There are many steps involved in getting bailed out of jail or helping a friend or family member that may need to be bailed out. Remember that getting bailed out of jail is an option. Sometimes bail is set very high and choosing to bail someone out of jail carries a lot of trust and responsibility. It is important to make sure that you fully trust that person will show up to all court proceedings before choosing to bail them out of jail.

Bail is a refundable deposit that allows the defendant to get out of jail until their court date. The deposit is used as collateral to ensure the defendant will return to court for trial or any applicable court proceedings. Not all cases will be given the option for bail. Options for bail are offered based on the jurisdiction, the type of crime, and whether the court believes the defendant will attempt to go on the run. This is often known as a flight risk.

If the defendant shows up for court, the bail is refunded by the court. If the defendant does not show up for court, the court keeps the deposit or collateral and a warrant is issued for an arrest.

Many defendants will want to be bailed out of jail as soon as possible to keep their jobs, take care of their children and prepare for their court proceedings with a clear head. Sometimes court proceedings can take weeks or months and it is understandable why people would not want to put their lives on hold while awaiting court or trial.

This page will answer questions about what a bail bond is, how a bail bond works, what a bail hearing is, what happens when a defendant does not show up for court, and what a bounty hunter is.

Table of Contents:

What is a Bail Bond?
How Do Bail Bonds Work?
What is a bail Hearing?
How much is a bail bond?
What is a Bounty Hunter?

What is a Bail Bond?

A bail bond is a way for a defendant to pay the jail to get out of jail until their court date. If the defendant cannot afford bail, they must wait in jail until their court date.

In many jurisdictions and situations, you do have the option of paying the full amount of bail yourself. There are many offenses that have small bond amounts. If the jail accepts credit card payments, defendants are also able to charge the amount for a fee.

If the defendant can pay the full amount of the set bail, finding a way to pay the jail is another tricky task. When you are taken into custody, often your personal items will be taken from you. Large amounts of cash may be taken as evidence. Some jail locations will not accept credit cards. If they do, there is usually a large fee involved.

Defendants also have the option of contacting a bail agent. The reason many people choose to do this is because they only pay a portion of the bond upfront when using an agency. Many times, friends or relatives of the defendant may contact a bail agent on their behalf.

If you decide to hire a bail bondsmen or agent, they will write up a contract to ensure that you understand that you are responsible for the defendant showing up in all court proceedings. If the defendant does not show up, you will be responsible for the full amount of the bail.

How Do Bail Bonds Work?

Since arrests can happen at any time, bail bond agencies are typically open twenty-four hours a day. Many times, payment and paperwork can be completed electronically which can help expedite the process. The paperwork is a contract between the person posting bail and ensures that they fully understand that they are agreeing to be responsible for the defendant showing up to all court proceedings. The paperwork will also discuss what they have put on the line (some form of collateral) to ensure that person shows up in court. The paperwork will also discuss the fees involved. When contacting a bail agent, they will need to know the full name of the defendant, the booking number and the charges they were brought in for, as well as the location of the jail they are being held. From there, the bail agent will bond the defendant out of jail. When the bail bondsmen is at the jail, they are given the court date, a receipt and all the paperwork involved so that the bail bondsmen has all the pertinent information to follow up with the case. This can take several hours depending on procedures and how busy the jail is.

If the defendant fails to show up to any court proceedings, it will be the responsibility of the bail agent to pay the full amount of bail to the court. From there, the bail agent will hire a bounty hunter to track down the defendant and take them back to jail. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the person who took out the bail bond can lose any collateral or have additional penalties depending on their contract.

What is a bail Hearing?

A bail hearing is where the court will set the bail amount. The judge will examine the details of the case and the nature of the crimes.

Depending on the jurisdiction and state laws, many times there are bail schedules that are posted with the jails. These schedules set the standard for how much bail is required depending on the crime and can often be paid directly with the jail before a bail hearing. Jailhouse bail schedules are typically set in stone and nonnegotiable.

At a bail hearing, judges will set the bail amount. This is usually the first appearance after the suspect’s arrest. Judges will typically make uniform decisions depending on the crime. The judge will consider whether the crime was drug related, violent or nonviolent and the character and history of the defendant. The judge will take into consideration whether the defendant poses a threat to society if they are released while awaiting their court date.

While defendants do not need a lawyer to post bail, having a criminal defense attorney can help you at a bail hearing because both the defense and the prosecutor will have an opportunity to discuss bail with the judge at the bail hearing.

A criminal defense lawyer will have the opportunity to discuss bail factors and in some cases can attempt to have bail lowered at a bail hearing.

Sometimes, judges will consider releasing a defendant on their own recognizance. This means that the defendant signs a written agreement with the court stating they promise to abide by restrictions set by the court and that they will show up for their court date. This type of bond, known as a recognizance bond, means that there are no bail fees. This can save hundreds or thousands of dollars for the defendant. A criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate with the judge and the prosecutor to have a recognizance bond as an option. In certain cases, this sort of bond will not be considered. This will depend on the type of crime, the jurisdiction and whether the court believes the defendant may be a flight risk. In most cases, violent crimes, felony crimes and gang related crimes will not be considered for recognizance bonds.

How much is a bail bond?

Bail bond agencies will charge a fee if you use their services. Fees vary depending on the state and some states will have maximum fees that the bail bond agencies must abide by. For a full list of bail regulations and fees, click here. Fees also vary depending on the situation involved in the arrest, and the amount of risk that the bail bond agency takes on. Because there is risk involved in bailing someone out of jail, bail agents also usually require collateral. Collateral can be anything of value that the person who hires the bail agent owns. This collateral is used to guarantee that the defendant will show up for their court date. This fee is usually anywhere from 10-20% of the bail amount. In California, the maximum amount is 10%. The fee can be paid up front or on a payment plan depending on the agreement stated in the paperwork.

Conditions will be set by the bail agent. These conditions must be met to comply with the agreement. This will be stated in any paperwork that is filled out when the agreement is made. The agreement will include provisions stating that the defendant must show up for all court proceedings.

Keep in mind that bail bondsmen are not required to help you bail yourself or anyone else out of jail. They are taking all the risk involved in the situation and they are there to help you, but bail is an option and not a requirement.

What is a Bounty Hunter?

If a defendant has used a bail bondsmen to get bailed out of jail and they go on the run, they are considered a fugitive and a warrant is issued for their arrest. The bail agent is responsible for paying the full amount of the bond to the court when this happens. The person who signed the agreement is now responsible for paying the bail agent the bond amount and/or any additional collateral as stated in the contract.

When a defendant becomes a fugitive, there is still the issue of how they will be captured and brought to justice. This is where the bounty hunter comes in. A bounty hunter is a trained or registered professional that is responsible for finding and capturing fugitives on behalf of the bail bondsmen. Many states have regulations for bounty hunters, and four states do not allow bounty hunting at all.

Bounty hunters get paid a portion of the defendants total bail amount. This portion is usually 10 – 20% of the total bail amount. This amount is paid after the bounty hunter has successfully located, tracked and captured the fugitive. Many bounty hunters have backgrounds in criminal justice or private investigation and specialize in gathering pertinent information and locating and apprehending suspects. Bounty hunters not only help keep the interest of the bail bondsmen, but are also helping the interest of the community by getting criminals back into the justice system. In some states a bail bondsmen can also be the bounty hunter.