How to Get a Bail Bond

Three Parts:Posting a Bond YourselfHiring a Bail AgentComparing Types of Bail

A bail bond is money or property deposited with the court that is refunded or returned when the defendant returns to court for trial, but is forfeited if the defendant disappears, fails to appear, or “jumps bail.” In the United States, each state’s courts have their own bail bond systems. There are several types of bail bond options common available to defendants.

Part 1
Posting a Bond Yourself

  1. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 1
    Learn the basic terms. “Bail” is money or property held by the court until the defendant returns for trial. “Bond” refers to the promise made by the person posting the bond to forfeit the bond if the defendant does not return. If the defendant cannot afford to post his or her own bond, he or she can ask a friend, family member, or professional bail agent (also called a bail bondsman) to act as his or her “surety.” A surety is anyone who posts bail on the defendant’s behalf.[1][2]
  2. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 2
    Wait for the judge to set bail. A judge will typically set a bail amount (or deny bail entirely for very serious crimes) at the defendant’s first appearance in court. The first appearance is usually an arraignment or a bail hearing. The judge will set a bail amount intended to be high enough to dissuade the defendant from simply forfeiting the bail and disappearing. Courts often have pre-set bail schedules as a guideline for the appropriate bail for each offense.[3]
    • As an example, the Los Angeles County felony bail schedule provides for $50,000 bail for campaign violations and $100,000 for kidnapping.[4]
    • A judge can deny bail if the defendant is likely to not return or if he or she is a danger to the public.[5] Defendants with family and community ties to the area, a job, minimal criminal history, or a reputation for making court appearances are less likely to be considered a flight risk.[6]
  3. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 3
    Post bail. Once a bail amount has been set, defendants or their sureties can post bail with the court clerk during business hours or at the jail after the court closes. Keep the receipt for the bail bond as proof that bail has been posted.[7]
  4. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 4
    Attend your court dates. If a defendant fails to appear in court, the court will schedule a “forfeiture hearing” and issue an arrest warrant. At the hearing, the defendant will be able to give an explanation of why he or she failed to appear before. A valid excuse might be a misunderstanding or an unavoidable delay. If the defendant misses the forfeiture hearing or does not have a valid excuse, the court will keep the bond amount and probably have the defendant taken into custody.[8]

Part 2
Hiring a Bail Agent

  1. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 5
    Understand how bail agents operate. Bail agents (also known as bail bondsmen) are professional sureties. They post bail on behalf of defendants, and make a profit by charging defendant’s a non-refundable fee, which is usually 10% of the total bond. If a defendant misses his or her court date, the court keeps the bail agent’s money, and the agent is authorized to arrest the defendant or hire a bounty hunter to bring the defendant back to court.[9]
    • If you miss your court date, your bail agent can also sue you in civil court to recover amount of the bail bond.[10]
  2. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 6
    Verify that bail agents operate in your state. Bail agents cannot work in Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Oregon, or Wisconsin. This is because those states have outlawed the practice of posting bond for others for profit. Fortunately, these states are more likely to let a defendant post a percentage bond, which is merely a percentage of the normal bail amount.[11]
  3. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 7
    Sign with a bail agent. You can find local bail agents by searching online, in the phone book, or by looking for bail agent offices near the courthouse or jail. The bail agent will charge you a non-refundable fee of approximately 10% of the total bail amount. Once you sign the agent’s contract, the agent will post bail at the court or jail, securing your release.
    • If you are in custody, you may be able to call a bail agent from jail and arrange a meeting. Or you can ask a family member or friend to contact a bail agent on your behalf.

Part 3
Comparing Types of Bail

  1. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 8
    Post a cash bond. The typical bail bond requires you to deposit the entire bail amount with the court, to be held until the case is concluded. The court may withhold any unpaid fines or fees from the bail amount before returning the remainder to the defendant.[12] In some circumstances, a court may permit other forms of bail or conditions of release, which may be more or less strict than a simple cash bond.
  2. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 9
    Post a percentage bond. If a judge sets a percentage bond, the judge will only require the defendant to pay a percentage of the total bail amount up front to get released from custody. If the defendant misses a court date, he or she will be ordered to pay the full bail amount.[13]
  3. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 10
    Get an immigration bond. Immigration bonds are used in federal court for immigration cases. A surety can post a bond for an undocumented defendant detained within the United States. If the defendant is released and fails to return to court, the surety can recover a percentage of the forfeited bail bond by returning the defendant court within a set amount of time.
    • For example, the surety can recover two-thirds of the bond within 10 days, half within 20 days, and 30% within 30 days. After the 30 day deadline, the entire bond is forfeit.[14]
  4. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 11
    Post a property bond. Some courts allow defendants or sureties to pledge real property (like a house) worth at least as much as the bail amount in lieu of a cash bond. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the court can levy or foreclose on the pledged property. The court will require proof that all the property owners agree to post a property bond, as well as proof of the value of the property.[15]
  5. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 12
    Get an unsecured appearance bond. An unsecured appearance bond is similar to a percentage bond in that you are only required to pay the full bail amount if you fail to appear in court. With a percentage bond, you must pay some of the bond up front, but with an unsecured appearance bond, the court accepts your promise to appear without requiring you to make a payment.[16]
  6. Image titled Get a Bail Bond Step 13
    Consent to other conditions. A judge can impose conditions in addition to bail arrangement, such as giving a DNA sample, making phone or in-person check-ins, participating in drug testing, receiving court date reminders by phone, or remaining in the local geographic area.[17]

Article Info

Categories: Criminal and Penal Law Procedure