The Bail Bond System
The bail bond system was created to allow some defendants who are awaiting trial the opportunity to be released from jail until their court dates. Since most people do not have thousands of dollars available for posting bail, this system allows them to use money or property as a bond to incentivize them to appear in court on the date set by the judge. If the person does not appear than their collateral is forfeited to the bail bond company.
How Bail is Set
The federal courts and many state courts use a bail schedule that defines when a person is eligible for release and the amount of the bail required to be paid. For defendants who are deemed as being a potential flight risk or there is a possibility that they pose a danger to the community, bail is denied.
Types of Bonds
In some instances, the court may release a person from jail on his or her own recognizance, so there is no bail or bond. In other situations, one of two types of bonds must be posted and these are:
- Cash Bond. This bond requires that the entire amount of the set bail be paid prior to the release of the defendant. Often the full amount of this bond is refunded when the defendant appears in court, but there are exceptions. If there are fees, fines, or other payments due as a result of the person’s actions, the court will use the bond money to assure that these responsibilities are paid and will refund any remaining amounts to the defendant.
- Surety Bond. This is the type of bond used when bail is set at an amount higher than what the defendant can pay out-of-pocket. In this situation, the bail bondsman steps in to pay the court the entire amount of the bail and the defendant pays the bondsman a fee for this service. Once the defendant appears in court on the set date, the bail bondsman’s money is refunded. In states such as Florida, the fee amount a bail bondsman can charge is set by law, protecting defendants from unscrupulous business practices.
The defendant is released from jail soon after the bond is posted. If he or she does not appear in court as scheduled, the bond is forfeited. To avoid the financial risk of loss from a no-show defendant, most bondsmen work closely with their clients to assure that they appear in court on their hearing dates.
Criminal Defense Attorneys and Bail Bondsmen
Criminal defense attorneys always work with reputable bail bondsmen because they perform a valued service for the client. Working with a bail bondsman allows a lawyer to:
- Provide clients with the ability to post bail regardless of their financial means;
- Meet with their clients outside of the jail or prison system; and
- Assure that their client will be present for all necessary hearings or trials.
In addition, the bond system allows defendants to continue to work and care for their families, as well as and assist in the preparation of their defense, while they await trial. Defendants may also use this time to make restitution, begin therapy services, or take other actions that could mitigate their sentences. The simple fact is that having the person is out of jail on bond is a significant defense strategy.
Wait to Hire a Bail Bondsman
Too often, a person who is arrested will panic and immediately contact a bail bondsman to post bail and secure their release. This is the wrong tactic because it limits that person’s defense options. The first call should be to an experienced criminal defense attorney rather than the bail bondsman because the lawyer may be able to lessen the impact of the arrest by:
- Getting the client released on his or her own recognizance, which eliminates the need for bail;
- Negotiating a reduction of the charges, which lowers the amount of the bail; or
- Working to keep the charges from becoming more serious, which avoids increasing the bail amount.
Only after the attorney has completed this initial representation process will defendants know if bail must be paid and if a bail bondsman is required.
Although reputable bail bondsmen provide an important service within the criminal justice system, never hire one without first consulting an experienced skilled criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will represent your interests from the moment you call, and he or she will determine if additional resources, including a bondsman, is necessary. Please contact us to learn how our expert criminal defense attorneys can provide the skilled representation needed to address your unique situation.