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Frequently Asked Questions About Bail Bonds

First, you must find out exactly which jail facility the person is incarcerated and for what she/he is being charged. Most of the time, persons who have been arrested on sight (something that happened that day, e.g., DWI) must see a judge or magistrate who sets bond. If the person was picked up on a warrant (whether traffic violations or other), many times a bond will be preset and the inmate will not have to wait to be arraigned. After finding out what jail the person is in and his/her charges, the next step is deciding what to do with that information.

Warrants are issued in several forms:

  1. Surety Bonds: These bonds may be posted by a bond company for a fee or paid in full in cash by an individual.

  2. Cash Bonds: These bonds must be paid in cash to the jail or another facility.

  3. No Bonds: These bonds cannot be posted.

  4. No Bond Set: Charges or warrants in which the inmate must be seen by a judge or magistrate to have a bond set before she/he is eligible for bond.

  5. Fines: Charges which can be paid in full in cash to the jailer. The inmate can wait to see a judge or magistrate to see if a bond will be set. Many times these are traffic tickets.

  6. Capias Fines or Warrants: Normally these traffic tickets MUST be paid in full before the inmate can be released. Many times the inmate will have an option of posting a bond or paying a fine. Fines and capias fines may be sat out in jail and an inmate granted time served for those offenses (usually class C misdemeanors).

Bonds are exactly that; they are an arbitrary number set for a court appearance and are not normally lowered over time. Anytime an inmate is held in jail because he/she is unable to post bond is normally credited to his/her case when he/she goes to court, not as a way of getting out of jail before the court date.

Surety Bonds

Bail bonding companies must be licensed by the county for which they post bonds. The fee paid to a bonding company is non-refundable and is based on the amount of the bond. Bond companies charge a fee for EACH charge that is posted. An additional misconception is that bond companies charge 10% of the bond amount. This may be true in some smaller counties when bonds are over $5,000 but on a $500 or $1,000 bond, it would not hold true. This is simply because many companies have a minimum cost no matter how small the bond.

Finally, the inmate is ready to be bonded on a warrant or has seen a judge or magistrate and has a bond set. You can either pay the full bond amount in cash to the jail or facility, which may require you to fill out a cash bond and transport it to the county jail, or you can hire a bonding company and pay a small fee for posting the bond. (Note: If you do post the bond yourself, some counties charge a fee or percentage of the bond and the rest is given to the person who put up the money. Others take court costs and other expenses out if applicable and return the balance to the defendant.) Remember that securing a bond on someone is a promise that person will show up for court. If a court date is missed, any money put up for the bond may be forfeited to the court. Bond companies will normally hold someone responsible for the bond, co-signer or Indemnitor.

What Is a Bail Bond?

A bail bond is a contract between a court and a bail bond company for a third party to appear in that court. The third party, or defendant, is the individual who is being bailed out of jail. In addition, it is a pledge or promise by the defendant to appear in court as required.
You may look at the entire bail bond process as a loan that is taken out by the defendant and co-signer (the individual paying for the bond), in which the interest or fee is paid up front. The loan is paid back is by the defendant showing up for court. After the defendant has appeared for every court date the court requires, the original bail bond amount is returned to the bail bond company.
On the other hand, if the defendant does not go to every required court date, the co-signer or Indemnitor along with the defendant is liable for any bond forfeiture fees, court costs, collection fees, bounty hunter fees, etc. Normally, after the defendant has been sentenced by the court or the case has been dismissed, the liability on the bond is waived and the bail bond company has its surety (property put up with the county) returned. This is usually in the form of a power of attorney, note or lien against her/his property.

How does a Bail Bond work?

In most counties, arrangements are made to meet a co-signer (a friend or relative who pays for the bond) at a specific jail or at an office. After collecting the premium or fee and signing all the necessary paperwork, the bail bond company posts, or turns in, the bail bond.

  1. Do I get my money back after the defendant goes to court if I hire a bail bond company to post bond? No. Any money paid to a bail bond company to secure the release of an inmate in jail for court appearance is NON-REFUNDABLE. The ONLY exception is if you put up collateral (extra money aside from the fee the bail bond company charges), with the bail bond company.
  2. Can I post the bail bond myself? Yes. You can pay the entire bond amount in cash to the jail to secure the release of a defendant in jail. Many jails require you to go to the county jail to post the cash bond or require you to go to the agency that issued the warrant.
  3. How long does it take for an inmate to be released after hiring a bail bond company? Unfortunately, there is no set time. Most of the jails release inmates within two to four hours depending on which facility.
  4. The paperwork a bond company has to do normally takes a minimal amount of time. Most of the time is spent waiting for the jail to process the inmate out.
  5. Will a judge be in to set bond even on weekends or holidays? YES! A judge or magistrate will be in to do arraignments 365 days a year. On the weekends and holidays, normally a judge or magistrate will be in only once per day and there is really no set time when the judge or magistrate will be at the jail to do arraignments.

If I co-sign on a bond and the defendant does not show up for court, can I be arrested too? No. The obligation the co-signer takes on is a civil/financial liability. You will be financially responsible for the repayment of costs assessed to the bond company, but there is no criminal liability whatsoever. You can be sued for any amount owed and be required to appear in a civil court hearing.

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Surety Bonds