While you’ve probably heard of being “out on bail,” most people don’t understand the complexities involved in bail bonds. In addition to being a skilled inside trading lawyer, a trustworthy bail bondsperson can be a critical component of your case and defense should you find yourself charged with a crime. Whether you need bail yourself or have been asked to help a loved one, read on to understand how bail bonds work and how they can be used to your advantage.
Bail and Bail Bonds
Bail is a refundable deposit that allows the defendant to get out of jail until a set court date. This deposit is used as collateral that ensures the defendant returns for their trial and court proceedings. Options for bail are based on the jurisdiction, the type of crime, and if the defendant is deemed to be a flight risk. Some cases may not be eligible for bail. If a defendant shows up for court, the bail is refunded to them by the court; if they do not show up, the money is kept by the court and a warrant is issued.
Bail is often set for a substantial amount of money that most people are not able to pay upfront. However, some jurisdictions do allow you to pay upfront, even using a credit card. When that isn’t possible, a bail bond is a way for the defendant to pay the jail. In that case, they can contact a bail agent or have a loved one contact the bail agent. This agent will pay the majority of the fee, expecting to get it back once the trial occurs and the money is refunded. Most agents will use a contract that ensures all parties understand their responsibility and outlines what happens if the defendant fails to show up.
How Bail Bonds Work
Because arrests can happen at any time, most bail bond agencies are open around the clock, and many offer electronic payment and paperwork to speed up the process. Paperwork usually involves the contract, as well as discussing collateral that may be required and any additional fees.
When contacting a bail agent, they will need information such as the full name of the defendant, the booking number, and the charges they were brought in for, as well as where they are being held. Using this information, they can then get the defendant released. The agent usually goes to the jail themselves so that they can be given the court date, a receipt, and all related paperwork. This may take several hours.
If the defendant does not show up for court proceedings, the bail agent is then responsible for the full amount of bail. They will usually hire a bounty hunter to track down the defendant and return them to jail. Any collateral will be lost and additional fees may apply.
How Much Is a Bail Bond?
A bail bond agency will charge a fee for their services; some states have maximum fees and regulations, while others do not. This fee may vary based on the situation surrounding the arrest and how much risk they are taking on. About 10 to 20% of the bail is a common fee, and it can usually be paid upfront or on a payment plan.
In addition to a fee, most agencies will ask for collateral. This can be anything of value that the person owns. This may be one condition of many set out by the agent. If you are signing any contract, be sure to read it in full or have an attorney review it.
The amount of bail required by the court will be set at a special bail hearing, where a judge will take into account the details of the crime. Some places have a bail schedule posted by the jail, which sets standards for bail amounts and are non-negotiable.
Defendants do not need a lawyer to post bail, but it can be helpful at the bail hearing, as both the defense and prosecution can speak with the judge about their recommendations. Criminal defense lawyers are often successful in getting a bail amount lowered.
In some cases, a judge can release a defendant on their own recognizance, which is where the defendant signs a written agreement stating they will abide by restrictions and show up for their court date. This has no bail fees but still ties a person to show up to court. This is most likely to happen when the crime is non-violent. Defense attorneys can often argue for recognizance instead of bail.