help as a third party and provide the financing you need.
So, now the question comes is there any relation between bonds and bail? If yes, then how does bonds work with bail? Let’s see.
What is Bail?
Bail is a fixed value of money that acts as insurance between the court and the defendant when it comes to releasing the defender from jail. In fact, it is a type of promise that the defendant will appear in court whenever required. Defendants have the option of paying cash bail.
Bails are generally of high amounts, and most defendants are not financially able to post bail themselves. They seek help from a Bail Bondsman (a helping person or firm that lends money for bail), who gets the bail for them.
What is a bond?
Bail is a court payment to a bail bond company on behalf of a person accused of a crime, making it a surety bond.
A bond is a sum of money that defendant must post to get released from the county jail before the court. If the defendant posts bail, appears at all required court hearings, and abides by the conditions of his release, the bail amount will be refunded. If, in case, the defendant does not appear on the court date, the whole bail amount gets forfeited.
Bail bonds are a way for defendants to post bail when their financial situation is too tight to pay it themselves.
Example of bail bond
Michael is arrested. The court sets his bail at $15,000. Since Michael can’t afford $15,000 in cash, he seeks the help of a bail bondsman to get out of jail. For him to get released, the agent must post a $1,500 bond.
By using a bail bond, defendants can post bail, which allows them to get out of jail before a trial. However, to get bail, defendants must pay a percentage of the bail amount. Unlike bail, this percentage is non-refundable even if the defendant complies with every condition of Pretrial.
How does bonds work with bail?
After the judge sets bail, the defendant can contact the bail bondsman. The bondsman will require the defendant or loved one to pay a percentage of the bail amount.
The paperwork is a contract between the bail bondsman that ensures that he fully understands and agrees to be responsible for the defendant’s appearance at all court hearings.
The paperwork will also discuss what they put on the line (some form of collateral) to ensure the person shows up to court. The paperwork also discusses the associated fees.
The bail agent will need to know the defendant’s full name, booking number, the charges against the accused, and the location of the jail they get held. From there, the bond agent will release the defendant from prison.
After all the formalities, the court date, confirmation, and all related paperwork, the bail bondsman has all relevant information to follow the case. That can take several hours due to procedures and the prison’s workload.
If, in case, the defendant does not appear on the court date, it will be the agent’s responsibility to pay the entire amount of the bail to the court.
From there, the bail agent hires a bounty hunter to track down the defendant and take them back to jail. The bail agent may forfeit any security or have other penalties depending on their contract.
How to get a bail bond?
Typically every bail bond company does not write bail bonds because of the underwriting issues involved. Bail Bonds are among the riskiest bonds to write.
If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail bond company that issued the bond is liable for the entire bond fine. Of course, due to the nature of surety bonds, the surety company would seek reimbursement from the defendant to recover any penalty they had to pay.
Some states prohibit Bail Bondsmen. These states still have bail bonds, but the 10% payment from the bond goes to the court and not to the bondsman.
It is crucial to understand the risk associated with Bail Bonds. Before issuing a bond, underwriters evaluate the overall risk of posting bail, including personal life, financial situation, family circumstances, and the case itself.
Approval is not easy and often requires other persons to indemnify or co-sign for the defendant.
What do bonds accept as collateral?
Each bail bond office will have its standards, but for the most part, you can expect them to accept different forms of collateral. Some examples of collateral include:
- Credit Cards
- Personal credit
- Bank accounts
What happens if I forfeit my bail?
Defendants who receive bail and then forfeit the bond by failing to appear in court owe the bondsman the whole amount of the bond. The bond agent will also try to enforce his right to the security that secured the bond.
Bail bondholders often go to great lengths to ensure that the defendant appears in court before the bond is forfeited. They may even check on defendants the morning before their court appearance and may physically escort the defendant into the courthouse.
If the defendant misses a court date, an arrest warrant will likely be issued. The next time in which law enforcement meets with the defendant, they will execute the order.
If the underlying offense was a first-offense DUI, the police rarely seek out the defendant to serve a warrant. They will actively search for the defendant if the misdemeanor is more serious.
What is a bail hearing?
Depending on the jurisdiction and state laws, mostly, bail schedules are posted in jails. These schedules set a standard for the amount of bail required depending on the crime and can often be paid directly at the jailhouse before the bail hearing.
During the bail hearing, the judge sets the amount of the bail. That is usually the first occurrence after a suspect gets arrested. Usually, judges make consistent decisions depending on the crime. The judge will consider whether the crime was drug-related, violent, or not, and the character and background of the defendant. The judge will consider whether the defendant is a threat to society if released while awaiting trial.
While defendants do not need an attorney to post bail, a criminal defense attorney can help during the bail hearing. Both the defense and the prosecutor will discuss bail with the judge.
A criminal defense attorney has the opportunity to discuss bail factors and may attempt to lower bail at the bail hearing.
Alternative to bail
Sometimes judges consider releasing a defendant on their recognizance. That is, the defendant signs a written agreement with the court agreeing to abide by certain restrictions and to appear in court.
This type of bond, known as a recognizance bond, means there are no bail bond fees.
It can save the defendant hundreds or thousands of dollars. A criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate with the judge and prosecutor to have the bond recognized as an option.
Alternatively, some states also have pretrial services, mediation, and risk assessment tools.
Securing a defendant’s right to parole through the bail system provides an advantage to the defendant in terms of reducing the likelihood of his conviction or increasing his chances of having the charges against him minimized.
Many defendants wish to get bail as soon as possible to maintain their jobs, take care of their families, and prepare for court proceedings with a clear head. Sometimes court proceedings can take weeks or months, or even years.
Bail bonds assist in relieving some of the stress associated with this process. Bail bonds secure the liberation of defendants in between court appearances by providing the money for the bail, leaving money in the pockets of close friends and family.
Working with a bail bond agency can spare you the misery of spending the night imprisoned. They can help you or a loved one prevent going to jail quickly and provide the financing you may need to pay bail.
Thus, knowing about the choice of bail bonds is noteworthy to keep your loved ones from getting locked up and save yourself from having to bear bail expenses.
Frequently asked questions
What happens if I fail to attend scheduled court appearances?
Failure to appear may result in a fine and arrest warrant. It is best to make sure you can attend all court hearings and inform the court if you cannot, for any reason.
Will Americans get their bail money back?
After the defendant appears in court, the court will return the full bond amount to you. If the person does not appear in court, the money is forfeited.
What does a bail bondsman or bail bond agent do?
Bondsmen make money from the fees they charge for bail bond services and posting bail bonds. They also make money by suing to foreclose on the property used as collateral for bail.
Is the bond fee refundable?
If the defendant meets all the requirements of his pretrial release, the surety will get back the whole amount of the bond he posted. The defendant is not entitled to the fee he paid to obtain bail, and this fee is non-refundable.