How Do Bail Bonds Work?

When somebody is arrested and charged with a crime, they’ll very quickly be given a bail hearing.

The goal of the bail hearing is to determine both whether a person can be granted bail (i.e. let out of the system, temporarily, awaiting their court date), and how much bail (cash) they need to pay for this.

Bail Bonds

In the eyes of the law, bail is a guarantee that a person will return for their court date.

They believe that by setting bail costs, a person is guaranteed to return to the courtroom, as they’ll want their money back.

Most people do.

The problem is that many accused will rarely have the funds available for bail.

This isn’t surprising, since bail can set back the accused anywhere from several hundred, to several thousand, dollars (depending on the crime).

Sure, they’ll get it back, but they won’t necessarily have it in their account ready to post bail at a moment’s notice.

This means that unless they can get the cash from somewhere, they’ll be sitting in a jail cell waiting for their court date.

This could be months in the future.

This is where bail bonds companies enter the equation.

However, before we discuss that, we’ll give you an overview of how bail bonds work i.e. the process from paying the bond to being released from custody.

The Bail Bonds Process

When a person is arrested, they’ll be questioned.

Eventually, the police can opt to either charge them with a crime or release them.

If the person is released without charge, there is no bail bond process.

They’re free.

If the person is charged, then they’ll have to enter a courtroom.

This is where the bail bond process starts.

  1. The person will undergo a quick court appearance known as an arraignment. At this point, they’ll be known as the ‘defendant’, since they’ve been charged with a crime. The arraignment is normally quick, no more than a few minutes. The judge may be dealing with dozens of cases at a time.4
  2. The judge will look at the case to determine whether the defendant can be granted bail. If they can’t be granted bail (which will normally happen with the most serious crimes or regular bail jumpers), the process ends here. The defendant will need to sit in jail for their next court date.
  3. If the judge believes bail can be granted, they’ll set a cost for bail. This is known as the bail bond. The cost can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. With minor crimes, there may be no bail fee. There may also be no bail fee if the person is deemed to be an upstanding member of society and the judge believes they’ll return to the courtroom on the pre-determined date.
  4. If there is a bail fee, the defendant can either opt to pay it, or they’ll be put into the jail system to await their court date. They’ll still be seen as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ but being in jail is hardly the most pleasant place to be.
  5. If the bail fee can be paid, the court will receive the cash, and they’ll hold it.
  6. If the defendant returns to the courtroom, their cash will be refunded. If they don’t, they lose it.

However, as we said, most defendants will not have ready access to the cash they need to post bail.

Their families may not have the money needed either.

This is where a new element enters the equation.

This is known as a bail bonds company.

How Bail Bonds Companies Assist

A bail bonds company is a business that will pay the bail fee.

The whole fee.

This allows the defendant to leave the courtroom without needing to enter the jail system.

Although, this does come at a cost.

How the bail bonds company works will vary drastically from business to business (and state to state).

Most will require either a 10% deposit for the bail fee (so, if the bail is set to $5,000, they’ll need $500 from the defendant or their family).

Once this has been paid, the defendant is free to go.

If they return to the courtroom on their next date, the bail bond company will receive the cash they fronted back.

They will also keep the deposit as payment for their services.

In some cases, depending on how large the bail fee is, some bail bond companies will ask for collateral.

This may include a car title, jewelry, etc.

This means that if the defendant does not return for their court date, the bail bonds company won’t lose any money.

If the defendant does not return for their court date, the bail bonds company will eventually track down the defendant via a bounty hunter, and take them to court themselves.

This is why people who work with bail bond companies must always ensure they return to the courtroom under their own will.

Bail bond companies typically work 24/7, ensuring that defendants, and their families, can always use their services.

Once a bail bonds company agrees to work with the defendant, all relevant paperwork can be completed and delivered quickly, ensuring the defendant can be released within a matter of hours of their bail hearing.

Talk to the Courts

While we’ve given a wealth of information about how bail bonds work here, do bear in mind that the process can vary depending on the location.

If the defendant, or their family members, are confused as to how the process works, feel free to talk to the courtroom staff.

They’re there to help.

They would rather a person post bail than sit in a jail cell, after all.

Another great option for law graduates is the field of bail bonds.

You can get an understanding of how bail bonds work by working with a local bail bondsman in your area and talking to them about career opportunities in the profession.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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