Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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What is a bail bond?

The term bail bond is a largely a misunderstood term. A bail bond is actually two terms used together but, mean two totally different things.

BAIL is what the judge sets in terms of monetary value. Judges use a variety of things when considering what that amount should be. The two most important items a judge will consider will be severity of the crime and the criminal history of the defendant. In most cases concerning a misdemeanor the jail will have a list of predetermined values for each charge based on the number of times the defendant has been charged or convicted of that particular offense. When a defendant is charged with a felony he or she will typically be required to go before a judge, who will set the amount of the bail. When charged with a theft charge, the value of the bail will also be determined by the monetary value of what the defendant is accused of taking. Bail is the amount of money the bonding company is responsible for if the defendant fails to show up in court as required.

BOND is the actual contract between the bonding company and the state.

WHAT IS A CO-SIGNER?

A co-signer is a person or persons that sign a contract with the bonding company, guaranteeing the company that if the defendant fails to go to court as required that they will pay the full amount of the bail immediately. When there is more than one co-signer each cosigner is typically responsible for the full amount of the bail. In most case the co-signer will also be required to pay for the cost of apprehending the defendant and returning them to jail. The cost of recovery can easily exceed the amount of the bail. The upside is, that if the defendant is apprehended within a specified period of time the bond does not have to be paid off.

WILL I NEED A CO-SIGNER?

Typically, a bonding company will always require a co-signer. There may be cases where a co-signer will not be required based on a defendants history with the company.

WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR A CO-SIGNER?

Qualifications for a co-signer are whatever the bonding company wants them to be. It is somewhat like getting a loan from a bank. A small bond may not require much of a co-signer, while a large bond will require a much more stable person that has had a good job for a number of years and perhaps, been in the same residence for a while. Things such where a person works and what their salary is, will play a part. For instance. I would consider a middle to upper management employee for a fortune 500 company with 2 years on the job to be a better cosigner than a manager for a convenience store with 15 years on the job. Retired people may or may not make good co-signers. It will probably depend on where the person is retired from. You have to understand, retired and I just decided not to work anymore are two entirely different things.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

The fee paid to the bonding company is usually between 10 and 15%. Most states have a maximum and some may also have a minimum. There are even some states that have a maximum percentage up to a certain amount and even higher maximum above that amount. Some bonding companies may charge a security deposit in addition to the bond fee. The security deposit is a completely separate issue and is 100% refundable if the defendant does everything that is required.

HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE?

The paper work with the bonding company will generally take about 15 minutes. After the paper work is done, the rest is up to the jail. I have seen it take 10 minutes to as long as 8 hours. This also depends of the behavior of the defendant. If the defendant is being unruly or defiant the jailers may send them to a holding cell until the defendant is cooperative. State law may also dictate a minimum amount of time prior to release for certain offenses.

IS THE DEFENDANT FREE TO GO AFTER LEAVING THE JAIL?

As far as the jail is concerned, yes. As far as the bonding company is concerned, usually not. Most bondsman require the defendant to come by the office to talk to them, complete the paper work and take a picture. The visit to the office by the defendant is completely voluntary and is not required by law. If a defendant is requested by his or her bondsman to come by the office and they elect not to, it may hold serious ramifications for the defendant. For the most part the bondsman will have their bail enforcement personnel pick them up and surrender the bond. No refund of fees paid or return of any security deposit is required.

WILL I NEED COLLATERAL?

In the majority of cases the answer is no. In some cases the bonding company may require collateral and in other cases, the courts or the sheriff may require it. If the bonding company requires collateral it is usually has to do with the quality of the co-signer, the amount of the bail or the possibility of flight risk. Collateral or Security may take a number of forms, cash, real property, vehicles, jewelry or anything else the bondsman considers to be of sufficient value. The value a bondsman is willing to accept will typically exceed the amount of the bail by a considerable amount. The bondsman in not usually concerned with the return of the collateral in the event of a failure to appear (forfeiture), they just want to be able to sell the collateral quickly and that usually means selling the collateral below par value so they can pay off the bond . Not paying a bond off on time can affect the ability of the bondsman to stay in business or face suspension until the bond is paid off.

WHAT IS A CASH BOND?

When you post a cash bond you are acting as the bondsman because you are putting up the entire amount of the bail in cash. A cash bond makes a lot more sense than using a bondsman. The cash you put up is returned when the case closed. The down side to a cashbond is that, if the defendant doesn’t go to court and you can’t produce them within a certain period of time, the cash you put up is forfeited and you do not get it back.

WHAT IS A FORFEITURE?

In my part of the world when a defendant does not go to court, an Order of Forfeiture issued, this document may be called other things in other parts of the country. Basically it is a letter telling the bonding company one of their clients did not go to court. It will list the name on the defendant, the name of the company, the court date missed and a date called the show cause date (in my part of the world). The show cause date is the date when the bonding company has to appear before the court and tell the judge why they shouldn’t be required to pay the bond off. A bench warrant for contempt of court may also be issued.

CAN A COURT DATE BE RESCHEDULED?

The generic answer is yes. Each location is going to have their own rules which can vary widely. In a lower court, mainly for misdemeanors, the solution may be as simple as calling the court and rescheduling another court date. For more serious charges such as with felonies it may require an attorney. Ask your bondsman about the specifics on your particular location.

IS THE BOND FEE REFUNDABLE?

Typically, the bond fee itself in non-refundable. There are certain cases where the bond fee may be refundable.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE DEFENDANT IS RE-ARRESTED WHILE OUT ON BOND?

If a defendant is arrested while out on bond, it is largely up to the bonding company as to what happens. If the defendant and the bonding company have a good relationship, the company will, in the vast majority of cases post the bail on the new charges. The biggest problem you may face is that the new bail increases the liability of the bonding company, because of this the bonding company may require a more qualified co-signer, another co-signer in addition to the one they already have or some type of security. Bonding companies have the right to surrender (Come off of) the present bonds. It is always a good idea to go back to the bonding company that the defendant is currently on bond with. If you use another company to write the new bonds and the previous company finds out about it, they may surrender the old bonds, meaning you will then have to get the new bonding company to re-write the old bonds, costing the co-signer the bond fee of the old bonds. A bonding company is always suspicious when another bonding company is used. It is important to show the old bonding company you have nothing to hide and are being straight up with them.