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 promised to a court of law to allow a person charged with a crime to be released.
Jails and correctional facilities have standard collateral amounts corresponding to the most common crimes. This allows the arrested person to get out of jail more quickly, rather than waiting a day or more to see a judge.
The person arrested (also known as the defendant), an attorney, or a friend/relative can pay the money.
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.
Bail Statistics in the U.S.
Here is a list of statistics about bail in the United States:
- Pretrial detention: According to the Prison Policy Initiative, nearly 75% of people in local jails across the United States are awaiting trial, indicating that they have not been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent.
- Bail rates: The median bail amount set for felony offenses is $10,000, as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. However, bail amounts can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction and the seriousness of the charges.
- Inability to pay: Research shows that approximately 60% of individuals in jail cannot afford the bail amount set for their release. This can result in prolonged pretrial detention and negative consequences, including job loss and family disruption.
- Racial disparities: There are significant racial disparities in the setting of bail. According to a report by the Pretrial Justice Institute, Black and Hispanic defendants face higher bail amounts than white defendants, even when charged with similar offenses.
- Cash bail system: Most jurisdictions in the United States use a cash bail system, where defendants must pay the full bail amount to secure their release. This system can disproportionately impact low-income individuals who may not have the financial resources to post bail.
- Bail bond industry: The bail bond industry plays a significant role in the United States. In this system, defendants can seek the services of a bail bondsman who posts bail on their behalf for a fee, typically around 10% of the total bail amount. The bail bondsman assumes responsibility for ensuring the defendant’s appearance in court.
- Pretrial release alternatives: Some jurisdictions have implemented alternatives to cash bail, such as supervised release, pretrial services, or non-financial conditions like electronic monitoring. These alternatives aim to reduce the reliance on money as a determinant of pretrial release.
- Impact on recidivism: Research suggests that individuals detained pretrial are more likely to receive harsher sentences and have higher recidivism rates than those released before trial. This raises concerns about the effectiveness of pretrial detention as a public safety measure.
- Bail reform efforts: In recent years, there has been a growing movement for bail reform in the United States. Many jurisdictions have implemented changes to reduce reliance on cash bail, promote pretrial services, and address disparities in the system.
- Legislative changes: Several states, including California, New Jersey, and New York, have enacted significant bail reform measures, such as eliminating cash bail for certain offenses or implementing risk assessment tools to guide release decisions.
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 crime’s seriousness and the defendant’s potential flight risk. 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.
The Role of the Bail Bondsman/Agent
A bail bond agent, or bail bondsman, is a person or company that acts as a surety for a person accused of a crime. The bondsman pledges money or property to ensure the accused person will appear in a court of law.
Bail bondsman agents can usually 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 near 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. An agent uses a Bounty Hunter to find the defendant when there is a higher security guarantee amount. For an example of bounty hunting in action, watch the TV series Dog the Bounty Hunter.
Bounty hunting is illegal in some states, and the bail bond agent is responsible for apprehending the fugitive. In most other countries, there is no such thing as bail, and 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.
Also, learn more on Wikipedia.
Recommended Reference Books
- Used Book in Good Condition
- Sean Cook (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 185 Pages – 02/01/2005 (Publication Date) – Bail Out Publishing (Publisher)
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 to understand better how to deal with bail bondsmen.
- Used Book in Good Condition
- Verrochi, Richard (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 123 Pages – 09/01/2006 (Publication Date) – Richard Verrochi (Publisher)
This is another helpful book focusing on starting a bail industry business. 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.
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:
Questions and Comments
If you have any questions about bail bonds, the process, or bondsmen, please post a comment below.