How Bail Bonds Work

The bail system necessitates the existence of a third-party group who is willing to finance bail for individuals who cannot afford to pay the amount set by the judge. Bail is often quite expensive, designed to dissuade the defendant from skipping their court dates at the risk of losing the money they have paid towards bail.

This third group involved in the bail process are known as bail bondsmen. How bail bonds work is that bondsmen have standing agreements with the court known as blanket bonds that allow them to cover the bail for multiple defendants at a lower cost than had each individual posted bail separately. Every time this bondsman comes to terms with a new client, that person is placed under their standing blanket bond agreement.  

The bondsman also has an agreement with a bank, similar to a line of credit, which allows them to pay out more money to the court for bail than they actually have, thus allowing the bondsman to do business and grow their business without being limited by cash flow problems.

All these agreements allow a bail bondsman to be a professional in the bail system: they know what paperwork needs to be filled, and where it needs to go; they can get someone out of jail quickly, even at odd hours; and their relationship with the court at times garners more trust from a judge than an individual being released on their own recognizance.

See, whoever pays the bail assumes the responsibility of making sure the defendant is present at their court date. If the defendant does not show, the court keeps the bail money, even if it’s posted by the bail bondsman. Sometimes a judge agrees to let a person out on bail, only if they come to terms with a bail bondsman because they trust that the bondsman will return the defendant to the court as required. Not only would the court keep the bondsman’s money, but they may also revoke the bondsman’s ability to write bail bonds if they cannot produce the defendant.

For a defendant it is certainly cheaper to pay the bail amount in cash, instead of agreeing to terms with a bail bondsman. A bondsman will charge 10% of the bail amount as a nonrefundable fee. This exchange/ agreement is the actual bail bond. Even if the defendant is acquitted of all charges they do not get the 10% fee back. Money paid to the court as bail, however, is returned upon the conclusion of the case.

So, how does a bail bond work? Essentially, a defendant is paying 10% of their total bail amount to a bondsman, who will put up the full bail that the defendant could not afford. At the conclusion of the case, the bondsman gets their investment back plus the 10% fee from the client. Why would a defendant choose this route? Without the bail system a defendant, no matter how small the crime, would be waiting in jail throughout the duration of their case, certainly disrupting their ability to continue working and living their life.
Posted by Javi Calderon, on April 18, 2012 at 3:25 PM