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Do I Need a Bondsman?

When a defendant is arrested for a crime, their first inclination is how to get out of jail as quickly and easily as possible.

The only way to get out of jail until your trial, you must post bail. Since bail is usually set in the thousands of dollars (the amount depending on the level and nature of the crime), a bail bondsman is typically required to meet the obligation.

What Is Bail?

Bail is what is given as collateral to the court to ensure the defendant will appear at their arraignment and subsequent trial. Bail can either be cash, property, or a bond issued by a bail bondsman. In exchange for putting up this collateral, the defendant is able to leave jail. However, if the defendant fails to appear at their hearing, the court is entitled to keep the bail funds and/or property, and in turn issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. The court will return the bail to the person or agency that posted the bond once the trial is completed and the criminal case is finalized.

Granting of Bail

Before you post bail, you must granted the right to bail by a judge. When a judge grants a defendant bail, they believe the defendant has a high likelihood of returning to court for their arraignment hearing and trial, but in order to ensure their appearance, the court requires they put up collateral to give them additional incentive to appear.

The Bail Bond Process

If a defendant does not have the full cash amount (or equally related property) to post for bond, the defendant is able to utilize a bail bond agency to post the funds. The bail bond agency (which charges a non-reimbursable fee, usually around 10% for the service) provides the funds to bail out the defendant. Once the defendant appears at their arraignment hearing, the court will return the funds back to the bail bondsman. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the court will hold the funds until the defendant is apprehended and the subsequent trial is completed. In some cases, the bail bondsman will themselves or hire a third party to assist them in locating the defendant, and bringing them to court in order to get their money back.

Once a judge has granted or set bail, the defendant (or a related party such as a family member or friend) will contact a bail bond agency. This agency will ask questions related to the defendant, including the crime they have been charged with committing, their criminal background, their employment history, and the relationship between the person guaranteeing the bond and the defendant. These questions help the bail bond agency determine the risk of the bail bond, and whether or not it is worth underwriting.

Once a bail bond agency approves a bail bond, the agency will post the bond, and the defendant will be released from jail.

Example of Bail Bond Arrangement

For example, say a person is arrested for a crime. The judge sets bail at $20,000. Since the defendant does not have $20,000 in cash or property to post, they (or their family member or friend) contact a bail bond agency. After assessing the risk, the bail bond agency approves the client, and posts the $20,000 bond. For their services, the bail bondsman charges the defendant/person who guarantees the bail bond $2,000. This $2,000 is not refundable, as this is the fee the bail bondsman charges for their services.

If the defendant appears in court for their arraignment hearing and subsequent trial, once the trial is finished and the final decision is made, the court will return the $25,000 to the bail bond agency.

Bail bonds are an integral part of the criminal justice system. The system of bail ensures that defendant have an additional incentive (besides added criminal charges for skipping court) to appear at their arraignment and trial. Bail bondsmen enable average people, who may not have the funds or property available to post bail, to be able to leave jail and be free until their arraignment and trial.

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