Bail and Bail Bonds – How They Work


An Overview of Bail, Bail Bonds, and Bondsmen

If you, or someone you know, is arrested, charged with a crime, and incarcerated, it is important to understand how bail bonds work. This article provides a general overview of bail bonds, how they work in the legal system, and how much they cost. In addition, I’ll provide an overview of the role bounty hunters and fugitive recovery agents play. Also, I’ll suggest a few books to help you learn more.

What is Bail?

When someone is arrested, a bail amount is assigned when the person gets admitted to jail. Bail is money or property that is promised to a court of law to allow a person who has been charged with a crime to be released from jail. 

Jails and correctional facilities have standard collateral amounts that correspond with the most common crimes. This gives the arrested person an opportunity to get out of jail more quickly, rather than waiting a day or more to see a judge.

The money can be paid by the person who is arrested (also known as the defendant) or a friend/relative.

The money can also be put up by a surety (usually a bail bondsman) with the understanding that the accused person will appear in court. If the defendant doesn’t appear in court, they lose the money.

A judge sets the amount

In some cases, a bail security amount is not automatic. This means that the individual must appear before a judge to have the appropriate collateral amount assigned.

If a judge sets the bail, the amount is related to the seriousness of the crime and the potential flight risk of the defendant. Typically, the greater the flight risk, the higher the amount of security. The judge presiding over the particular case makes the decision. The plaintiff or defendant and their legal team can influence the decision by presenting evidence or information.

Bail Bondsman, Agent

A bail bond agent, or bail bondsman, is a person or company that acts as a surety for a person who is accused of a crime. The bondsman pledges a sum of money or property to ensure the accused person will appear in a court of law.

Bail bondsman agents are usually able to secure their customers’ release in just a few hours. In any given city, you’ll see billboards and signs all over town advertising their services, especially in the proximity of the local jail or prison.

How Much Do Bail Bond Agents Charge?

Bail Bonds charge a fee equal to a percentage of the bond. Typically, the fee is 10% for a state criminal charge and 15% for a federal charge. However, in some states, there is a standard fee for all bail bond agents who operate in the state. The agents can charge fees for additional expenses as well.

In some states, the court will accept 10% of the bail amount in cash. If the accused appears in court, the poster can get a refund. For larger guarantee amounts, the bond agent will get security against one of the defendant’s assets, such as their home.

Bounty Hunting and Fugitive Recovery

In some situations, a bail bondsman has to track down a defendant. In situations where there is a higher security guarantee amount, an agent uses a Bounty Hunter to find the defendant. For an example of bounty hunting in action, check out the TV series, Dog the Bounty Hunter.

In some states, bounty hunting is illegal and the bail bond agent is responsible for apprehending the fugitive. In fact, in most other countries, there is no such thing as bail and the practice of bounty hunting is illegal.

Some states have also discontinued the practice of commercial bail bonding altogether. Examples of such states include Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin. In addition, the practice has ended in Massachusetts, but it is not illegal.

The American Bar Association and the National District Attorneys Association feel the practice discriminates against certain groups. In addition, they feel that the criminal justice system should manage the process. 

Learn More About Bail Bonds

Watch this helpful YouTube video to learn more

If you would like to learn more about how bail bonds work, watch this YouTube video by eHow:

Also, learn more on Wikipedia.

Bail Bonds 101 The Complete Guide to Owning and Operating a Successful Bail Bond Company

Bail Bonds 101 The Complete Guide to Owning and Operating a Successful Bail Bond Company
View on Amazon

Although this book is not specifically about bail bonds, it does a great job of explaining how the industry works. The book focuses mainly on what it takes to set up a bail bonds business. However, it provides useful insight and information that would be helpful for private investigators.

In addition, the book includes helpful sections on how to post bonds and handle forfeitures. Also, it explains how the court system works, how to develop relationships with attorneys, and much more. It is still a good resource for understanding the overall process.

The helpful guide may even give you a “behind the scenes” view so you’ll understand more clearly how to deal with bail bondmen as well. The book is available on Amazon for under $10.00.

How to Start a Bail Bond Business and Become a Bail Bondsman

How to Start a Bail Bond Business and Become a Bail Bondsman
View on Amazon

This is another helpful book that focuses on starting a business in the bail industry. In addition to explaining how to set up your business, it goes into the history of bail and licensing. In addition, it discusses how to market and promote your business, and how to sell it when the time comes.

Also, it includes a collection of resources such as websites and specific email addresses for people who can give you advice along the way. The book is available on Amazon for around $16.00.

Questions and Comments

If you have any questions about bail bonds, the process, or bondsmen, please post a comment below.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


  1. I like how you mentioned it’s especially important to know how bail bonds work in case you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or even arrested. My brother is thinking of looking for a bail bondsman because his son was put in jail last week for driving his friend’s car on the highway without a license or insurance. It might be a good idea for my brother to consider hiring a reputable professional that can help him financially to release his son from prison while they await the court date.

  2. As I was passing by certain parts of town, I saw multiple ads for bail bondsmen and became curious as to what they really do. It’s great that you elaborated on their role as a person who will ensure someone’s court appearance because many times have I thought of what might happen if the accused person does not present themselves. It especially helped when you broke down the common costs of these agents just in case I may need to hire one’s services in the future. I imagined that if an unfortunate event would happen to one of my relatives, I would need to have a bail bond agent in quick contact.

  3. I like that you have shared about the charges of the bail bonds according to their categories like stage crime charges and federal crime charges. This blog will give a clear idea to those who have bit knowledge about the bail bonds.

  4. I like that you mentioned that bail bondsman agents are usually able to secure their customer’ release in just a few hours. My boyfriend was just arrested, and we are trying to figure out what we should do now. I think contacting a bail bondsman would be a good idea so that he can be out and we can figure out what to do from there together. Thanks for the information about how bail bonds work.

  5. I really appreciate your explanation of bail bondsmen and how they act as beneficiaries that ensure the accused person will appear in court. I think that working with a bail bondsman is vital if you are faced with charges that have the chance of being dropped. If I had a loved one in such a situation, I would make sure to work with a bond service that charges a reasonable rate for their services.

  6. I had no idea that bounty hunters could work with bail bonds if a defendant tries to get away. My brother was recently arrested for supposed possession of an illegal firearm, but he claims it is all a misunderstanding and is really nervous about the situation. Because I’m afraid that my brother might do something unwise, I’ll look into if a bail bondsman that can handle the situation and can turn to a bounty hunter should the case arise.


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