Common Questions about Bail

What is bail?

If you are arrested for a serious crime, the court will want to make sure that you will return for all proceedings. For those who can show to the court that they have substantial contacts within the community and are very unlikely to slip away, they may get released on what is known as their own recognizance. However, for those defendants who are not released on their own recognizance, they will have to leave a certain amount of money with the court. The court assumes that, with the defendant’s money being held there, the defendant is very likely to return to court. This money is known as bail.

What are the conditions of bail?

The conditions of bail are that the defendant must return for all court proceedings, or they will forfeit the bail amount.

What is forfeiture?

If a defendant posts bail but does not show up for future court proceedings, the court will keep the bail money. This is known as forfeiture.

How do I get a bail bond?

For many defendants, paying bail might not be an option because of financial hardship. In those cases, the court will accept what is known as a bail bond. A bail bond is a promise from a third party – an insurance company – that they will pay the bail amount if the defendant does not show up for court proceedings.

How does the bail bonds process work?

If a defendant lacks the funds for bail, the insurance company will post the bail bond to the court. The insurance company will charge the defendant a set amount, such as 10% of the bail. If the defendant shows up in court, the court will return the bond to the agency, which will keep the 10%. If the defendant flees, however, the guarantor will have to reimburse the court for the bail amount. The company will then often hire a private investigator to bring the defendant to court, which will allow the company to get it’s money back.

What is a bail agent?

The insurance companies that provide bail bonds use a bail bond agency or a bondsman to represent them in these cases.

How do I get a bail bond?

Getting a bail bond is as simple as finding a bail agent.

What is forfeiture?

As described above, if a defendant does not show up for court, whoever posted the bail will lose that money. This is known as forfeiture.

Do I get my money back after the case is over?

The simple answer is no. Even if you show up for all court proceedings, the fee (often 10%) paid to the bail agent is the agent’s fee for posting the bail bond. It is similar to any other fee you provide a businessman.

How did the bail bond system get started?

The practice of posting money or property in exchange for temporary release while awaiting trial dates back to common law in England in the 13th century.