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Bail Bonding 101: What It Is And How It Works

When you or a loved one gets entangled in a legal tussle, it’s crucial to hire competent legal counsel to keep you out of jail. However, in most American states, suspects can temporarily stay out of jail if they pay a certain amount to the court.

This is called ‘bail bonding,’ a temporary legal remedy often reserved for individuals accused of misdemeanors and felonies and want to retain their temporary freedom while their case is ongoing. Learn more about bail bonding and how it works in this article.

What Is Bail Bonding?

A bail is a certain amount of money set by the judge and is used to allow a defendant temporary liberty while the case is ongoing. It’s related to the legal mantra, which states a person is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, the bail amount imposed on an accused person ensures they show up in court hearings amid their provisional freedom.

There are multiple types of bail bonds, as you’ll find in the succeeding sections, the most common being cash bonds. Contrary to its name, a defendant can pay via cash or credit card to avoid jail time. Unfortunately, most won’t afford the hefty bail bond amount requirements. In these circumstances, their best bet is to approach an accredited person or agency called a ‘bail bond agent’ to raise the amount and pay the court on the defendant’s behalf.

The bail bonding process works almost the same way in states where it’s allowed. For instance, the process of securing your jail release through bail bonds in San Diego, CA are the same in other states like Texas or Tennessee, with only slight differences perhaps in the amount and schedules.

what are bail bonds and how do they work

Are All Defendants Qualified To Post Bail?

Civil and criminal laws vary from one state to another. There can be different eligibility qualifications to avail of this legal option. Generally speaking, though, persons who aren’t accused of significant crimes have the right to bail. Bailable offenses vary from one state to another but often include minor transgressions such as cashing bad checks, simple assaults, and theft.

On the other hand, non-bailable crimes are significant offenses, including murder, kidnapping, and severe forms of domestic violence. Under these circumstances, choosing the best lawyer to prove your innocence is your only shot at obtaining freedom.

This means that defendants charged with felonies and violent crimes aren’t qualified to avail of this legal right. That’s because the law considers these persons a danger to the community, and allowing them temporary freedom may endanger other people’s lives.

Additionally, defendants currently jailed for minor offenses in Illinois, Kentucky, and Maine, won’t find a bail bond agent as commercial bail bonding isn’t allowed in these areas. The same holds for Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

How Do Bail Bonds Work?

As bail bonding can be dictated by the courts and state laws in your area, its implementation varies from one jurisdiction to another. For instance, some states have a predetermined list of bailable offenses and the corresponding bail amount for each crime.

In other states, judges can set the bail lower or higher than the standard rate depending on numerous reasons, including assessing the person’s flight risk, criminal history, and threat levels.

For these reasons, an accused who’s had a previous criminal conviction in San Diego would likely be asked to present higher amounts before the court—therefore needing the help of a bail bond agent. 

Here’s how the bail bonding process works:
1. The judge sets the bail price depending on several factors, but bail amounts are typically steep. So, if the family can’t pay for it, a bail bonds company can post the bail on their behalf.
2. The family or defendant hires a bail bond agent.
3. They pay anywhere from 10% to 20% of the total bail amount.
4. Some bail bond companies seek collateral on top of the said premium later.
5. The bail bond agent prepares to raise the total amount for the defendant and gets them out of jail.
6. Jail authorities provide the bail bond agent vital information to ensure the defendant’s appearance.
7. The defendant secures jail release temporarily.

There are only two scenarios that could happen after the defendant’s release, and both will depend on whether they appear or not for their next scheduled hearing. If the person in question appears in court diligently, the bond is terminated upon closure of the case. This means the court will return the entire bail amount while the bail bond agent keeps the 10% or 20% premium. A California bail bond agent often asks for a 10% upfront payment for its services.

If the defendant decides not to show themselves during a hearing, otherwise known as failure to appear (FTA), the bail amount is forfeited, and the court will ask for 90% of the total bail amount to be paid for by the bail bond agent. To pay for this amount, the company will have to present the collateral offered by the defendant. A bail bond agent may also hire bounty hunters to track the defendant and send them back to jail.

how do bail bonds work

7 Types Of Bail Bonds

Below are the different types of bonds allowed by the American courts:
1. A cash bail bond is the most common bail type where a defendant has to pay in cash or through a credit card. 
2. A surety bond is a bail option involving a commercial bonds company. 
3. A federal bail bond applies to defendants accused of federal crimes and often requires heftier fees. 
4. A property bond is when a defendant’s asset is used as collateral. 
5. An immigration bond, as the name implies, applies to individuals facing immigration issues, which is considered a federal offense. 
6. A citation release works for persons accused of petty crimes, usually traffic offenses. Rather than spending jail time, the law enforces a written notice to the offender. 
7. A recognizance release means a defendant doesn’t have to pay for their release. Like citation release, persons accused of minor offenses and aren’t deemed a danger to the community may qualify to avail of this option.

Final Thoughts

Bail bonds are applicable in criminal and civil offenses, so long as the defendant isn’t accused of heinous crimes. In areas where they’re allowed, bail bonds are the most preferred way to avoid spending jail time, especially for someone who’s charged with minor to moderate offenses. Because of the substantial amounts involved, defendants must ensure they appear in court to take back the money and collateral raised for their temporary freedom.