We know: All About Bail Bonds

What are bail bonds?

Someone arrested on a criminal charge may be held until trial, unless they furnish the required bail. The posting of a bail bond acquired by or on behalf of the incarcerated person is one means of meeting the required bail.

When a bond is issued, the bonding company guarantees that the defendant will appear in court at a given time and place. The Government entity (state or federal) in whose court the defendant must appear, is protected by the bond.

If the defendant fails to appear, the bond amount becomes payable and is forfeited as a penalty by the surety insurer issuing the bond. Bail bonds usually require collateral (cash, a deed, or other property) to protect the surety.

Who issues bail bonds?

Bail bonds are issued by licensed "Bail Agents" who specialize in their underwriting and issuance. Bail agents act as the appointed representatives of licensed surety insurance companies. Be sure to ask if your bail bondsman is licensed by the state.

How much does a bail agent charge?

The cost to the consumer will be about 10% of the total amount of the bond, plus actual, necessary and reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the transaction. The court determines the amount of the bond.

What is the consumer agreeing to in the bail bond contract?

The consumer is agreeing to:

  1. Pay the premium for the bond at the established rates.
  2. Provide required collateral.
  3. Pay actual, necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by the bail agent in connection with the transaction. These may include:
    • Reimbursement for long distance phone calls.
    • Excess travel expenses
    • Posting fees
    • Bounty agent/skip tracer expenses
    • Payment of the bond amount for the defendant's failure to appear.
    • Attorney fees and court costs.
  4. Keep the bail agent advised of address/employment changes of the defendant or other parties to the agreement.
  5. Aid the bail agent/skip tracers in locating the defendant (where someone other than the defendant has secured the bond).

The consumer should read all agreements thoroughly, asking questions until all items and obligations are understood.

What does the bail agent do for the consumer?

Provides an avenue for the incarcerated person to be out of custody until his/her day in court, allowing the defendant to continue his/her day-to-day life until the criminal matter is resolved.

The bail agent will provide the following:

  • Receipts and copies of all signed documents.
  • Information regarding the status of the bond and changes in assigned court dates.
  • The status of any costs due, as imposed by the court.
  • Assistance in locating the defendant should a forfeiture occur.
  • Appearance before the court regarding the bail bond when such appearances are necessary (sometimes requiring the hiring of legal counsel).
  • The timely return of collateral upon exoneration of the bond.

How long is a bail bond good for, and can the amount be reduced?

The bail bond runs for the length of the case that is being bonded. However, the agreement may provide for the payment of premium at inception, and upon "renewal" on an annual basis.

Once paid, premium for a bail bond is not refundable.

Information provided by the California Department of Insurance. The specifics of how bail bonds work may differ somewhat from state to state.

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