Bail Bonds: How Do They Work?

The average law-abiding citizen does not like to go to jail, and yet it can be so easy to land in one. It could be for driving with a suspended license, or not showing up in court. Regardless of the offense, landing in jail can disrupt everything going on in your life. And you can be kept in there for an undetermined period of time. To get out sooner, you need a bail bond, which is like a written promise. As the defendant, you make a promise to show up in court at the scheduled time and date.

How It Works

When you are incarcerated, you are kept there until the court decides that you can go; it’s important to know how to post bail. Bail bonds are granted by a civil officer of the court, who is referred to as the commissioner or magistrate, depending on the type or location of jurisdiction. When the civil officer grants you bail, which is set at a certain amount of money, you can send for a bail bondsman, who is also referred to as a bail bond agent. You can also call a friend, family member, or spouse to come to the place of incarceration and meet with the bail bondsman with the required amount. The money due is usually a percentage of the entire bail; it is typically set at 10 percent. So, for example, if your bail is set at $1,500, you would have to give the bail bond agent $150. The bail bondsman would then present the payment to the court, and you can be let go. A few days later, you should expect to receive a court letter informing you of when and where you need to show up for your trial. Upon your arrival in court, the judge would no longer require you to take care of the bail, and the bail bond agent would keep the money that you gave him.

Level of Flight Risk

Bear in mind, though, that not everyone is granted bail. While there are some people that the court frees on their own recognizance without the need to pay anything, there are some cases in which the offense is so serious that they remain incarcerated until the trial date. Such people are referred to as “flight risks.” This means that there is a high level of possibility that they could flee the jurisdiction somewhere else; this is usually done to escape possible conviction and consequent punishment. In some such cases, the bail is set so high that the incarcerated person cannot possibly take care of it. In a sense, the court grants (or does not grant) bail based on the “flight risk” level that the defendant poses.

Possible Return to Jail

Fulfilling a bail bond is essentially an opportunity to prove that you are a trustworthy person who keeps promises and respects law enforcement and the judicial system. The court expects you to show up when it requires your presence. So, if you fail to appear at the designated time and date—and you have not given a reasonable excuse for your absence—the presiding judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest and have you sent back to jail. Also, the judge can demand that the entire bail be paid, and you can be arrested if police officers spot you.

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