How Bail Bonds Work

In this article, we will discuss in brief some of the basics regarding the bail bond process and how bail bonds work and we hope this will be helpful to you in having a clear understanding of the procedure of getting bails or writing bail bonds with the aid of a state certified bail bondsman. In the last part, we’ll also talk about things that you must take into account when selecting a particular bail bond company.

Bail Bonds

How do bail bonds work?

Once someone is arrested by state or federal police, the accused person is held in custody until his court date when he appears before the court. During this initial hearing, if the judge decides that the accused person’s actions have indeed been in violation of the law, the judge will set a bail amount (depending on the seriousness of the crime) and the defendant can go free as long as he posts the bail amount with the court and promises to show up for all subsequent court proceedings.

The Bail bondsman

But how does a bail bondsman or a bail agent enter the scene? Well, the thing is that bails are often set at a high amount (even for not too serious crimes) and often the defendant won’t have ready money to pay out his bail right away. That’s when the defendant or someone from his family (or a relative or friend) may contact a bail bond company.

The defendant (or whoever acting on his behalf) will need to pay 10% of the bail amount to the bail bond agent and the agent will secure the remaining bail amount in the form of collateral. The collateral maybe a house or some other real estate property, jewelry, cars, stocks, bonds, credit cards, bank accounts, personal credit, etc.

Once these procedures have been completed, the bail bondsman will contact the jail where the defendant is in custody and will post a bail bond to get the defendant out of the jail.

What happens once the bail bond is posted?

Once a bail bond has been posted, if the defendant shows up for all the next court proceeding until the conclusion of the trial, the bail is exonerated or dissolved, no matter what the outcome of the trial and the bail money is returned to the defendant. Once this happens, the bail bond agency will return the collateral to the defendant or his family. If there was any lien created by a signed security agreement, it will be released by the bondsman as well.

However, there is a second possibility which occurs when a defendant fails to appear on his court date. Missing a court date (or failure to comply with any other terms that the court had set when granting bail) is interpreted as a case of bail violation and can lead to bail forfeiture.

If a bail is forfeited, it means that you’ll lose the money you’d paid for the bail. If any property bond or some other form of collateral is involved, the court has the right to foreclose on or repossess the secured property. Similarly, if you go through a bondsman, he will retain the rights to sell the collateral to pay the court the full amount of the bond.

Reinstating a bail

However, in certain circumstances, the court may reinstate (i.e., not forfeit) your bail even if you miss court. For example, if you can cite genuine evidence of a medical or some other kind of emergency that made you unable to appear before the court on a certain date, the court, on its own recognizance, may decide to restrain from forfeiting the bail.

In case a bail agent is involved, the agent is typically given a limited grace period after a missed date and if the agent is able to present the defendant before the court within this period, the bail is not forfeited.

However, please keep in mind that rules regarding bails are not the same for all states. Some states such as Wisconsin, Oregon, Illinois and Kentucky, for example, do not allow the intermediary of the bail bondsmen at all. Again, while in most states the fee received by a bail bond agent is regulated at 10% of the total bail amount, the fees go up to 15% in some other states.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Bail Agent

As you can guess from the above, a number of complicated legal processes are involved with the matter of a bail. Often, your house or some other valuable property is in line. So, you must take necessary precautions before initializing the process, especially if you’ve decided to go through a bail bondsman.

Incidents of a defendant or his family members getting harassed by bail bondsmen (and/or by the bail bounty hunters hired by the bond agencies) in this country are not few. You may also encounter difficulty getting your lien released or collateral returned upon the completion of the trial. However, first of all, you must ensure that the bondsman you are hiring is a state licensed bond agent. In all states (where the service of the bail bond agents are allowed), a bail bond can be posted by a licensed agent only. So, beware that you don’t get caught by any fraud in this matter. Apart from that, some other things that you should take into account include:

• The history and the track record of the company—e.g., how long the agency in question has been in business; if it enjoys good user reviews and positive ratings online; and so on.
• If the agents are available round the clock, all days of the week (that is 24X7, 7 days-a-week)?
• Whether the agent is patient enough to thoroughly listen to your case and understand your predicament. Take note whether or not he sounds straight-forward and honest and if he is prepared take his time to answer all your questions?

However, even with all precautions taken, things may go wrong some time. So, if at any time during the whole procedure you feel unhappy with the bail bondsman’s performance, you have the leave to file a formal complaint against him at the Department of Insurance.