What is the Bail System and How Does it Work?

Bail Bond Basics

Have you ever watched an episode of law and order, where the judge sentenced a defendant into custody, with a bail set at $100.000?

Sometimes the prosecution is upset because the defendant is wealthy and will have no problem paying the bail, then leave the county.

Other times you see the defendant almost panic at the bail amount.

But what does that mean?

Why are average joes getting bail amounts over $100.000 and how do they pay it?

More often than not when someone is given a bail amount they will be unable to pay it themselves and turn to a bail bondsman.

What is the bail bond system?

According to wikipedia:

“A bail bondsman or bail bond agent is any person or corporation that will act as a surety and pledge money or property as bail for the appearance of persons accused in court. Although banks, insurance companies and other similar institutions are usually the sureties on other types of contracts (for example, to bond a contractor who is under a contractual obligation to pay for the completion of a construction project) such entities are reluctant to put their depositors’ or policyholders’ funds at the kind of risk involved in posting a bail bond.

Bail bond agents, on the other hand, are usually in the business to cater to criminal defendants, often securing their customers’ release in just a few hours.

Bail bond agents are almost exclusively found in the United States and its former commonwealth, the Philippines. In most other countries bail is usually much less and the practice of bounty hunting is illegal. The industry is represented by various trade associations, with the American Bail Coalition forming an umbrella group in the United States.”

Types of Bail
There are five different types of bail, some of them are used more or less frequently than others. Let’s start with the most common ones.

Cash Bail
This is where the accused just pays the full amount of the bail themselves. Usually in cash, but sometimes the court accepts a check or credit card.

Surety Bond
Or a bail bond, a surety bond can be used for any amount of bail, but it is most useful when the defendant can’t afford to pay his or her bail. This type of bail usually has a relative or friend of the defendant contacting a bail agent.

A bail agent is backed by a special type of insurance company called a surety company and agrees to pay the full value of the bond if the accused fails to appear in court. In return, the bail agent charges his client a 10 percent premium and collects some sort of collateral such as a title to a house, car or boat, jewelry or electronics.
The bail agent tries to compel the defendant to show up in court, by getting a friend or relative involved. The idea is with someone the defendant cares about on the line they are more likely to show up, rather than running. The bail agent is also on the line. If the defendant doesn’t appear in court, the bail agent is responsible for paying the entire bond.
If the defendant misses a court date, and if it is legal in the state the agent, or family or friends, might hire a bounty hunter. Commercial bail bonding is illegal in Illinois, Oregon, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Release on Citation
In some cases, an officer will not book a suspect at all but will instead issue a citation saying that the accused must appear in court. While this process is less thorough than taking a suspect to a police station and performing the formal booking procedure, it allows the arresting officer to focus on catching more serious offenders.

Release on Own Personal Recognizance
A judge may also choose to release a suspect on his own recognizance. In this case the defendant is responsible for showing up for court dates and does not have to pay bail. Personal recognizance is usually only allowed when the charge involves a relatively minor, nonviolent crime and if the defendant is not considered a danger to anyone else or a flight risk.

Property Bond
Sometimes a defendant can provide some property to act as a bond.
In these cases, the court gets a lien on the property in the amount of the bail.
If the defendant doesn’t show up for his court appearances, the court can foreclose on the property to recover the forfeited bail.

As you can see the bail system is pretty complex and can be overwhelming if you have been through into it by a friend or relative needing your help to make bail.

We are here to help you navigate this path. GIve us a call at 1 (866) 707-BAIL (2245) for personal assistance.

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