Bail and Bail Bonds – How They Work

bail bonds
Learn about bail bonds and bail bondsmen. Photo: Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons

An Overview of Bail, Bail Bonds and Bondsmen

 If you, or someone you know, has been 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 and how much they cost. In addition, I’ll provide an overview of bounty hunters and suggest a few books to help you learn more.

What is Bail?

When someone gets arrested, a bail amount is assigned when the person gets admitted to the 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 bail amounts that are associated 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 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 will appear in court when scheduled. If the defendant doesn’t appear in court, they lose the money.

Bail Set by a Judge

In some cases, a bail amount is not automatically assigned. This means that the individual must appear before a judge to a bail 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. The greater the flight risk, the higher the amount of bail is set. The judge presiding over the particular case makes the decision, which can be influenced by evidence or information submitted by either the plaintiff or defendant and their legal team

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 bail 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 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 as required, the payment is refunded. For larger bail amounts, the bond agent will get a security against one of the defendant’s assets, such as their home.

Bounty Hunting and Fugitive Recovery

In situations where bail bondsman have to track down a defendant, especially in situations where a high bail amount was set by the judge, a bail bond agent may use a Bounty Hunter to track down the accused. 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, bail is usually not used and the practice of bounty hunting is considered to be illegal.

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

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

Learn More About Bail Bonds

YouTube Video

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

Also, learn more on Wikipedia.

Recommended Reference Books

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 is focused mainly on what it takes to setup a bail bonds business. It includes helpful sections on how to post bonds and handle forfeitures, 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.

It 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 is focused on starting a business in the bail industry. In addition to explaining how to setup 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 address 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.


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