To the average person “bail” means that if you post it you’ll be released from jail…period. That’s simple enough, but there is much more to it than meets the eye, so the following questions and answers should help clarify the bail process and the rights that defendants have when bail is an option.
What is Bail?
Our legal system provides bail as a way for a defendant to have the freedom to prepare their defense and continue to work and be with their family and friends. It also serves are a guarantee that the defendant will appear at all their court dates. The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States says that you have the right to bail.
How does bail work?
Courts create what’s known as a Bail Schedule, which lists the crime codes and the bail amount that the court feels is reasonable for those charges. Through a licensed bail bond company, a bondsman will post a bail bond that guarantees full payment of the bond if the defendant skips bail by not appearing at all scheduled court dates. The bail bondsman will charge a fee, or percentage, usually 10%, of the total bail amount. For example: if bail is $30,000, then the fee paid to the bail bond company will be $3,000, plus any other fees that the company may charge. In most cases, the $3,000 will be all you have to pay as long as the defendant doesn’t skip bail. Bondsmen are regulated by the Department of Insurance and the premium they charge for their services in non-refundable, regardless of the outcome of the case.
What is a bail bond?
A bail bond, also known as a surety bond, is like an insurance policy, that’s posted on behalf of a defendant to guarantee that they will appear in court through to the end of their case and trial. If they don’t appear and skip bail, they will forfeit the bond and the court will issue a bench warrant for their arrest.
What is the difference between the premium and the bail bond amount?
The premium is the percentage (10% of the total amount of the bail set) that the bail bond company charges to post the bail bond and do all the paperwork, as well as physically go to the jail to post the bond. The bail bond amount is the total amount of the bail set by the court based on the charges for a particular crime.
Who is the co-signer/guarantor?
As a co-signer/guarantor you are the person that’s willing to be responsible for the defendant while they’re out on bail, but also assumes financial responsibility along with the defendant, in addition to guaranteeing the full amount of the bail bond, should the defendant skip bail, ending in a forfeiture of the bond.
What does it mean when a bail bond is exonerated?
When the legal process or trial has come to an end, regardless of whether the defendant is found guilty or innocent or the case has been dismissed, the bail bond will be exonerated, or discharged. However, if there are any unpaid fees due to the bail bond company, they will still be owed for the services provided. One thing has nothing to do with the other; keeping in mind that the bail bond fee is non-refundable and must be paid in full.
When does a bail bond become forfeited?
If a defendant fails to appear in court the bail bond becomes forfeited (forfeiture). What this really means is that the defendant didn’t appear on scheduled court dates, so the court issued a bench warrant for their arrest. However, the bail bond company has 6-months to return the defendant to court, at which time the court will usually allow the bond to be re-instated and a new court date scheduled. Forfeiture means that the co-signer and the bail bond company are responsible for paying the total amount of the bond to the court after the 6-month period has expired.
What is a summary judgment?
The court will issue a summary judgment if the 6-month period for re-instating the bond or surrendering the defendant back into custody has passed. Once the judgment has been issued, the full amount of the bond is due to the court.
What is re-instatement?
When a defendant fails to appear for their scheduled court dates and the court has issued a bench warrant, if the defendant surrenders to the court, the bail bonds can be re-instated or re-activated, and the court will re-schedule a court date. Keep in mind, that with re-instatement, additional fees will most likely be charged by the bail bond company for this service.
What does the court mean when they talk about “fixing” the bail amount?
Besides having a bail schedule listing the bail amount related to the crime, the court also takes into consideration the defendant’s previous criminal record, and the possible risk that the defendant might not appear in court. Once they have that information, the judge will “fix” the amount of bail deemed appropriate. Public safety is also a criterion in the bail fixing process.
Is the bail premium refundable?
The single word to this answer is “no”. This is because you are paying for the bail bond company to post a bond for the total amount of the bail, along with handling all the paperwork and physically traveling to the jail to post the bond and wait there, with family and/or friend, until the defendant is released from custody. The premium of 10% is what they earn by law to provide this affordable service, especially for those who cannot possibly come up with the total amount of the bail. Are payment plans available?