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.
Recommended Reference Books
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.
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.