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Bail Bonds: The History

The basic concept of what people know as bail bonds today evolved from way back in the 13th century.

The primary purpose of bail bonds were to draw less distinctions among the wealthy, the middle class and the poor. The key purpose behind the bail system is that individuals who stand accused of a crime and meet the right criteria can be released from their jail cell while waiting for their trial.

With bail bond companies, a bondsman accepts a certain percentage of the bail money needed, and in return, they will post the rest for the individual charged of crime and awaiting their day in the court system. What has changed is that in the past, only those who had enough funding or property could post their bond as security and be released as the trial was pending. Eventually, affluent nobleman of the middle ages realized that because they had enough capital, they could offer a form of security in the defendant’s name, and they received a percentage as insurance. When using a bail bondsman, there are extra fees involved, which is how these organizations earn a profit from their practice.

Bail Bonds in the New World

Since the founding of the United States, bondsmen have kept individuals out of prison, but the laws surrounding bail bonds have changed as the decades passed. In general, the bail laws have addressed what is fairness, and they have set the price of a bond based on the crime that the person has been charged with. The overall concept of bail bonds have remained the same, but there are differences from state to state. Posting bail bonds for people who financially have no funding has become an invaluable business.

When the New World was first beginning, crime was on a steady rise, and in an effort to control criminal activity, the United States adapted to the English criminal system over attempting to reinvent the wheel. As a result, the United States borrowed many of the laws that could be found in the British system, and over time, they created and refined those laws in a way that people could be released from jail when they played by the rules. During the medieval ages in England, the British monarchy realized that people would take whatever desperate actions they needed to avoid punishment for their crimes. At that time, punishment involved burning at the stake and water torture, so it is no wonder that people failed to show up.

The local sheriffs struggled to keep criminals locked up until the date of trial because they had no magistrate with the town, and for that reason, individuals accused of a crime could wait a month or even years before court began. They had no room for traitors, vandals and poachers, but holding water torture over someone’s head became a good method of assuring that people released from the overcrowded jail system would return for trial. Nevertheless, the lack of structure to the justice system meant that it could be exploited. Parliament passed what was called the Statute of Westminster in 1275, which listed the crimes that people could be bailed out for and which ones they could not. After this was passed, no changes were made until centuries later.

Bail Reform of 1966

The most valuable law has been seen so far in the bail bond system is what is known as the Bail Reform Act of 1966, which U.S. Congress passed. The act stated that defendants could be released for non-capital offenses on a personal bond. If, however, the courts had good reason for believing that the defendant might skip town, the judge might impose greater limitations around how the defendant could travel. He might also execute what is known as an “Appearance Bond,” where the bond is refunded when the defendant shows up in court.

Federal justice later added another factor where they consider the suspect’s risk of danger to the community. These are some of the basic concepts that have formed the bail system of the United States, but the actual bail procedures can differ from court system to court system. The chief aim is that people who have been accused of a crime do not have to spend out the remainder of their time waiting for trial.

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