The Bail and Bond Process—Why Getting Out of Jail Isn't Usually Free

17 February 2016
 Categories: Finance & Money, Articles


Placing a citizen in jail is a serious matter—one filled with procedures, protocols, and regulations. While these steps are all important to the process of incarcerating citizens in a fair and humane matter, they are often difficult to understand. One of the most misunderstood aspects of this entire process is bail.

From the amount of your bail to the process by which you post it, there are a number of details you'll need to understand if you're ever arrested and accused of criminal activity. Your ability to manage your affairs while you progress through the legal process depends on it.

Bail—The Basics

Bail, simply put, is the amount of money that you'll need to give the court in order for them to release you from their custody. This submission of money (or property with a financial value) serves as assurance that you'll actually appear in court on your scheduled date. If you do not appear when you are supposed to do so, you will forfeit the money or property. If you show up on time, you'll have your property returned to you—minus some court costs and other processing fees.

The amount you'll have to pay for bail depends on a number of factors, including your criminal record, employment status, and others. However, the largest determining factor in setting bail is the nature of your offense. Some courts set specific bail amounts for crimes by type, while others post public bail schedules that group offenses by the possible amount of jail time that the crime carries.

Often, for lesser crimes, you'll be able to post bail right away. With more serious offenses, you'll need to wait until a judge can review your case and set the proper amount. Either way, in most situations, the idea is to get your amount set and posted so you can return to your home, organize your affairs, and await your hearing.

What Is a Bail Bond?

The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits judges from setting bail amounts that are excessively high. That said, even appropriate bail amounts are often cost prohibitive for most citizens. The lowest bail set on the Los Angeles County Bail Schedule is $20,000 and ranges up to $1,000,000 for felonies that carry a life sentence. As a result, it's not unlikely to find situations when accused felons can't post bail.

Fortunately, bail bonds exist to make these situations easier. A licensed bail bondsman offers accused felons the opportunity to purchase a bail bond. These bonds represent a promise to pay the court in the event that the felon does not appear for their hearing. Purchasing a bond costs a mere fraction of the bail amount, but is nonrefundable. 

In the event that the felon does not show up on their assigned date, the bondsman must provide the full bail amount. However, they are allowed to recover the accused person and return them to the custody of the court. In many cases, the bondsman will set a bounty on the person's recovery as a means of recovering their investment. This creates the need for bounty hunters to work closely with bail bondsmen.

Unfortunately, this scenario happens more than you might expect—over 20% of all felony cases fail to appear in court in the nation's largest counties. While this might create an expectation of high cost for bail bonds, this isn't the case. Typically, the cost for a bail bond has remained steady at 10% of the total bail amount.

For people who don't have a lot of cash available, bail bonds provide a low-cost opportunity to return home and organize their life prior to their day in court. By understanding how the bail and bail bond process work together, you can make an educated decision about the right choice for you in your particular situation. To learn more about bail bonds, visit these guys at their website today.