Life can get messy. Worst-case scenarios happen and when they do you need to be ready so you can make the best out of a bad situation.
That includes things like needing a bail bond. We don’t like thinking about the possibility of ending up on the wrong side of the law, but if it were to happen to you or a loved one, you’d want to be prepared.
The scary truth is that many of us don’t even know basic bail bonds 101. Many of us can’t describe the different types of bail bonds, where we’d get them, or even why we’d need them. Here, we’ll try to break this down into simple terms and teach you all you need to know about bail bonds.
What Are Bail Bonds?
Even when people know a little about bail bonds services, they often don’t know what bail bonds are or what kinds of bail bonds exist. This is essential bail bonds 101, so we will explore it here.
In the simplest terms, bail bonds let a defendant leave detainment with some conditions attached. In many ways, it is an agreement between a defendant and the court. The defendant has to pay the bail set by the court or stay in detainment.
However, it is not always possible for the defendant to pay some or all of the bail. This is when they might get a bail bond that covers the part of the cost they can’t afford. The goal is to ensure that the defendant returns for their trial later. The bond will be held by the court and returned when the defendant returns for their court appearances.
That is the bail bonds 101 explanation, but things get more complicated when you start digging deeper into the system. A bail bond sounds like a simple thing, but in reality, you might bail out of jail with one of several different types of bail bonds.
Types of Bail Bonds
The types of bail bonds include:
- Bail bond or surety bond
- Cash bond
- Unsecured or signature bond
- Own recognizances or personal recognizances bond
- Secured or property bond
A bail bond or security bond is the type of bond you might have already heard of, even without a strong understanding of bail bonds 101. It is simply when a bail bond agent pays a bail for someone. This is a common way for a defendant to pay their bail. However, it does come with fees. The bail bond agents will collect a certain percentage of the bond.
A cash bond is just the amount of bail the court sets. The defendant can pay this themself or through an agency. Interestingly, though, not all bonds are cash bonds. There are some types of bonds that are not monetary agreements in this way.
One example is an unsecured or signature bond. An unsecured or signature bond allows a defendant to get out of detainment without actually paying a bond. Instead, the defendant signs something and is released. However, they are still expected to return for required court dates.
An own recognizances or personal recognizances bond is similar to an unsecured or signature bond in that it allows someone to leave detainment simply on the condition they return for court dates. It does not involve actually paying a bond.
Finally, there are secured or property bonds. Instead of cash, this kind of bond involves property worth the bail amount. If a defendant uses this kind of bond and then doesn’t show up for court dates, the court might seize their property.
How Does a Bail Bond Work?
So that’s what a bond is, but how does it actually work?
That will depend on your location. Every jurisdiction can set its own rules about bail amounts and procedures. They can even make different decisions about who is eligible to get bail at all. No matter where you are, bail will probably be paid by credit card, debit card, money order or check to the clerk’s office. The clerk’s office is the one who will notify the relevant officials to say that bail was received and a defendant can be released.
This seems like simple bail bonds 101 on the surface, but it gets a little messier in practice than it seems on paper. Partially that’s because you are supposed to be able to get your bail money back.
A defendant released on bail who pays their bail and shows up for their court dates should get the money returned to them. However, it of course gets far more tangled than that when we are talking about the legal system.
For example, a town or city’s court may have a system in place to automatically return bail money after a defendant’s case is all settled. However, on the federal level, the court does not release bail money automatically. If you are involved in a federal case, you have to file a petition with the court after the conclusion of the case to get your bail money returned to you.
If you miss your court dates, you will not get your bail back. However, there are some extenuating circumstances the court will consider, though you may need to jump through some legal hoops in regard to that. It won’t be simple bail bonds 101 if you have a medical emergency that caused you to miss a court date, for instance.
The exact amount of your bail bond will depend on a slew of factors. Of course, the offense itself plays a role in setting the bail, but there are also important factors a judge will consider like your flight risk and familial and community connections. Those connections may weigh on your likelihood to appear in court so a judge will want to factor those in.
If you have a criminal history of any sort, that could stack up against you as well and cause your bail to be set higher. The court also looks at the seriousness of this and past crimes and the risk to public safety if you are allowed to post bail. Finally, your income and any assets you may own are taken into consideration.
While the factors combining to inform your bail amount are similar across jurisdictions, there’s no bail bonds 101 way to predict the ultimate outcome. There are too many factors that are specific to your individual situation to make a sweeping generalization about bail amount.
Where Can You Get a Bail Bond?
All of these different kinds of bonds can be confusing. They involve a lot of legal jargon that goes well beyond bail bonds 101. Plus, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to figure out bail very quickly.
One way a lot of people get a bail bond is through a bail bond agency. This is a very common way for defendants to go, despite the fees involved. It’s not required, of course. Defendants can certainly pay their own bail or have a loved one help them with bail. However, the reality is that bail is often too costly for most of us to just pay out of pocket when we suddenly find ourselves in need of it.
Another big advantage of going with a bail bond company is that they will be experts in the whole process. They are familiar with the ins and outs of bail bonds and can navigate some of the technicalities.
When someone is arrested, they will often get “booked,” which is the process by which things like a photo and personal information are collected. After getting booked, defendants can simply be released, but often people are not released until they post bail or even until after a bail hearing.
This is the point when you might need the help of a bail bondsman to get that bail posted so you can go free. Be aware that there are fees involved in going with an agency to get your bail posted. The fee will be different from one agency to the next, and sometimes depending on the specifics of your situation. Fees are often a percentage, such as 10% of the total bail.
Anyone who is stuck in holding wants to get out as quickly as they can. It’s difficult and sometimes frustrating when that hinges on getting bail posted. That’s why some agencies offer 24 hour bail bond services, to get defendants bonds as quickly as possible.
The main reason people often go with an agency for their bail bond is that they simply cannot afford the bail otherwise. Someone arrested for a serious offense also needs to think about things like a criminal law attorney, who might cost $100 to $300 per hour depending on their specialties. That is a very high fee, but one that is just as vital as the bond. By going through an agency, you can put aside other money for legal help and not have to spend it all merely on getting out of detention.
There is also a risk that comes with going with an agency. Above, we decided the bail bonds 101 version of getting your bail money returned after the conclusion of your case. That is trickier when you are dealing with an agency.
A bail bond company will certainly be concerned if you do not show up for your court dates. They may even use bounty hunters to help try to find you. These bounty hunters can arrest you for failing to show up to your court date. That might even be mentioned in your initial contract with the bail bond company.
It is hard to say exactly how this will work for every defendant. The rules around this change depending on where you live and what the laws in your jurisdiction are. It also matters where you are arrested and what jurisdiction the case itself takes place in. Therefore, there’s no simple and clear bail bonds 101 answer for how things will shake out if you don’t show up for court. It is certainly something you want to avoid though.
Why Might You Need a Bail Bond?
Those are the bare bones bail bonds 101 basics. However, it’s important to also consider why, when, and how you might end up in a situation where you or a loved one needs a bail bond. It can be a complicated and fast-moving situation, so it’s certainly one you want to be as informed about as possible.
There are many reasons why you might be detained and need to get a bail bond. The most common is a criminal offense of some sort. This is an incredibly broad category, though, spanning public intoxication to drug possession to identity theft. There are many, many more criminal offenses, but the particulars of what happens after someone is arrested for one of these offenses ranges from state to state.
Of course, the best-case scenario is not committing such an offense, but we know that is not the reality. If you or a loved one ends up on the wrong side of the law, you might need to think about a criminal defense attorney and bail bond.
A criminal defense won’t be the only thing you have to think about either. Say you just went to a walk-in medical care clinic because of a chronic condition you are managing. That won’t go away just because you are detained. Health conditions don’t disappear due to an arrest.
Even if you are taken to jail, you’d still need to think about health conditions. You might even hire disability denial attorneys alongside criminal defense attorneys depending on the specifics of your case and situation.
As you can see from this example, things can easily get extremely complicated depending on all the external factors going on in your life that complicated the bail bonds 101 matter.
The offense itself could get complicated and thereby complicate your bail cost and options. You might need the help of different kinds of attorneys, such as a commercial litigation attorney or another type of specialized attorney.
All of this adds up to a very complicated and serious situation that you now need to handle. The important thing is to just keep in mind what you know about bail bonds 101, stay calm and get the help you need so you can get through this.