Bail Explained

We often read about high-profile cases in the news where an accused person’s bail is set at an unusually large amount. They may even have their passports taken away so that they cannot flee the country. In exceptional cases, bail may be denied and the accused may remain in jail during their trial and up until sentencing. With that in mind, how do regular people post bail after being arrested and charged with a crime? What do they do if they cannot pay?

If you or a loved one need to post bail, then you should know that there are several different types of bail available, and each can be tailored to fit both the charges being faced and the accused’s financial situation. Each case will have its own unique bond as determined by a judge at the bail hearing. There are five major types of bail, with some used more frequently than others. What is important in all instances is that the accused shows up to their court appearances and maintains contact with a judge throughout this period of time. If they “skip” or “jump” bail, the legal consequences could be very severe.

Cash Bond

A cash bond simply means that the accused must pay the full amount of their bail via cash, though some courts may also accept credit cards. Some judges set the cash bail at an extraordinarily high amount if they want to ensure that the accused stays in jail during their trial. This type of bond is often used when the judge deems the accused to be a flight risk or a danger to the public. If the accused does not appear in court for their pre-determined hearings, then they forfeit the bail and a warrant is issued for their arrest. If the defendant complies with the courts and attends all hearings, then the bail is returned to them after sentencing.

Surety Bond

family reunited after posting bailA surety bond is sometimes referred to as a bail bond. These bonds are often used when the accused person cannot afford to pay the bond that is set by the officiating judge. A friend or relative contacts a bail agent, who is usually an employee of a surety company, which is a type of insurance company. These agents, or bondsmen, will appear in court with the accused and pledge to pay the full amount of money if the accused person does not make it to their court appearances. The bondsman will then charge the accused or the accused’s relatives a certain premium and may hold some larger personal possessions as collateral. If the accused does not make their court appearances, or the relative does not or cannot pay back the bondsman, there may be severe repercussions depending on the accused’s local jurisdiction. They could face being tracked down by bounty hunters, who will take a percentage of the bond amount in return for turning in the accused to the authorities.

Licensed bondsmen are available in several states and jurisdictions. A loved one or friend can contact one for the accused after they have been booked and are awaiting their bond hearing, or they can do the same for a friend or relative in jail. They can often be found in phonebooks, and several bondsmen maintain their own websites with contact information and easy-to-read financial details.

Property Bond

A property bond uses a person’s personal possessions as a way to ensure bail payment. Usually, this involves larger items such as a car, house, or other property. The court then places a lien, or a claim, on the property. Skipped court appearances can mean that the courts can possess these items and force the accused to forfeit ownership in order to cover the cost of bail. Using one’s property as a way to pay bail should be considered very carefully and used only as a last resort. Losing a home, vehicle, or land can cause financial misery well after the accused’s legal troubles are over.

Immigration Bond

If someone is being held by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement department, or ICE, they’ll need an immigration bond to be released from custody. An immigration bail bond is very similar to a surety bond in that you pay to bond agent a premium and they put up the remainder to get the accused released from detention. Once released the accused must attend all their immigration hearings and report to ICE if they’re ordered deported. If they miss any hearings or do not report for deportation they forfeit the bond and a warrant will be issued for their arrest.

Personal Recognizance

If a judge chooses to release someone on personal recognizance, it means that the accused is entirely responsible for showing up to their court appearances, and bail money does not have to be paid to the courts. If the accused person does not adhere to these conditions, they may be remanded into custody until their trial takes place or they are sentenced. Personal recognizance bail is typically not allowed for high-risk cases. If a person is deemed to be a flight risk or a danger to others, personal recognizance will not be granted.

Release on Citation

This type of bail is sometimes referred to as a “cite out”. Essentially, a citation is issued to the accused by the arresting officer. This citation will act as a court summons if a criminal violation is cited by the officer. Failing to appear in court on the specified date can lead to further legal trouble for the accused person. A warrant can be issued for their arrest, and they can even face time in jail. Depending on the state, they can lose their driver’s license, unemployment benefits, and tax refunds. A “cite out” is usually used for minor violations of the law.

By Clive Johnson