What is bail?
A bail bond is a loan to the courts, from a bondsman, that allows an accused person to be released from custody so they can continue their lives while they prepare for trial. In criminal cases, it is a sum of money, real property or surety bond that needs to be posted by or on behalf of a defendant to guarantee their appearance in court. The right to bail is guaranteed to a defendant in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States

How does a bail bond work?
The court will set the amount of the bond required for the defendant’s release. Under state law, a surety company can provide a type of insurance policy or “bond” that guarantees payment of the full bail amount to the court; in the event the defendant does not show up for all scheduled appearances. These bonds are posted by licensed bail bond agencies.  For supplying these bonds, bail agencies charge a premium – a percentage of the total bond amount, typically 10%. For example, a bond set at $2,000, the premium would be $200 plus any additional fees required by the jail.  The bonding agency must charge a premium rate and it is filed with the Department of Insurance, which makes the premium non-refundable once the bond is posted.

When do I get my money back?
If you post a cash bond the court, this money will be released to the the defendant when the case is disposed – provided the defendant appeared at all required court dates.

If you use a bondsman, the bondsman is initially responsible to the court for the bond amount.  The defendant and indemnitors are responsible to the bondsman for the premium and any fees or additional expenses incurred by the surety on their behalf.  These monies are earned at the time the defendant is released from custody and therefore not subject to return.  This is the case even if the defendant is found innocent, the case is dismissed or the defendant is placed back into custody for another offense.

What is the difference between bond amount and bond premium?
The bond amount is the amount of the bail that was set by the court.  The premium is the dollar amount owed to the bondsman for posting the bond.

Who is an indemnitor?
An indemnitor is the person(s) willing to be responsible for the defendant while they are out on bail and co-assumes financial liability to guarantee the full bond amount.

What is a bail bond exoneration?
A bail bond is exonerated when the defendant is sentenced and turns themself into custody.  It does not matter if the defendant is found guilty, innocent or the case is dismissed.  At this point, the liability for the bond amount is discharged, however any unpaid premium, fees or charges incurred by the bail agency on your behalf are still owed to that agency.

What is considered by the court in fixing the amount of the bail?
The amount of the bail is first and foremost within the scope and discretion of the judge or magistrate, with only two general limitations:

  • The purpose of bail is not to penalize or punish the defendant, but only to secure the appearance of the accused, and it should be set with that in mind.
  • Excessive bail, not warranted by the circumstances or the evidence at hand, is not only improper but a violation of constitutional rights. In fixing the amount of the bail, the court takes into consideration the seriousness of the charge, the defendant’s previous criminal record and the probability of the defendant appearing at the trial or hearing.

Additionally, if public safety is an issue, the court may make an inquiry where it may consider allegations of injury to the victim, danger to the public and/or to the defendant, threats to the victim or a witness, the use of a deadly weapon and the defendant’s use or possession of controlled substances. A judge or magistrate setting bail in other than a scheduled or usual amount must state on the record the reasons and address the issue of threats made against a victim or a witness. The court must also consider evidence offered by the detained person regarding ties to the community and ability to post bond. The bail amount set by the court must be within the minimum range amount of bail that would reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance – NOT the maximum!