Persons accused of wrongdoing may be held in custody by the court system pending trial. Bail is one way for people to gain temporary release from custody until after their trial has concluded. Bail is property, usually cash, deposited or pledged to the court to guarantee the appearance of an accused person on his or her appointed court dates. Failure to appear in court will result in forfeiture of the property pledged as bail. After the conclusion of a trial, bail monies are released by the court to the party that posted it.
For our court systems to work, bail needs to be set high enough to provide a very compelling disincentive for an accused individual to miss their appointed court dates. In the U.S., bail amounts are established by a judge who fixes bail based on their assessment of flight risk.
Bail amounts commonly exceed the amount of money the average person can raise in a short period of time therefore; most defendants rely upon bonding agents (bail bondsmen) to help them make arrangement with the courts to secure their timely release from custody. With the assistance of capable bonding agents, suspects are often able to walk free within a few hours of being arrested.
How the Bail Process Works
Most bail bonding agents have a standing, contractual security agreement with their local court officials. The terms of these agreements call for the agent to post an irrevocable blanket bond payable to the court when any defendant the agent is responsible for fails to make a court appearance. This blanket bond is a mechanism that does away the need for the bondsman to come up with new cash deposits each time a defendant is bailed out.
In effect, bail amounts released are “rolled over” to be used for subsequent defendants. In exchange for these services, bonding agents will charge defendants a fee (often 10 percent of the bond amount) payable at the time bail is posted.
For large bail amounts, bondsmen may also require additional collateral from the family of the accused in order to mitigate the risk of loss should the defendant choose to flee. Once a case is concluded, the collateral is released back to the family.
When a defendant who is out-on-bail misses court or flees the jurisdiction, they are subject to arrest and custody by their bail bonding agents and the recovery agents bounty hunters) they employ. When a defendant is recovered, they are returned to the authorities in the original arresting court system.
Bail bondsmen are not universal. Several U.S. state legislatures have instituted a prohibition against making a business of bail bonds. Bail is still used in these states, but the payments are made directly to the court, not to bonding agents.
The procedures for getting out of jail after an arrest vary depending on each case. Sometimes a simple promise to appear is sufficient for the court. This is far less likely if the defendant has been charged with a felony or stands accused of some act of violence.
Finally, release on bail commonly involves some degree of court supervision. This supervision might consist of travel restrictions, restraining orders, periodic reporting to a supervising officer, or the wearing of some manner of monitoring equipment.
John Keefe is an avid blogger and professional bail bondsman in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. John is passionate about sharing information through his online blogs and provides OKC bail bonds services to his local community while working with C & K Bail Bonds.