Bail Bond: Definition & Process

Instructor: Amanda Smith

Amanda has taught adult cognitive-behavioral programs in a corrections setting for the last ten years and has a bachelor's degree in Sociology/Criminology.

What happens when someone is given a bail amount by the court but cannot pay? This lesson defines a bail bond and explain the process of obtaining one as well as the consequences for violating.

Bail Bond Definition

When someone is arrested and appears before the court, bail is set by a judge, but what exactly does that mean? Bail is an amount of money determined by a judge at a court hearing that can be paid so a person may be released from jail while they wait for their next court date. The money is to guarantee that the person will appear for their court date and once they show up, the bail is returned. In a situation where a person does not have enough money to pay the bail, a bond agency can be hired to post bail.

Bail is set at an initial court hearing

Bail bond is a percentage of bail paid to the bond agency so they can pay the remaining amount and the person may be released from jail to wait for their court date. Every state has its own bail bond rules and processes, but the basics are the same in every system. Typically, the amount paid to the bond agency is ten to fifteen percent of the original bail amount. The amount is determined by the seriousness of the crime and the criminal history of the person needing bail. For example, someone with federal charges may be required to pay fifteen or even twenty percent while someone with a very limited criminal history and lesser offense may only be required to pay ten percent.

Bond agencies are able to secure the remaining bail amount because they have contractual agreements with the local government and banks or credit agencies. They can access money even if a creditor is not open and sometimes they have agreements with the court system that allows them to only have to put up a percentage of the original bail amount. Having this freedom allows them to be accessible to someone needing to post a bail bond at any time of day. If someone is released on a bail bond, they do not appear for the court date, and are not able to be located by the bondsman, the bond agency is responsible for paying the remaining amount of money to the court.

The Process

John is arrested on Thursday night and is charged with burglary. He appears before a judge on Friday morning and a bail amount is set. Based on his lengthy criminal history and the seriousness of this charge, the judge sets his bail amount at $30,000. He is returned to jail until he can make bail or until his next court date.

John's mother cannot stand the thought of him sitting in jail, but she doesn't have the thirty thousand required to post bail. She contacts Fast and Free Bond Agency and they ask that she put down 15% of the bail, or $4,500. Since she still doesn't have enough money, she puts her car up as collateral and pays the rest in cash. Fast and Free Bond Agency accepts her payment and John is released Friday afternoon.

A percentage of the bail amount is paid to the bond agency

What Happens Next?

What if John never shows up to his court date? Hiring a bond agency to post bail gives the bondsman certain legal rights to guarantee the person appears in court. If someone fails to appear for a court date while they are out on bond, the bondsman now has the right to look for them and arrest them so that they may be returned to jail.

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