While it is generally a set and defined process to utilize bail bonds in the United States, there are some parts of the process that may be new or unknown even for those who are familiar with the way they work. Here’s some information to help you understand these little known details.
WHAT IS A BAIL BOND AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
If you don’t know, bail is the amount of money that a judge requires that a defendant must pay to be released from jail until their court date. The amount that a judge sets will depend on a variety of factors including the severity of the charges and the risk to the safety of both society at large and the defendant themselves. In some rare cases, such as violent crimes, terrorism, or when the defendant is considered a flight risk, a judge may not even allow for bail. However, in most cases the defendant will be offered a bond. This bond will either need to be paid in full or the defendant will need to utilize a bail bondsman, who usually charges about 10% of the total bond amount as a service charge. Once the bond is paid, the defendant will be released on their own recognizance until their next scheduled court date. If they fail to appear however, the bond is considered forfeit, will not be returned, and a warrant will be issued for their arrest.
NOT ALL STATES ARE THE SAME
Colorado and many other states have a bond system that generally works in the manner described above, but some states have gotten rid of this type of system and operate differently. Washington D.C., Oregon, California and a few others no longer allow for the payment of bond through a bail bondsman and will instead use other factors to determine eligibility for release. These states will look at things such as their past criminal history if any as well as the nature and severity of the crimes the defendant is accused of.
CASH BOND IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST OPTION
Using a bail bondsman may be a better option than going ahead and dipping into your personal bank account to post the full bond amount. First, that money will be tied up in the court system for a long time, probably past your court dates. If that is all of your liquid assets, you could be left with nothing to get by on. Additionally, the amount you finally get back will have been reduced due to fines and fees that the courts will automatically deduct from what you paid in bond. Utilizing a bail bondsman allows you to have some more flexibility to control how and with what funds you pay these fines and fees back.
SHOWING UP TO COURT IS JUST THE FIRST STEP
After your release, you will likely have to return to court more than just the first scheduled hearing that a judge assigns you. There is likely going to be a large number or requirements that the judge will place on the defendant that have to be completed. In drug cases, there can be mandatory drug testing and counseling. Additionally, most defendants will have to undergo more than one court date. Because of this, your bond is only considered complete once the case has been closed by the court.