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Everything You Need to Know About Bail

Let’s face it, no one wants to be arrested, and it’s not something you want to experience just to have a story to tell. If you wind up arrested, you will, very likely, want to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it isn’t up to you if, when, or whether you’ll be released. However, if you believe that you may be arrested sometime in the future, you should read on and learn about a very important topic—bail!

What exactly is bail? 

If you are arrested, depending on the charges and on your criminal history, you may be offered bail, that is the conditional release of a defendant upon the promise to appear in court. Essentially, the system allows for the release of an individual in exchange for a set amount of money. The bail money is supposed to ensure that the person will be present for court appearances, despite being freed temporarily. If the individual posts bail and attends the trial, regardless of whether they are found guilty or innocent, the money will be refunded by the court.

What if I use a bail bond? 

For those who cannot come up with the cash amount set by the court, a bail bondsman may be an option. However, before pursuing this course, you should be aware that there will be different terms associated with this arrangement, depending on the case and on the amount of money needed. A bail bondsman will charge a non-refundable fee to post the bail for you, and may require collateral security, to be returned upon the disposition of the charges, on top of that fee.     

Whether it is done independently or through a bail bondsman, there are several different ways that an individual can post bond, including:

Bail Bond: 

A bail bond is an agreement made by a defendant in a criminal case to appear for trial or to pay a sum of money set by the court. The bail bond is co-signed by a bail bondsman, who charges the defendant a fee in return for guaranteeing the payment. Bail bondsmen typically charge 10% of the bail amount up front to utilize their services. For example, if the bond is set at $10,000, it is likely that the bondsman will request $1,000 to be paid up front to cosign the bail bond. 

Cash or Property Bond: 

You can post a bond by paying the full amount requested in cash or by agreeing to sign over property that has sufficient equity to cover the bond amount. If paid with property, it is usually a piece of real estate. 

Release on Recognizance: 

This type of release is not afforded to all criminals and is highly dependent on the individual’s criminal history. The judge will only agree to a Release on Recognizance if the defendant is not a flight risk and poses no danger to the community at large. In this case, the defendant may be released without the requirement of a bond and without any additional safeguards in place. Instead, the defendant is required to sign a written promise to appear in court.

Bond vs. Bail 

Posting a bond and posting bail effectively result in an individual being released from prison for the time being, however, these terms are not identical in meaning. If someone says they posted bail, it means they paid the full amount requested in cash, whereas someone who posted bond has utilized the services of a bonding agent—bail bondsman—because they were unable to afford to pay bail from their own pocket—or friends, or family. Both methods provide an alternative to spending time in jail waiting for a court date, while ensuring that the defendant shows up at court at the appropriate time. 

Who Sets the Bail Amount?

Only a judge can approve a bail amount. The decision is based on the crime the defendant is accused of, and his or her criminal history. The judge adjusts the amount depending on the severity of the offense, previous offenses, and any criminal record.

Do you know someone who is currently in prison awaiting a bond hearing or wanting a bond review? It may be time to contact an experienced attorney. Our expert attorneys are skilled at getting defendants released even in cases of serious charges.