When you tune into the nightly news, chances are, you’ll hear the anchor say something about a person being released on a ridiculously high dollar amount bail. What does this mean, though? What is bail? Does bail differ from a bail bond, and if so, how?

What is Bail?

Bail is a temporary release of someone who is accused of committing one or more civil or criminal acts, while awaiting their trial. Typically, this is on the condition that a large sum of money be held in order to guarantee the person appears in court. It can be in the form of cash, property, or surety bond.

Bail is the set amount of money that acts as a form of insurance between the court system and the accused person in jail, otherwise known as the defendant. A judge will determine the amount of the bail, based on a number of moving factors such as the severity of the alleged offense, the likelihood of the defendant committing additional crimes after he or she is released, also known as public risk, and the likelihood that the defendant will flee or not show up for their set court date, also known as a flight risk.

A judge has the option to set a minimal bail. Factors that aid in this decision may include lack of criminal activity or ties to the community.

A judge also has the authority to deny bail completely. Although the eighth amendment does prohibit excessive bail, it says nothing about denying bail, altogether.

Although defendants have the option to pay their own bail in cash, most do not have the ability to do so. Since the amount is usually set to a very high dollar amount, most defendants will seek help from a bailing agent, or bail bondsman who will post the bail on their behalf.

What is a Bail Bond?

A bail bond is a form of surety bond. A surety bond is, in the most simple form, a contract that guarantees you will fulfill your contract or obligation. Typically, there are two types of bail bonds criminal and civil.

Criminal is probably the most well known type of bail bond. Like we said earlier, a criminal bail bond is used in most criminal cases and guarantees the courts that the defendant will, in fact, show up for his or her trial. Moreover, it guarantees that the fees, fines, or other penalties will also be paid, if applicable.

A civil bail bond is used in civil cases. They guarantee not only the payment of the debt, but also interests and costs accumulated, as well, that may be brought up against the civil defendant.

Bail vs Bond

Typically, the words “bail” and “bond” are used interchangeably in regards to jail releases. They are closely related to each other. However, they are not the same. The word, “bail” refers to the actual money the defendant must pay in order to be released from jail. A “bond” is what is posted on the defendant’s behalf, by another party, in order to secure a release.

Bail is not part of a punishment, itself. Like we said earlier, it is simply a form of security to the courts. If the defendant chooses not to return to court or violates any of the conditions leading up to the trial, they will forfeit the sum either in part or in whole, by doing so.  

Cash Bonds

A cash bond is the payment, in full, of the required bond, in order to have the defendant released from jail until his or her trial date. A cash bond is the amount in its entirety, plus whatever fees are set forth by your parish, city or county.

What happens if you change your mind after you post the bail? The only way to get your money back is to have the defendant turn themselves back in before their court date. Once this happens, you will need to file the necessary paperwork and after a few weeks, if everything works out the way it should, you will receive your money back. This does not waive the fees, though.

You should never post a cash bond with the notion that you will get all of your money back. Even if the defendant goes to trial and does everything right leading up to the trial, this does not ensure repayment. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty, the cash bond, in most states, will be used to pay for the court costs and rectifying all of the other costs incurred. If there is a surplus after these are paid, the excess will be paid to the person who posted the bail.

If you pay using your own cash, be sure to tell the jailer your information. If you pay using the defendant’s cash, the receipt should be in that person’s name.

If you can’t afford to lose the amount of money posted in order to bail someone out of jail, don’t do it. A piece of life advice, for free: never let anyone borrow something you wouldn’t mind giving them. The same can be said for bailing a friend or family member out of jail.

Surety Bonds

A surety bonds typically requires the employment of a bondsman, bondsperson, bond agent or bail agent. These are all names given to a person who is licescensed by your state to sell surety bonds and is authorized to conduct this type of business in your state.

A surety bond is an agreement backed by an insurance company’s contract and signed by the person themselves on behalf of the company. There has to be enough money available to serve as collateral if the person misses their appointed court date. In exchange for posting the sum and taking a risk that they may be “out” this amount of money, the bailing company will take around ten percent of the total, plus a fee.

All fees paid to a bail bondsman are typically nonrefundable, even if you show up in court. All contracts are different, but across the board, this is standard. For more information on posting bail in Northwest Louisiana, contact Hugh Knotts directly.

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