Welp, you got that bail bonds call from a friend or family member who’s been arrested and is now in jail. They want you to bond them out but you’ve never done it before. Your first thought may be “hummpf, I should just let them stay in there!! Teach them a lesson…” But then after about five minutes of mental cussing you realize you’ve got to get them home – even if it’s just to smack them upside their head for getting arrested in the first place!
HOW BAIL BONDS WORK
Now is when you ask yourself “how do bail bonds even work?” The term “bail” is used to describe the process by which a criminal defendant is released after they have been arrested, and prior to the disposition of their case. Posting bail bonds means that someone, in some cases the defendant, but in most cases it’s someone outside the jail like a family member or friend, pays the bond amount to the court. The bail bond payment acts as a guarantee that the defendant will return to court as required for all judicial hearings related to their case. Contrary to popular believe, bail bonds are not disciplinary actions for being arrested, but instead they provide a compelling incentive for the defendant to return to court for their proceedings without the need for being kept in custody while they work through the criminal justice process.
BENEFITS OF BAIL BONDS IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
What many people don’t know is that bail bonds play a very significant role in the overall scheme of criminal justice proceedings. The first thing it does is it helps to lower the jail population. When a defendant is released on bond, that’s one less person the city or municipality has to pay to feed and house. Keeping an inmate in custody could also include the municipality incurring medical expenses if the person in custody becomes ill or is injured while in custody. In larger cities, this is especially important because jails would fill up quickly if nobody was ever released on bail bonds. Of course, that would create an obvious space problem that would immediately lead to over crowding. Law enforcement officials would have no place to house defendants if bail bonds were not available.
The other benefit to bail bonds is that there is someone other than the defendant who has a vested interest in that defendant showing up for court at all hearings. Many studies have been conducted on the effects of court appearance rates for defendants who went through a bail bonds company to secure their release, as opposed to those who are simply released on Personal Recognizance (PR) bonds. Defendants released on bail bonds have a higher appearance rate then those who are released on PR bonds.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU’RE ARRESTED?
Being arrested means a law enforcement officer physically takes the defendant into custody. Depending on the situation, they may be placed in a police vehicle if the arrest happens outside the jail our court. If the arrest is the result of a court verdict, then the defendant may be taken into custody inside the courtroom. Either way, the defendant will eventually be transferred to a jail facility where they will go through a process called being “booked in”. This is the process of being fingerprinted, searched and photographed – popularly referred to as a mugshot. Also during this process, the defendants personal property will be cataloged and placed in the facilities property room for safe keeping. And of course their personal information will be documented, like their name, address, date of birth, etc. A background check will also be performed to check for any prior criminal activity or any possible outstanding warrants.
AFTER BEING BOOKED IN, THEN WHAT?
After a defendant has been booked in, they will need to be notified officially of their charges. That’s where the magistrate or judge comes in. Each person who’s been arrested will be seen by a magistrate. This is done either by being physically brought to the courtroom, usually in a group with others who have been arrested, or via video. The magistrate will state the official charge and let the defendant know if a bond will be granted. If a bond is granted then the magistrate will define which type of bond has been granted, either a Personal Recognizance (PR) bond, cash bond or surety bond (commonly known as a bail bond). The magistrate will also notify the defendant of any special conditions associated with being released on bond. This could include having to wear a GPS device like an ankle monitor, or orders to maintain a certain distance from the victim, limitations on alcohol consumption, firearm possession or periodic drug testing. There could be other criteria placed on granting a bond as well. The magistrate has the authority to make those decisions. If the defendant has issues with any of the criteria set by the magistrate, they should either speak directly with the magistrate at that time or consult a qualified attorney of their choice.
WHEN CAN A PERSON BE RELEASED ON BAIL BONDS
A defendant can be released on a bail bond at just about any point in the criminal proceedings process, just prior to the enforcement of the disposition – provided the disposition requires jail time. For the most part whenever someone is detained, there are really only three options for the defendant:
- Release without being charged
- Charged and granted a bail bond or bail bonds in the event there are multiple charges
- Charged and not granted bail bonds
In the latter case, the defendant will have to remain in custody until there is a disposition on the case. If the defendant is granted bail bonds and a friend or family member posts that bail, the defendant will be released from jail while awaiting their day in court. Of course, if the defendant has charges pending in a different jurisdiction, then they may be transferred from their current jail location to wherever the other charges are pending to start the process all over again for that jurisdiction.
Many counties will have what’s knows as Pretrial Services. These services may offer hearings on whether or not an individual can be released on a PR (personal recognizance) bond. But Pretrial Services, just like any other court hearing, has it’s own policies that need to be adhered to.
Pretrial Release offers defendants who’ve been arrested on Class A misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors and certain felonies with an alternative to being released while they await the disposition of their case. But this offering does not apply to all defendants; defendants must meet certain criteria. Pretrial Release bonds are county bail bonds at a lower cost. The amount is generally either $20 or 3% of the total bond amount, whichever is greater.
Pretrial programs maintain a neutral viewpoint. No assumptions of guilt or innocence are made regarding any pending charges. Anybody requesting release from jail through Pretrial Services will be required to undergo a background investigation and an interview. If the defendant is released on a personal recognizance bond, Pretrial personnel will monitor the defendant’s compliance to any criteria related to the PR bond, and will administer case management to assure that defendants show up for all scheduled court appearances and comply with all bond conditions.
BAIL AND MAGISTRATE HEARINGS
When a defendant is arrested, part of the book in process is for the defendant be seen by a judge or magistrate. This official hearing is where the court sets the charge and provides the defendant with information regarding their bond. Keep in mind that every defendant may not be granted a bond! If the court deems the defendant to be a threat to the public’s safety, or a flight risk, the defendant may be denied bail. Additionally, the court official will review the defendant’s current charge or charges and their prior criminal history. Information related to the defendants prior criminal history may also have a direct bearing on whether or not bail bonds are allowed.
APPEAL BAIL BONDS
Many people ask us if they can get a bail bond after they have been convicted while they are waiting on their case to go through the appeal process. The answer is: it’s complicated. Yes, there is the possibility for an individual to get an appeal bond, but there is no constitutional right to this type of bond compared to bonds issued while awaiting an initial decision on a criminal case. Further, appeal bail bonds are not offered in every state. Anyone wishing to request an appeal bail bond will need to work through their attorney to determine if the request can be processed.
TYPES OF BAIL BONDS
“What are the different types of bail bonds?” This is a question we are asked quite frequently. It’s important to note that while there are different types of bail bonds, the option to use a particular type may not be available – for example, just because there is such a thing as a PR bond doesn’t mean the defendant was given the option to use that type of bond.
Let’s go through the various types of bail bonds.
Cash bonds can be viewed in two different ways. First, a judge may order a defendant’s bail bond be paid in cash only. If this is the case, then whoever pays the bond will need to pay in either cash or a cashier’s check only; no surety bond will be accepted. Secondly, even if an official says a defendant can use a surety, cash can always be used instead. The difference in using cash and using a surety (bail bonds company) to post bail is that the cosigner will receive their money back as long as the defendant adheres to the courts orders and attends all court proceedings until a decision is reached in the case. With a surety bail bond, the cosigner won’t have to pay the full amount of the bond – they only pay a small percentage, but none of that payment is refundable. The cosigner is also responsible for the full amount of the bond if the defendant fails to comply with the court’s orders.
Personal Recognizances (PR) or Own Recognizances Bail Bonds
As mentioned earlier, their are time the court will determine that a defendant meets the criteria to be released on their own recognizance. This means the defendant will receive a county sponsored bond that is just a promise to appear. No cash or surety bond is necessary. The defendant is still required to attend all court hearings and abide by any restrictions imposed by the court. If the defendant does not adhere to those rules, the PR bond can be revoked and a warrant issued to have the defendant rearrested. These bonds are also sometimes referred to as Signature Bonds.
Bail Bonds Secured By Property
As the name suggests, these are bonds that are backed by some sort of security – generally in the form of property. The property itself can take several different forms. Examples of property used to secure bail bonds includes real estate (commercial property, houses or vacant land), vehicles (auto or recreational – boats, RVs, motorcycles, etc.), jewelry or just about anything else that holds a value equal or greater to the amount of the face value of the bond. If real estate is being used, generally some sort of deed transfer will need to take place to transfer the ownership of the property or to place a lien on the property. For other types of property, the owners may be required to bring the property to a location where it will be securely stored until the case is over.
Bail or Surety Bonds
This type of bond is what most people think of when they hear the words “bail bonds”. Bail bonds are bonds obtained through a bail bonds or surety company – surety in this case is synonymous with a bail bondsman. Most people prefer to use a bail bonds company simply because it allows them to have their loved one released from jail without having to come up with the full amount of the bond. While some may have the full bond amount available, they may not want to fork over that type of cash, or their personal financial situation may make it a bad time to drain their bank accounts. Or the cosigner may just flat not have that sort of cash sitting around. Either way, using a bondsman is generally the preferred method of posting bail. The cosigner pays a small percentage of the bond amount to the bondsman, who in turn will post the bond. The cosigner is then responsible for ensuring the defendant appears at all count dates until a decision is reached in the case. If the defendant does not appear and the cosigner is not able to locate them, then the cosigner will be responsible for paying the full amount of the bond. The fees paid to the bondsman are not refundable – the bondsman earns the fee by posting the bond and ensuring the defendant is released.
Depending on the severity of the charges and/or the defendant’s criminal background, the bondsman may request collateral in addition to the regular fee. If the cosigner does not agree with the collateral request, don’t be surprised if the bondsman declines to process the bond.
The Bail Bond Process
HOW DO BAIL AGENTS MAKE MONEY?
Since many people are unfamiliar with how bail bonds work, another question we often get is “how do bail bonds agents make money?” A bondsman makes money by charging a small percentage of the total bond amount. The agent generally collects this fee from the cosigner, or in some cases, there may be several cosigners. That fee can range anywhere from 8% to over 20% of the bond amount. While most states have suggested fee structures, each bail bonds company sets their own fees. Those fees can vary widely and will most likely be based on several factors, including the defendant’s criminal history, the severity of the charges and the stability of the cosigners. Here’s an example: The defendant’s bail is set at $5,000. If the bondsman charges 10% then the fee for posting the bond is $500. That fee is non-refundable once the defendant is released. If the charges are later dropped, the fee is still not refundable because the bondsman’s job was to get the defendant released while the defendant awaited a decision on the charge. So the bondsman would have earned his/her fee as soon as the defendant stepped out of jail.
CAN I GET MY BAIL MONEY BACK?
The short answer is: it depends. How was the bail paid? Was the full amount of the bond paid to the jail or court? If the answer is yes, then the person who paid the bond will be due a refund as long as the defendant abided by the court’s requests and a final disposition was entered in the case. However, if there are any irregularities then the court will determine how much it will refund. If the defendant failed to appear for court and the cosigner was not able to locate the defendant to get him or her back in court, then the payment could be forfeited entirely.
Did the cosigner pay a bondsman to post the bond? If that answer is yes, then there is no refund due. As stated above, the bondsman’s fee is fully earned as soon as the defendant is released from jail. On the other hand, if the cosigner paid the bondsman a fee and also provided collateral, then again, as long as the defendant did not incur any additional expenses (forfeiture fees, bounty hunter fees, etc) related to the case, then the cosigner is entitled to get their collateral back…not the bond fee, just the collateral.
If, however, the defendant caused the bondsman to incur addition fees (bounty hunter fees, forfeiture fees, attorney fees), then those fees will be deducted from the collateral. If the collateral is real estate or something other than cash, the cosigner will either need to work out a satisfactory payment arrangement to cover those fees or be prepared for the collateral to be sold. Any fees will be paid from the proceeds and the remaining profits from the sale may be returned to the cosigner.
HOW TO SECURE BAIL BONDS
If you’re looking to secure bail bonds for your friend or loved one, you’ve come to the right site. Southern Bail Bonds Dallas has years of experience in the bail bonds industry and our friendly, knowledgable agents can assist you with getting bonds posted quickly and correctly. Working with a bond agent you can trust is very important during stressful times. You’ll have questions that need to be answered, and our professional agents can help you get the answers you need. We know these things never happen at a convenient time. Who plans to go to jail? Nobody! And, lets face it, how many people have bail money laying around? Hardly anybody! …well, we’ve actually run across a few folks, but that story is for a whole different article!
Bottom line is we know trying to work through the whole being arrested, bonding out and going to court process can take its toll on an individual’s nerves. Our job is to help relieve some of the stress. We often answer questions for callers who just want to know how the process works. We will take the time to explain the process and help you find the answers you need. We provide free consultations related to bail bonds and the requirements for getting your bonds posted. We also take the time to council defendants we have on bond on things like the importance of showing up for all court dates, being sure to stay in contact with their attorney.
Southern Bail Bonds Dallas always suggests that defendants, cosigners or anyone who has questions related to a criminal case should consult with a qualified attorney of their choice to ensure they are receiving proper legal advice. Southern Bail Bonds Dallas is not a legal firm, nor do we employ legal personnel. Nothing on this page or this website should be considered legal advice. If you need help posting a bond, Call Us Now and 214-372-2500. We’re ready to help!