How to Arrange Bail at No Cost

Three Methods:Getting a Private BondGetting a Public or Signature BondGetting a Property Bond

Anyone can wind up in jail, whether you've committed a crime or not. You may be in and out in no time, but if not, you can await trial while out on bail. Bail is an amount paid to the court to ensure that you'll show up for future court appearances after getting out of jail. The types of bail you can pay include private and public bail bonds (including signature bonds), as well as property bonds.

Method 1
Getting a Private Bond

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    Understand what a private bond is.[1] For any type of bond, including a private bond, the court will keep the bail amount and issue an arrest warrant if you miss a court date. The judge sets a bail amount for each case based on crime severity, criminal history, and flight risk. As long as the accused makes all his court dates, the amount is returned after trial whether he’s found guilty or innocent. Private bonds are loans taken from companies that will pay bail, but keep a percentage of the amount (usually 10-15%) as payment.
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    Be aware of criticisms of private bonds.[2] Some people say that having a private company oversee the ability to pay bond is unfair to people who don't have a lot of money. A private bondsman can choose to only take cases with high bail amounts, ensuring they'll receive more money for their efforts. This doesn't help someone with a low income, whose bail amount might be lower, but still unpayable on limited means.
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    Make sure private bonds are available in your state. Because of the criticisms described above, some states have outlawed private bonds. In these states, the courts will provide public bonds.
    • If you live in Oregon, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Nebraska, Washington DC, or Wisconsin, you cannot get a private bond.[3]
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    Gather the information the bondsman will need. Before contacting a private bond company, make sure you have all the information they'll ask for in your first conversation. This includes:[4][5]
    • Where the person is being held in custody (city, state, and name of jail)
    • The full name of person being held
    • The booking number
    • The charges against the person being held
    • The bail amount
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    Choose and contact a private bond company. There will likely be many in your area if private bonds are legal in your state. Bond companies are licensed and regulated by the state, so bond fees and rates shouldn't be exploitative.[6] You can compare different bondsmen rates by calling around and asking about fees.
    • Almost all bond companies are open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Don’t wait for morning to contact a bondsman.
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    Offer an acceptable form of collateral. If the accused misses any court dates, the bond company will have to give the court the entire amount of the bail. To protect themselves, bondsmen ask you to put up collateral that they will keep if they don't get the bail amount back from the court.
    • Common examples of collateral include real estate, cars, credit cards, stocks and bonds, jewelry, personal credit, and bank accounts.[7]
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    Meet the bondsman at the jail to post bail. At that time, you will fill out whatever paperwork is necessary to enter into an agreement with the bond company. After that, the bondsman will post bail for the person in jail, and he or she will be released.
    • If you don't live in the same city as the jail where the person is being held, ask if you can complete the paperwork over the phone or online.
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    Make sure the accused makes all court dates.[8] Don't be afraid to nag or stay on top of the person you've posted bail for. If he or she misses any court dates or fails to meet either the court or the bondsman’s terms, you will lose the collateral you signed over to the bondsman.

Method 2
Getting a Public or Signature Bond

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    Determine if you're a good candidate for a signature bond. If you can get a signature bond (aka recognizance bond), you only have to pay the bail amount if the arrested person fails to make a court appearance. Your "signature" is your promise to the court. In some states, you have to pay 10% of the bail amount even with your signature.
    • Be aware that the court has complete discretion over whether to grant a signature bond.
    • They take the accused criminal history into consideration. If there's no criminal history or a past of only minor crimes, you have a better chance of getting a signature bond. It also helps if the accused has always met court dates in the past.
    • The court also looks at how likely the person is to run away instead of showing up for court. Strong community ties like family, a long history of residence in the area, and steady employment will help.
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    Ask the attorney to request the signature bond. A lawyer will be more familiar with the process, and will be better equipped to make an argument in favor of a signature bond. Courts are more likely to allow signature bonds for people who have reputable, trustworthy lawyers.
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    Request the signature bond yourself if you don’t have an attorney. If you don't have a lawyer, you can ask the court yourself for a signature bond. It may help if you can find friends or relatives of the accused to co-sign with you.[9] This demonstrates community ties, and might persuade the court that the person in jail will meet the promise to make his or her court dates.
    • Remember that the friends or relatives will be on the hook for the bail amount if the accused fails to meet the court's conditions or skips a court date.
    • Note that everyone has a right to a public defender if they can't afford to hire an attorney. The public defender would be able to request a signature bond on your behalf.
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    Pay the entire bail amount as a public bond. If you can cover the entire amount of bail, you can just pay the amount yourself. Go to the jail where the person is being held with a check, cashier's check, or money order in the amount of the bail. You may have to pay a non-refundable administrative fee. Once they process your payment, the person in jail will be free to leave.
    • Just as with a private bond, the court will return the money at the end of the trial as long as the accused makes all court dates.
    • If he or she misses a court appearance, you will lose the entire amount you paid for the release. The state will use the money to pay restitution in other cases and help cover taxpayer costs.

Method 3
Getting a Property Bond

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    Understand what a property bond is. This type of bond lets you sign over the deed to a property in return for someone's release from jail. The property is held as insurance in case the person doesn't make their court appearances. This option is only available to people who own a home or other property.[10][11]
    • Note that not all states offer property bonds, so be aware of whether you can get one in your area.
    • Federal courts in all states can offer property bonds at the judge's discretion.
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    Gather your materials. When you request a property bond from the court, they will ask you for several documents. Make sure you have the following with you:
    • The deed to the property
    • An appraisal or tax assessment of the property to prove its value to the court
    • A statement from the mortgage company showing how much is still owed, if applicable. The court will subtract any amount still owed from the appraised value of the property.
    • Note that if more than one person is on the deed, each person must be present in court to sign the bond.
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    Request a property bond from the court. Contact the court to find out who you should speak to about assessing the value of your property. Remember that the court's officer might decide to deny your request, in which case the accused person has to stay in jail.[12]


  • Requirements for signature bonds vary from state to state.
  • Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so knowledge of the law is your best defense!
  • Your bond guarantors have placed trust in you; if you break this trust, they stand to lose a lot of money. You stand to have a Bail Enforcement Officer come after you. And, you will have alienated any future Signature Bond possibilities.

Article Info

Categories: Criminal and Penal Law Procedure