Bail Bonds: Definition and How they work

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What is a bail bond?

A bail bond is a promise by a criminal defendant that he will appear at trial or pay an amount of money determined by the court. A bail bondsman co-signs the bail bond and charges a fee to the defendant in exchange for ensuring payment.

Bail bonds are a form of surety bonds.

Only the United States of America and the Philippines have a commercial bail bond system. Other countries may use bail to impose restrictions and conditions on criminal defendants as a way of releasing them until their court date.

Takeaways from the Key Notes

  • Bail bonds are posted by an accused in lieu of paying the total amount of bail as set by the court.
  •  Bail bonds are used to ensure that a defendant will show up for court.
  •  Bail amounts are usually set by judges with a wide range of discretion.
  •  Bail bond agents charge 10% up-front for their services and can charge extra fees. Some states cap the amount charged at 8%.
  •  Bail is seen as a system that discriminates against low-income defendants and contributes to mass incarceration for young Black men.

How Bail Bonds Work

A judge will usually conduct a hearing for a person charged with a crime. The judge has the discretion to determine the amount of bail. The amount of bail is at the judge’s discretion.

The amount of bail is set by judges, who have a wide range of options. Bail could be set at $500 for a defendant accused of committing a nonviolent misdemeanor. Bail is usually high for felony crimes, often exceeding $20,000

Only in the United States and the Philippines is the commercial bail bond system available.

The defendant has two options:

  • Keep in jail until charges are tried.
  •  Bail bond arrangements
  •  You must pay the full bail amount until your case is resolved.

In some cases, courts will accept the title to your home and other collateral in place of cash.

Bail bond agents are also known as bail bondsmen. They provide written agreements with criminal courts that guarantee the payment of bail in full should the defendants whom they have guaranteed to appear at their trials fail to do so.

Bail bond agents charge 10% up-front for their services and can charge extra fees. Some states cap the amount charged at 8%.

Agents may require that defendants provide a statement of creditworthiness, or they may ask for collateral such as property or securities. Bail bond agents accept the most valuable property, such as cars, jew, and houses, as well as stocks, bonds, and other securities.

Once the bail or bond is paid, the defendant can be released to the court until the trial.

Bail Bond System: Its Disadvantages

The bail bond system is now part of a more significant debate about mass incarceration in America, particularly for young Black men.

Many in the legal profession consider the bail bond system discriminatory because it forces low-income defendants, even before their trial for any crime, to remain in jail unless they can scrape up 10% in cash and the remainder of the bail as collateral. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, about 536,000 Americans are in jail because they can’t afford bail or bail bondsman services.

Four states, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin, have banned bail bond agents. Instead, they require that a 10% deposit be made on the bail amount. California eliminated cash bail from its courts in 2018.

Bail Bonds Example

Imagine that New Yorker Melissa broke the law, and the court set her bail to $25,000. Melissa does not want to remain in jail during the review of her court case, but she lacks $25,000 cash. Melissa decides that she will contact a bail bond agent in order to obtain a bond.

The bondsman receives 10% of the bond or $2,500 as payment for his services. The bondsman will secure an equivalent amount of collateral from Melissa or a member of her family. Melissa shows up for her court dates and follows the court’s rules. She receives $22,500 as collateral at the end. This is $2,500 less than if she had paid the bail.

What can be used to secure a bail bond as collateral?

Bail bond agents accept a variety of collateral, including real estate, vehicles, credit cards, and bonds.

What happens if you cannot pay bail?

If you cannot post bail, you will likely remain in jail after your case has been resolved.

Can I get my bail back?

It depends. If you appear in court for all your hearings, your bail money is returned to you at the end of the case. You will receive 100% of your bail money if you are found innocent or if the case is dismissed. If you are found guilty, the bail money will be returned to you less a fee of 3%. 1 You must also make each court appearance, or you could forfeit it.

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