How does bail work?

If you anticipate that you might get arrested, it’s important to understand how the bail process works. Any questions you have should be directed to a criminal defense attorney. Most will offer a free initial consultation during which you can briefly discuss your case.


The Purpose of Bail

When the court approves a defendant to be released from jail until their court date, the defendant or their bail bondsman agrees to pay a certain amount of money, which is the bail amount, if they do not show up for court. The more serious the alleged crime, the higher the bail amount. If the defendant is likely to flee and never come back, the bail amount will also likely increase, if it’s approved at all.


Getting a Bail Bond

A person can get released from custody by agreeing to pay the bail amount if they do not show up for court by using one of four methods:

  1. Through a bail bondsman.
  2. Pay the court or jail the full bail requirement in cash.
  3. Use your home or property to pay the court for your bail amount. Someone else can also promise to turn over their real property on your behalf.
  4. Your criminal defense attorney or public defender can request the court to let you go on your own recognizance.  


No Refunds

If you use a bail bondsman, the bondsman is the one who agrees to pay bail to the court if you don’t show up for your court appearance. In return, the bondsman requires that you pay him a percentage of the full bond amount. That payment is non-refundable, even if you show up in court as required. In addition, if you don’t show up for court and the bail bondsman is responsible for paying your bail as a result, the bondsman has the legal authority to track you down and arrest you.


Using Collateral to Pay the Bail Bondsman

The bail bondsman will not want to agree to pay your bail if you go missing unless they have a way to recoup that bail money from you. This is why they require collateral from you against the bail amount. In other words, they want a promise from you that if you disappear while out on bond, they can sell your possessions in order to recoup the cost of the bail if they cannot track you down. Each bondsman has different requirements but most will agree to accept different types of collateral, including the following:

  • House, land, or other real estate. They will consider the equity but not what is still owed to the bank.
  • Vehicles, including boats, cars, etc.
  • Stocks and bonds.
  • High value jewelry.
  • Personal credit.
  • Checking and savings balances.

A criminal defense lawyer will be a vital tool in defending your case.


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