What Is a Bail Bond? How a Bail Bond Works.

 What Is a Bail Bond?

A bail bond is an agreement by a criminal defendant to appear for trial or pay a sum of money set by the court. The bail bond is cosigned by a bail bondsman, who charges the defendant a fee in return for guaranteeing the payment.

The bail bond is a type of surety bond.

The commercial bail bond system exists only in the United States and the Philippines. In other countries, bail may entail a set of restrictions and conditions placed on criminal defendants in return for their release until their trial dates.

How a Bail Bond Works?

There are many steps involved in getting bailed out of jail or helping a friend or family member that may need to be bailed out. Remember that getting bailed out of jail is an option. Sometimes bail is set very high and choosing to bail someone out of jail carries a lot of trust and responsibility. It is important to make sure that you fully trust that person will show up to all court proceedings before choosing to bail them out of jail.

Bail is a refundable deposit that allows the defendant to get out of jail until their court date. The deposit is used as collateral to ensure the defendant will return to court for trial or any applicable court proceedings. Not all cases will be given the option for bail. Options for bail are offered based on the jurisdiction, the type of crime, and whether the court believes the defendant will attempt to go on the run. This is often known as a flight risk.

If the defendant shows up for court, the bail is refunded by the court. If the defendant does not show up for court, the court keeps the deposit or collateral and a warrant is issued for an arrest.

Many defendants will want to be bailed out of jail as soon as possible to keep their jobs, take care of their children and prepare for their court proceedings with a clear head. Sometimes court proceedings can take weeks or months and it is understandable why people would not want to put their lives on hold while awaiting court or trial.

This page will answer questions about what a bail bond is, how a bail bond works, what a bail hearing is, what happens when a defendant does not show up for court, and what a bounty hunter is.

The Disadvantages of the Bail Bond System.

The bail bond system has become part of the larger debate over mass incarceration, especially of young African-American men, in the U.S.

The bail bond system is considered by many even in the legal profession to be discriminatory, as it requires low-income defendants to stay in jail or scrape together a 10% cash fee and the rest of the bail-in collateral—even before they stand trial for any crime. PrisonPolicy.org says that about 536,000 people are being held in jails in the U.S. because they cannot afford bail or a bail bondsman's services.

Four states including Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin have outlawed bail bondsmen and instead require a 10% deposit on the bail amount to be lodged with the court. In 2018, California voted to eliminate cash bail requirements from its court system.

How much is a bail bond?

Bail bond agencies will charge a fee if you use their services. Fees vary depending on the state and some states will have maximum fees that the bail bond agencies must abide by. For a full list of bail regulations and fees.

Fees also vary depending on the situation involved in the arrest, and the amount of risk that the bail bond agency takes on. Because there is risk involved in bailing someone out of jail, bail agents also usually require collateral. 

Collateral can be anything of value that the person who hires the bail agent owns. This collateral is used to guarantee that the defendant will show up for their court date. This fee is usually anywhere from 10-20% of the bail amount. In California, the maximum amount is 10%. The fee can be paid up front or on a payment plan depending on the agreement stated in the paperwork.

Conditions will be set by the bail agent. These conditions must be met to comply with the agreement. This will be stated in any paperwork that is filled out when the agreement is made. The agreement will include provisions stating that the defendant must show up for all court proceedings.

Keep in mind that bail bondsmen are not required to help you bail yourself or anyone else out of jail. They are taking all the risk involved in the situation and they are there to help you, but bail is an option and not a requirement.