As much as 60% of the U.S. jail population on any given day are people who haven’t been convicted but are simply awaiting the resolution of their charge. These individuals are either in jail after a court has determined they’re to be held without bail or because they were unable or unwilling to meet the bail amount set by the court. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found there was a 30% increase in the number of defendants who needed money for bail between 1990 and 2006. The chances of this happening to you or someone you know may not be as unlikely as you thought.
If you or someone you know has been arrested, understanding the bail bonds process can make a world of difference to their welfare. Here’s what everyone should know:
How bail works:
When a person is arrested, they are taken into custody by law enforcement officials. After booking, the individual will have a bail hearing. At this hearing, a judge will set the bail amount. If he pays the amount of his bail, he can leave jail with the understanding that he must be at court for his or her hearing later. If he can’t afford to pay the bail amount, he must wait in jail or contact a bail bond service.
How to pay bail:
There are two ways bail can be met: either in full or with a surety bond. The full amount of bail can be paid by the defendant himself or in what is called a cash bond by another individual on behalf of the defendant. Regardless of who provided the cash or cash bond, as long as the defendant appears at all court dates, the depositor will receive his funds back less any fees or other criminal penalties.
Instead of paying the full amount of bail up front, a defendant could purchase a surety bond through a bail bonds company.
How a bail bonds company works:
If a defendant can’t pay his or her bail amount, he can contact a bail bond agency. A bail bond is a promise or surety signed by the defendant stating he will appear at court for his scheduled hearing. In exchange for a non-refundable premium – – usually 10% of the bail amount – – a bail bondsman will provide a bail bond on the defendant’s behalf. Once the surety has been posted, the defendant is released from jail.
The defendant must then appear for all court dates. If he fails to do so, the bail bondsman will be responsible for paying the full bail amount. To protect against this occurring, the bail bonds agent may require an individual sign over additional collateral. Such collateral can include a car, artwork, or jewelry and helps the bail bonds agency ensure the accused will show up for his court dates.
If the individual doesn’t appear for his court date and the bail bond company is forced to pay the bail amount, the bail bonds company has the authority to take the defendant back to jail. As long as the individual appears in court and meets the terms laid out by the bail bonds company, however, the terms of the bail bond are met. The defendant will have no further obligation to the bail bonds company regardless of whether he is found guilty or innocent by court. The premium, however, will not be returned as this was the bail bondsman’s fee for providing his services.
Does the amount of the premium vary?
The premium required by the bail bonds agency depends on your state’s regulations. Agreeing to discount their fee below state regulations may result in the bail bonds agency losing their license. The important thing to remember is by using a bail bondsman, you’re able to get out of jail for far less than the full amount of your bond.
What if the defendant is found guilty?
Regardless of the verdict of the trial, provided the defendant appears for his court dates, his obligation to the bail bondsman is complete. He won’t receive the premium back, but he is no longer required to maintain collateral to back the defendant’s bail amount. The rest is between the defendant and the courts.