Signing a Bail Bond Contract – What are Your Responsibilities?

The arrest of a friend or relative is often a chaotic and confusing time for many. During this time, you may find yourself called upon to help bail out your loved one. While bail bonds are lifesavers for people put into this financial dilemma, it’s important to understand your responsibilities as the co-signer, or indemnitor, of the bond.

What is a Bail Bond?

A bail bond is a type of bond, called a surety bond, which allows for the release of a person from jail. This bond acts as a promise from the defendant that he will appear in court as ordered. Bail bond companies typically charge 10-15% of the total bail amount for these bonds. For example, if the total bail amount is $25,000, and the bond agent charges 10%, the bail bond charge will be $2,500. This amount is considered the bail premium and is not refundable. This premium is the bondsman’s fee for his services. Without a bail bond agency, the defendant or his friends or family would be responsible for the full cash bond amount. In addition to the cash bond fee, the agent will likely request collateral to help guarantee the defendant appears in court. Collateral could include real estate, vehicles, jewelry or other valuables. The rights to any collateral offered up are returned to the owner if all requirements from the court and bond agency are met by the defendant.

Responsibilities of the Indemnitor

Because the bail bond is a promise to appear, it is the indemnitor’s and bail agency’s responsibility to assure that the defendant attends each court date assigned. If the defendant fails to appear, you will be responsible for any fees from the agency associated with locating and bringing the defendant back to jail or court. If the defendant cannot be located, you become responsible for the full bond amount and any collateral you signed over will be used to pay for the bond and will not be returned.

Before co-signing a bail bond, consider your relationship with the defendant. Is the defendant trustworthy? Do you know him well enough to trust that he will appear as promised? Is he stable with a solid work history? Do you know his family or where he might go if he were to skip bail? Remember that signing a bail bond is a major financial decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Also remember that the bond agency is vested in the situation as well. If problems attending court dates arise, contact the agent to discuss the situation. Often, people fail to realize that the agents can help the defendant and indemitor work around any problem.