What is Bail?
A person who’s arrested for a crime is taken into custody by the law enforcement and brought to the local jail. They are processed and booked, and their fingerprints checked to ensure they don’t have any outstanding warrants or cases.
As each crime has a state-mandated amount, the jailer now sets the bail amount based on the bail schedule. The arrested individual has the option of staying in jail till the court date or may post bail so that they are released while awaiting trial.
Now comes the actual definition of bail. It’s a financial agreement the bail bond agency makes on behalf of the person arrested with the government. The bail bond agency pays the bail amount in money, bond or collateral to have the defendant released from jail while pending trial.
It’s the bail bond agency’s responsibility to ensure the defendant arrives at all court dates. This is why they are responsible for bringing back the defendant if they do not appear in court.
How do bail bonds work?
The defendant or their friend or relative reached out to a bail agent to arrange for bail. However, the arrestee or co-signer must ensure and promise they will pay the entire bail amount if the arrestee skips a court date.
Collateral isn’t always needed to get bail. Even a family member or friend’s signature as a cosigner is enough to get bail. However, the cosigner has to be working and own a house or at least rent the same place for some time.
In case the defendant doesn’t show up in court on the court dates, then it’s the bail bondsmen’s responsibility to hire a bounty hunter to find the defendant and bring him to court.
The cosigner is held responsible for the entire bail amount, and all expenses borne by the bail agent while looking for the defendant and bringing him to court.
The bail bond agency doesn’t do all this for free. They usually charge the defendant a fee of the bail amount to bail the defendant out of jail. The amount is non-refundable, even if the district attorney dismisses the case after posting bond.
The bondsmen can also sue the defendant and cosigners for court costs. They can also recover any unpaid monies through the collateral used to bail the defendant out.
The arrestee has five options to choose from to get released from jail. They are surety bond, property bond, own recognizance (O.R.), cash bail and release on the citation (Cite Out).
This is a cash bond’s alternative where a contract is made with an admitted insurance company with enough assets to cover the bond amount. The bail agent assures the court through a surety company, or any property owned by the agent, that they will be responsible for, and pay the bond forfeiture amount if the arrestee doesn’t appear in court. The bond agent charges the defendant a premium for this.
The arrestee or their friend or relative contacts a bail agent to arrange for a surety bond for their release after the surety bond is posted. The bail agent interviews the proposed surety bond guarantor, and the defendant and their relatives. This is a part of the bond’s underwriting procedure before posting a surety bond.
The involvement of friends and family members, and accepting collateral, assures the bail agent that the defendant released on a surety bond will attend court on the specified dates till the case closes.
Once the bail procedure is taken care of, and everything agreed upon, then the bail agent posts a bond equivalent to the bail amount that guarantees the arrestee’s court return.
With his money involved, the bail agent naturally has an added reason to ensure the bailee attends court on the specified date. In addition to this, the bail agent stands to gain money, and has the time to look for the arrestee if he/she skips, and bring him/her in.
This is why commercial bail bond agents strike a profit only if the defendant shows up for trial. This proves to the judge that the bail agents have surefire methods of getting defendants to court.
It’s not always that a person is released from custody after putting up a property bond with the court. This is where the court takes note of a property lien that secures the stipulated bail monetary figure.
The property’s value is usually double the bail amount. The court has permission to initiate foreclosure proceeding against it to collect the forfeited bail monies if the arrestee doesn’t appear at the scheduled court date.
Own Recognizance (O.R.)
A county or law enforcement administered pre-trial release program is another method of release before trial. It’s usually the program staff members who interview the arrestee and recommend the court to release them on their own recognizance, or without any financial security ensuring the interviewee’s return.
The interview is usually conducted over the phone with minimal inquiries conducted to find out if the detainee will appear in court, with minimal verification of the information provided by the detainee.
As no money or bond is posted in securing the detainee’s court appearance, he or she doesn’t face any personal problems for not appearing in court.
Cash bond or bail
This is where the individual posts, or pays the court the entire bail amount in cash. This is to secure his or her return to court on the specified date, and all dates till the case closes.
This gives the defendant a strong reason to appear at trial because the cash is returned to him/her if they do appear. However, the cash bond is forfeited to the court if he/she doesn’t appear.
This is also called ‘Cite Out’ where the officer who makes the arrest issues a citation to the defendant. The citation provides details about the defendant’s court date appearance. Cite Outs happen immediately after the arrest.
It is not necessary for people to reveal their true identify if they get released through a citation release. This is because the entire booking procedure is not completed. This in turn may eventually lead to arrestees with pending warrants and who may be dangerous to society getting released on bail.
Cases with arrestees involved in Citation Release do not end up in custody. So like the own recognizance, whether or not the arrestee attends court depends on his/her integrity and their voluntary court appearance.