Many are familiar with the concept of bailing someone out of jail, but most don’t fully understand what the process entails. For many people, the first time they learn about bail bonds is during a crisis, usually whenever a loved one is in jail and needs to have bail posted. At that point, finding a reputable bail bondsman and navigating the bail system can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, once you understand how bail bonds work, you can be better equipped to make the right decision for your situation.
What is Bail Money?
When a person is arrested, there is often a significant waiting period between being booked for a crime and appearing in court. Because the legal system runs on the premise that people are innocent until proven guilty, suspects of a crime are not required to spend this waiting period in jail. Instead, they can be released to spend time at home with their loved ones. However, because criminals may take this as an opportunity to attempt to flee, the bail bond system was put into place.
Essentially, a bail bond acts as a form of insurance to ensure that someone who is charged with a crime will appear at all their designated court dates. If you are arrested, the person who posts bail for you will pay a certain amount of money to the court so that you can be released. So long as you appear in court when required, that money is returned to the person who posted it. This is true regardless of whether the person being bailed out of jail is found guilty later; bail has nothing to do with guilt or innocence but assurance that the suspect will comply with necessary court appearances.
What is a Bail Bondsman?
Anyone can post bail for a loved one. However, many people do not have enough money to post bail on their own, and this is where bail bondsmen come in.
A bonding agency posts a bail bond, which is a formal agreement to pay the necessary bail charges if they are required. Because bonding agencies generally have long-standing relationships with the local court and are neutral third parties, the court will trust them to be good for the bail money without having to post all of it at once.
In exchange for this service, the bail bondsman will charge a fee to the person requesting the bond. The amount of this fee is regulated by state law, but it’s usually around 10% of the face value of the posted bail. This money is not refunded to you; that’s how the bonding agency makes its money.
For example, imagine that a loved one is arrested and held on a $4,000 bail. If you do not have $4,000 to give to the court, you can approach a bail bondsman for help. You would pay a non-refundable $400 to the bondsman, and the bonding agency in exchange would post bail for your loved one. In some cases, you may also be asked to put up some form of collateral. This acts as a safety net if the person you’re posting bail for fails to appear in court, leaving the bonding company to be financially responsible for the costs of bail.
What Happens After Bail is Posted
Because your bail bondsman is financially invested in your case, it’s in their best interests to make sure you show up at court. Bonding agencies will offer resources like calendars and reminders to keep their clients on track and ensure that all court appearances are made.
In the event that someone skips bail or misses a court date, the bonding agency may hire a bounty hunter to track down the individual. Additionally, a bail bondsman can sue for the bail money. For this reason, if you ever need to use a bail bonds service, it is in your best interest to be sure you comply with all of the court’s requests.
Because the money you pay to a bail bondsman is non-refundable, you may be better off posting bail on your own if you are financially capable. If you do, the money you post to the court will be returned to you, saving you money in the long-term. However, posting large bail is simply not financially feasible for many people, which is why the bail bonds business is so important to so many.