How the Bail Bond Process Works

It is not unusual for people to not know about bail bonds and how that process works until someone is arrested and needs help. If one of your loved ones got arrested, this information is to help you make the best decision.

What Does It Mean When You Get Bail?

Once someone is arrested, they are usually taken to a local jail for booking. After that, a magistrate will review your case and decide the bail type and amount and the conditions of your bond. The purpose of the bail is to ensure that the defendant shows up for all the court proceedings. There are three ways in which a person can be released from custody:

  • Own Recognizance. In case of minor offenses, a defendant can be released on their “own recognizance” (O.R.), which means no bond is posted and no bail money is paid. The defendant signs papers promising to appear in court and is released after.
  • Cash Bail. With this type of bail, a person must pay the full amount of the bond to the court, in cash. The cash is returned within 60 to 90 days if the defendant fulfills all the requirements set by the court.
  • Surety Bond. Surety bond is the type of bond people think when they contact a bondsman. In this case, the bail agent posts the bond for the full bail amount. A surety bond is a financial guarantee to a court signed by the bondsman that the defendant will appear in court for all the court proceedings.

What Do Bondsmen Do?

After a bail amount is set, if the defendant decides to use bondsman services, a bondsman gathers information about the defendant and cosigner(s), if there is one. The gathered information is then used to assess the risk of posting the bond for the defendant.

Once both parties agree on the conditions of the release, they typically will meet at the jail where the defendant is held. All the bail paperwork is signed there and the agreed payment is made. The bond stays in effect until final disposition.

The bondsman will also inform the cosigner of the cost of the bond premium. A Bond premium is the cost of posting the bond, which usually constitutes 10 percent of the bond amount. For example, if the judge sets the bond amount of $10,000, the defendant needs to pay all $10,000 to the court to be released, and that amount will be paid back to the defendant following final disposition of the charges. However, a bondsman charges 10 percent of the whole bond and enters into a contract with the court that holds the bondsman responsible if the defendant doesn’t show up in court. Once the bond is posted and the defendant is released, the person will remain free if he/she meets all the requirements and appears for all the court proceedings. The bond premium is usually a non-refundable compensation for the bondsman for taking the risk. It allows the defendant to be released without paying the whole amount of the bond.

What Should I Know Before I Contact a Bail Agent?

In order for a bail agent to be able to help you, you will need to know the following:

  • The place where the person in question is in custody (including the name of jail, city and state)
  • Full name and booking number of the person in jail (If you don’t have or forgot the number, the bail agent will be able to get it as well)

What do Bondsmen Accept as Collateral?

If the defendant does not have resources to pay the fee, bondsmen often have financing and lending programs. The bondsmen can also take collateral for the loan. Each office may have various requirements for the collateral, but normally collateral may include:

  • Vehicles
  • Real estate property
  • Jewelry
  • Credit cards
  • Bank accounts