Bail Bonds Overview
In the most basic terms, there are four ways you can be released from jail after an arrest. You can post cash for the full amount of the bond with the court or jail. You can use real estate as collateral with the court. You can use a local bail bonds service. Finally, if you are lucky, the judge can decide to let you go free until the next court date on own recognizance. Many defendants cannot raise the entire amount of their bail. Hence, they will turn to the services of a bail bondsman.
This article will focus on situations where a defendant arranges for his or her release through a bail bondsman. The bond agent, in turn, guarantees to pay the bail amount to the court if the defendant fails to appear for trial. Learn more about the role of a bail bondsman by reading below.
What Information the Bail Agent Needs
If the judge has set bail, and you would like to try and get a friend or loved one out of jail, here is some important information you will need to provide to the bails bondsman. First, know the exact location of where the person is in custody and the name of the jail. Next, have the person's full name and booking number, if you can get it. Most importantly, know the bail amount in order to help the bail agent determine the amount of money you will need to pay to get the defendant out of jail.
The Bail Bondsman Process
After you've contacted a bail bondsman, the next thing to know is the process. You will have discussed pricing options with the bail agent. That means you will pay a set fee to the bail agent. He or she will then give the court a surety bond to release the defendant. As long as the defendant appears in court as required, and doesn't miss any court dates, you won't have to pay any further money to the bail bondsman.
Keep in mind, in the unfortunate event that the defendant doesn't appear at a court date (known as "skipping bail"), the bail will be surrendered or forfeited. The bail bond agent has the authority to locate the defendant and surrender him or her to the court. Worse still, friends or family who co-signed the bail bond will be responsible for the bond amount. If they used collateral to obtain the bond (such as a home), they could face foreclosure and possible loss of property.
Problems with Commercial Bail bonding
There are inherent problems with commercial bail bonding. First, the defendant will pay a nonrefundable premium, usually 10 percent of the bail amount set. Second, the defendant or a party acting on behalf of the defendant must put down collateral for the entire bond. Third, should the defendant abscond, a bail bondsman is likely to hire a bounty hunter who has powers exceeding those of police officers in terms of crossing jurisdictional borders and in the use of force.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has called for the abolition of commercial bail bonding and universal use of court deposit systems, in which the defendant provides a deposit of 10 percent of the bail to the court, which is returned after the trial (less a small administrative fee).
Facing Criminal Charges? How About a Free Case Review?
If you've been arrested and are facing the bail process, there are ways to avoid commercial bail bond companies. For example, an experienced criminal defense attorney can argue for reduced bail or even no bail, depending on the facts of your case. Your attorney can also negotiate with the prosecutor and help you prepare for a trial. Contact an attorney near you today for a free initial case review.