You got a phone call from a friend asking you to post bail. Your friend might have begged and pleaded for you to do this. Before you agree to put up money to get your friend out of jail, you have to understand some facts about bails and bonds so that you understand exactly what you are agreeing to do.
Bail amounts are set based on unique factors
The bail amount the court sets is based on the unique factors of the case. If a person isn't charged with a serious crime, doesn't have a criminal history, and has strong ties to the community, a release on one's own recognizance might be possible. This means the person wouldn't put up any collateral to get out of jail.
When collateral is required, the court will look at several factors. These include:
- The circumstances of the crime
- The defendant's ties to the community
- The defendant's criminal history
- The financial resources available to the defendant
- The defendant's history of drug or alcohol abuse
Once the court considers those factors, as well as any other pertinent information, a bail amount is set. This is the amount of money or assets that the court requires as an assurance that the person will attend all future court dates.
Bail and bond aren't the same
If you post bail for someone, you put up the entire amount of collateral directly to the court system. For example, if your friend has a $500 bail, you would give the full $500 to get your friend out if you post bail.
There are some instances in which you can't post the full bail. In that case, you could work with a bail bondsman to get your friend out of jail. In this case, you would pay the bondsman 10 to 20 percent of the bail amount. The bondsman would then write a bond to the court that says he or she is responsible for the financial obligation of the bail if your friend doesn't make it to court. This is where bounty hunters come into the picture. The bondsman will try to hunt down your friend and turn your friend in so that the bail bond company isn't responsible for paying the full bail to the court.
You are signing a promissory note
If you sign a bail or bond, you are essentially signing a promissory note that says your friend will go to court. If you post the bail directly to the court and your friend makes all court appearances, you will get that money or the assets back when the case is resolved. If you work with a bondsman, you won't get that money back even if your friend makes all appearances.