Frequently Asked Questions About Bail Bonds

If you have limited familiarity with bail bondsmen and how they do business, you might have some questions about bail bonds and how they work before doing business with them. In this article, we bring together some of the more common questions asked about bail bonds and bail bondsmen.

What is bail?

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Bail is a security given by the defendant in a criminal proceeding to assure the court that he will appear during his scheduled court hearings even after he is released from detention.

What is a bail bond?

A bail bond is a security given by a third person, usually the bail bondsman, to assure the court that the defendant will appear during the scheduled court dates even after the defendant is released from detention. The bail bondsman provides this security to the court upon an agreement with the defendant, conditioned upon the payment of a non-refundable fee by the defendant to the bail bondsman.

Who sets the amount of bail?

The total amount of bail, and any conditions that may be included in the bail, are determined by a judge. The judge takes into consideration several factors, including the defendant’s financial capacity, whether or not he is a flight risk, and whether or not he is a danger to the community when he determines the bail amount. The amount is designed to be significant enough that the defendant will voluntarily attend his trial if it means that he will forfeit this amount if he does not. At the same time, the bail amount should not be too excessive that it would be impossible for the defendant to pay it. Once the judge sets the bail amount, the defendant can argue for the lowering of the bail amount through his lawyer during the bail hearing. Ultimately, however, it is the judge who makes the final determination as to how much bail is to be set.

How much does a bail bond cost?

The cost of a bail bond, or the non-refundable fee that you have to pay to a bail bondsman to secure their services to act as your surety, is determined by law. As a general rule, it is set at 10 percent of the total bail amount, with certain exceptions given to certain individuals such as seniors, active military personnel, etc. But in general, all bail bondsmen are required to adhere to the statutory law as to the fee they can charge their clients. This means that if you find a bail bondsman offering a discount on their fees, in a state or jurisdiction where all other bail bondsmen are charging the same rate, this should already put you on the alert. States, in general, regulate the operations of the bail bond industry, so bail bond agencies that violate state regulations might not be operating legally or with a valid license.

Why do I need a bail bondsman?

Bail bondsmen offer their services upon the belief that no person should be forced to stay in jail when they would otherwise be allowed to go free, simply because they cannot afford their bail. This creates an unequal state where rich people who may have committed heavy crimes can go free on bail because they can afford it. In contrast, people who are struggling financially and who may only be in jail for light offenses are stuck behind bars because they cannot afford the amount that the judge has set for their bail. Bail bondsmen offer their services to those who cannot afford their bail and assists them in getting released from jail upon the payment of a significantly lesser amount, or ten percent of the total bail amount. In addition to posting a surety bond on behalf of the defendant, a bail bondsman can simplify the entire process for you by guiding you through the system and helping secure your release as soon as possible. They can do this because of their unique experience in dealing with law enforcement and court personnel and in navigating the processes of both.

What is Collateral?

Collateral is property that the defendant or indemnitor pledges to the bail bondsman as security. The bail bondsman provides a security bond to the court for the full amount of the defendant’s bail, on the condition that should the defendant default and skip bail, he forfeits this security bond in favor of the court. The bail bondsman, on the other hand, would need to have recourse back to the defendant for the amount of the security bond. This is why bail bondsmen ask for collateral at the outset – they are a form of security that the bail bondsman can seek relief from should the defendant default and skip bail. Collateral, in any case, is simply security, and will be returned to the defendant or indemnitor once the case is finalized and the defendant did not default on his bail.

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