Understanding Signature Bail Bonds

Signature bail bonds are almost synonymous with the more formal term, personal recognizance bonds, except for the fact that in a signature bond you are getting out of jail in exchange for only your signature, while a recognizance bond might also include a small monetary bail that must be paid as well.

In any bail hearing, the judge’s responsibility is to make sure that a defendant is not a risk to run from their legal responsibilities, nor is a risk to the community. U.S. bail laws state that if a defendant passes these two criteria they have a right to bail. Now, which type of bail the judge chooses to assign depends on a myriad of factors, including criminal history and the severity of the crimes the person is being accused of.

When a defendant is released on a signature bond or a recognizance bond, the case usually involves a lesser crime, and the judge was convinced that the defendant was responsible, well grounded, and trustworthy. The defendant probably has a completely clean arrest record, has a steady job, and has family or other responsibilities that would prevent them from leaving the area.

In a signature bond you basically signing a contract, pledging your word that you will return for your hearings. If the defendant reneges on the agreement, the judge can put a warrant out for their arrest and assess monetary fines.

A recognizance bond is when the defendant is released to their own authority and they have paid their own bail amount, instead of going through a bail bondsman. When a bondsman pays a defendant’s bail, it becomes the bondsman’s responsibility to make sure the defendant shows up to court.

If the defendant follows through with their legal requirements, the judge will return the money the defendant used to post bail. If a defendant who was released on a recognizance bond does not show up for court, the court will keep the bail money that was posted and put a warrant out for their arrest.

The judge can choose to apply a bail amount if they are not completely comfortable letting a defendant out simply on their signature.

Posted by Javi Calderon, on April 24, 2012 at 4:42 PM