A bail bond (technically referred to as a "surety bond") is a contractual agreement guaranteed by a state licensed bail bondsman (with the backing of an insurance company). The agent will guarantee to the court full payment of the bond should the defendant fail to appear for any scheduled court appearances. For your own protection, you should only deal with licensed bail bonds companies.
What are my options when I'm arrested? If you get arrested, you have these five options:
Release on his/her own recognizance (O.R.)
Release on citation ("cite out")
Bond and cash bail
What is a cash bond?
To secure your release via cash bail, you must post the total amount of the bail in cash with the court (to secure your return on any appointed dates). A full cash bond is a powerful incentive to appear at trial. If you show up for your court appearances the money is returned. If you fail to show up, the cash is forfeited to the court.
What is a surety bond?
A surety bond is an alternative to cash bail. The surety bond process involves a contractual agreement guaranteed by an admitted insurance provider that has the required assets to cover the complete value of the bond. A bail agent will then guarantee to the court that the bond forfeiture will be paid should the defendant fail to appear. The bail bondman's guarantee will be made through a reputable surety company and/or a pledge of the agent's property. The defendant will be charged a premium for this service.
To be released via surety bond, the arrestee (or a friend or relative) must contact a bail bond agency. Before posting the surety bond, the agent will conduct an in-depth interview with the proposed guarantor of the bond (plus the arrestee and his/her relatives).
With the involvement of friends, family, and collateral, a bail agent can be reasonably satisfied that the arrestee will appear on his/her appointed court date. Once the procedure is complete (should an agreement have been reached) the bail agent will post a bond for the bail's full amount to guarantee the arrestee's return.
With money on the line, bail agents now have a personal and financial interest in supervising clients and seeing that they make it to court. If a defendant skips an appearance, the agent will more than likely find and bring in the defendant. Interestingly, commercial agents profit only when the arrestee shows up for trial.
Judges realize and acknowledge that bail bondsmen have incredibly effective methods when it comes to getting defendants to appear.
What is own recognizance (O.R.)?
You can also secure release pending trial through a law enforcement or local county administered pretrial release program. Generally, staff members of these programs will interview an individual in custody and then, based on that interview, make a recommendation to the court regarding the release of an individual on his or her own recognizance (without financial insurance guaranteeing their return).
The interview is generally conducted over the phone with some inquiries made in reference to whether or not the detainee is likely to appear in court (with nearly zero information provided by the detainee). Because there is no cash involved with the process, the detainee faces no financial hardships should he or she fail to appear.
What is citation release ("cite out")?
This process involves the issuance of a citation (by the arresting officer) informing the arrestee that he or she must appear in court. Generally, the cite out happens right after an arrest is made. When booking procedures are not properly followed, the actual identity of most of the individuals released on citations isn't established. Because of this, many people with outstanding bench warrants are released and can further endanger society.
In cases involving cite outs the arrestee might never be placed in custody and, like in an own recognizance release, their appearance in court relies exclusively upon the integrity of an alleged felon to voluntarily appear.
What is a property bond?
In some rare cases, arrestees may be released by posting a property bond with the court. As a part of this process the court will record a lien on specific property to secure the bail amount. If the arrestee fails to appear in court, foreclosure proceedings against the property may be instituted.
What is the procedure for bailing someone out of jail?
Most often, a bail bond agency is contacted first. During this initial conversation, the bail bondsman will ask for information and, based on that information, determine the risk involved in the bond. After the bond is approved, the client is required to sign bail bond documents, including an application, indemnity agreement, and the receipt. Once the paperwork is complete and payment is made, a bondman will post the bail bond at the jail.
How long is the bond process?
Depending on the complexity of the situation, the paperwork can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. Release time can actually be an hour or less in local police stations. Please note that these are simple estimated general time frames.
What is collateral?
Collateral refers to any property that is placed within the bondman's legal control. In the event that the defendant doesn't appear in court the collateral will be sold to cover the amount of the bail. Simply put, collateral is a way to help ensure that defendant will appear in court when obligated.
When do I get my collateral back?
Collateral is returned when the court case is finished and:
Charges are dropped
The defendant is found innocent at trial
The person is sentenced at trial
Please note that collateral will only be returned if there isn't an outstanding balance on the premium. Each bail agent has the legal responsibility (a fiduciary trust) to safeguard the collateral until that balance is paid.