If you need to bail someone out of jail, this is how the bail bond process works:

What is bail?

Bail is some form of property or money given to a court to assure the release of a defendant from jail. This form of insurance guarantees that the defendant returns to court for each appearance until the case is disposed of, whether by plea or by trial.  If the person fails to appear the court may forfeit the bail.

What is a bail bond? 

When a person goes to jail, he or she may not have adequate funds or assets to pay the full bond amount.  In most cases, they can use the services of a bail bond company also referred to as a surety.  The defendant, a family member or a loved one will contact a surety or bonding company for help.   The cost of bail typically ranges from 10% to 15% of the full bail amount, but it can vary from state to state. In most cases, the premium paid to a bail bond company  is 10%, which means a $10,000 bond would cost $1,000.

The premium or fee (10-15%) is paid to the authorized agent of the bail bond company, who then writes a bail bond to the court for the entire amount of the bond. The court holds the bail bond company’s check (bond) until the case is disposed of.  The bond is insurance that the defendant will go to all court dates necessary to dispose of the case. If the defendant fails to appear for court at any time during the litigation process, the court can and may order the bail bond company to pay the court the full bond amount.

What is collateral? 

Collateral is used to secure any unpaid premium and the amount of the bond (check) that is being held by the court.  The collateral is held as a guarantee that the defendant will appear for ALL required court dates. Collateral may be in the form of property (homes, cars), investment accounts, or other items of value. Collateral will be returned when the defendant has fulfilled all obligations, enters a final plea and the case is disposed of.  This is when the bail bond company is considered released or exonerated by the court. If the defendant fails to appear or meet all financial and legal obligations, the collateral can be sold to cover the costs incurred by the bonding company including but not limited to arresting the defendant, paying recovery agents if necessary, court costs, legal fees, filing fees and mileage.

What is a Guarantor/Co-signor?

Most bail bond companies require a guarantor or co-signor insuring that the defendant will perform as agreed.  This is just additional protection for the surety, who is receiving 10% in exchange for 100%.  For a $10,000 bond, the defendant spends $1,000 and the surety risks $10,000.

Do I get my money back after the case is over?

The premium you pay to a bail bond company (10-15%) is non-refundable. It is the fee for the bail bond agent’s services and for the use of the bail bond companies money for the time the case is litigating.  An easy analogy is that a bail bond company is similar to a bank, and the premium (cost to person for securing bail) is the same as interest paid on a loan (10-15%). It is non-refundable, as it is the price paid for the use of the bail bond company’s money.

What information should I have ready for the bail agent? 

A bail bond agent will need you to provide the following information about the defendant, which you should be able to get by contacting the jail where the person is being held:

  • Defendant’s full name
  • City, county and state of the jail
  • Bail amount

Are some bail agents less expensive than others? 

Usually not.  Some bail agents do take payments if the collateral and/or guarantors qualify, but the bail bond premium is typically 10%.  A bonding company may charge 15% if the defendant has failed to appear for court in the past.  Of course, this makes that person a higher risk than one who has never missed court.  The bond premium is set by the department of insurance, and it is illegal for bail bond agencies to offer you discounted premiums.  If this occurs, you are probably not dealing with a reputable surety or bail bond agent.   

Why should I work with a bail agent? 

Besides the fact that obtaining a bail bond is more affordable than paying the full cash amount to the court, bail agents are on your side. They can help you avoid confusion,  they are skilled at getting your friend or loved one released from jail quickly, and they make sure the person attends all court appearances. An experienced, professional bail agent is on call 24 hours a day and can be one of your most valuable resources during this stressful time.

How can I pay?

Cash, check, credit card, money order and/or payments if qualified.

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