How do bail bonds work?
If you’ve ever been arrested or have had a close family member arrested, you probably have dealt with the bail system. Paying money to get released from jail might seem like a straightforward concept. A bail system allows someone to pay money to secure the release of someone who has been taken into custody.
Bail bonds are available to people whose bail amounts are higher, making posting the full bail unaffordable. With bail bonds, you can pay a percentage of the bail to a bail bonds agent who will then secure your loved one’s release. In exchange, you will need to guarantee the entire bail amount by placing some type of property as collateral.
Many people who have not previously dealt with the criminal justice system do not understand how bail and bail bonds work. If your family member is arrested, understanding the bail system and how bail bonds work will be important so that your loved one can be released from custody while his or her case is pending. Understanding how bail bonds work, how courts fix bail amounts, and the types of payment methods that can be used are important if you are faced with the arrest of your loved one.
What is bail?
Bail refers to the release of someone from jail after his or her arrest while the criminal case is still pending. It often involves either the defendant or someone acting on his or her behalf paying money to the court. The payment is meant to ensure that the defendant will come back to court for all scheduled appearances until the case is completed. Bail allows people to be released from custody instead of remaining in jail the entire time that their cases are pending in court.
People can be released on bail during most stages of a criminal case, including right after their arrests or whenever someone can raise the money to post bail on their behalf. When someone is arrested, he or she might be released, face charges and be released on bail or a bail bond, or remain in jail until the conclusion of the case. Bail and bail bonds provide a way for people to be released from custody before their guilt is determined in court.
What are bail bonds? How do bail bonds work?
Many people have bail set in amounts that they cannot afford. For example, if your loved one is arrested and has bail set at $100,000, you might not be able to post the full amount to secure his or her release from jail. This situation does not mean that your loved one will have to sit in jail until his or her case is finished. Instead, you might be able to get your loved one released from jail by understanding how bail bonds work.
What are bail bonds? Bail bond companies are businesses that post bail for defendants in exchange for a fee. A bail bonds agent will charge a percentage of the bail that has been set as his or her fee.
The person who pays the fee to the bail bonds agent will need to offer something as collateral or sign a security agreement. The fee can vary but is typically around 10% of the bail amount. By getting help from a bail bonds agent in the example described above, this means that you might secure your loved one’s release for $10,000 instead of having to come up with the $100,000 bail that was set by the court.
Once you have signed the agreement with the bail bonds agent and paid his or her fee, the agent will take the paperwork to the jail and secure your loved one’s release. Your loved one will likely be released with several conditions that he or she must follow while the criminal case is going through the court process.
A major condition that he or she must follow is to show up to court for all hearings. There may also be other conditions set by the judge. As long as your loved one attends court for all scheduled hearings, the lien against your collateral will be released once the case is over.
How do bail bonds make money?
Bail bond agents are in business to make money but also perform an important service. How bail bond agents make money is through their fees. When you post the bail bonds agent’s fee, you will not get it back when the case is over. However, you will enjoy the benefit of your loved one being out of jail while his or her case continues.
Depending on the severity of the charge, a criminal case can last for months or a couple of years. If you cannot post bail, a bail bond is a way that you can get your loved one out of jail while the criminal case continues moving through the court process.
After an arrest: How do bail bonds work?
When you are arrested, a police officer takes you into custody. You may be asked to place your hands behind your back, placed inside of a police car, and taken to jail or a processing center to go through the booking process. During the booking process, the officers will take your photo, document your personal information, take your fingerprints, and secure your personal property. He or she will perform a search of your criminal record and give you a health evaluation.
Once the booking process is completed, you will be placed in a detainment area if the officer decides to file charges. In some cases, police officers will release people without filing charges. However, if they determine that charges should be filed, you will need to stay in jail until someone posts bail, bail is posted by a bail bonds agent, a court issues a judgment, or until your case is resolved in another way.
Pretrial release: How do bail bonds work?
After you have been arrested and booked into jail, one of three things might happen. The police can release you with a notice to appear on your recognizance. This generally only happens for low-level offenses if you have no prior record.
The police can also hold you until you or someone else posts bail on your behalf. Finally, the police can hold you in custody until the court holds a formal bail hearing.
Bail schedules in Florida
The different counties in Florida have bail schedules with monetary amounts that apply to different crimes. These are lists of the amounts that must be paid to secure the release of defendants after they have been charged with specific crimes. These amounts depend on the county where the charges are filed and the specific offenses that are alleged to have been committed.
Some offenses will not have any bail set for them. For example, a life or capital felony will not have a bail set. If you are charged with this type of offense, you will remain in custody at least until your case is resolved.
If your offense is listed on the bail schedule, you can be released if you post the listed bail. If you can’t afford the listed amount, a family member or friend can contact a bail bonds agent and can learn about what are bail bonds and how bail bonds work. He or she can then place property as collateral for your bond, pay the bail bonds agent’s fee, and secure your release from jail.
If you have to wait for a bail hearing, your bail will be set by the judge. This typically happens when your charges are more serious. The court will look at several factors to determine the appropriate amount to set, including the following:
The seriousness of the offense
Once the conditions and amount have been set, your friend or family member can then contact a bail bonds agent to learn how do bail bonds work, pay the fee, and go through the process to secure your release from custody.
Understanding bail and bail bond conditions
Another important part of how do bail bonds work is the conditions that the court places on the release. These are additional requirements or restrictions that you will have when you can post bail or a bail bond and secure your release. If you violate the conditions of your bail or bail bond, you can be taken into custody to stay in jail until your trial. If you posted bail, you will also forfeit any amounts that you have paid.
Some of the types of conditions that might be placed on you include the following:
Checking in regularly with a pretrial services officer
Following a no-contact order
Adhering to travel restrictions
Refraining from using alcohol or drugs
Keeping a job or actively searching for employment
Restrictions on possessing firearms
Attending every court appearance
When you post bail or secure a bail bond, you must review the conditions of your pretrial release. If you fail to follow them, you could be taken back into custody and remain there until your case is resolved.
It is also important for you to understand how bail bonds work when someone else secured your release by going through a bail bonds agent. If you fail to attend your court appearances, your friend or loved one stands to lose both the fee that he or she paid for you as well as the property that he or she put up as collateral with the bail bonds agent.
Procedures for paying bail
Each county has procedures in place for how bail is paid. Typically, a person will have to travel to the jail or court to pay the bail for someone who is in custody. A clerk or cashier will be responsible for taking bail payments. The person paying the bail will have to give the clerk or cashier the defendant’s name, booking or case number, and the bail amount.
After the clerk or cashier has been paid the bail, he or she will notify the officers at the jail. The defendant will then be released. It can take a few hours for the defendant to be released after the bail has been paid.
If you hire a bail bonds agent, he or she will take care of the process for you by submitting the proper paperwork to the responsible clerk. The clerk will then notify the jail to secure your loved one’s release from custody.
Types of bail
Several types of bail might be used. In Florida, the two most common types are cash bonds and surety bonds. A cash bond involves you paying the full amount of the bail that is set in your case. This type of bail is generally used when the bail amount is low.
For example, if a court sets bail at $500, it might make sense to post $500 in cash instead of going through a bail bonds agent. However, if you cannot afford to pay the $500, you can instead go through a bail bonds agent and post $100 to secure your loved one’s release. If you can pay the bail amount in full, the amount that you pay will be applied to the fees in your case. The remaining amount will be returned to you.
If you choose a surety bond, you will use a bail bonds agent to secure your loved one’s release. With how do bail bonds work, the bail bonds agent will agree to be responsible for the defendant’s obligations and will post bail for him or her. You will have to pay the 10% fee and have a property to secure the bond or sign a security agreement. After the bail bonds agent pays the bail, your loved one will be released from jail within a few hours.
Once your loved one’s case is over, the bail will be returned to the bail bonds agent. He or she will retain the 10% fee that was charged. Any lien against your property will be released.
A less commonly used type of bond is a personal recognizance bond. With this type, the defendant is released with a notice to appear. In exchange, he or she must agree to appear for all of the court appearances.
If he or she fails to do so, a warrant can be issued by the court for his or her arrest. This type of bail is typically only used in cases involving low-level offenses for defendants who have clear criminal records.
How do bail bonds make money?
Bail bond agents charge fees for agreeing to post bail for defendants. For offenses involving bail amounts of less than $1,000, the fee is $100. For those involving charges with bail amounts of more than $1,000, the fee is 10% of the bail amount. This fee is retained by the bail bonds agent and will not be returned to you.
Bail bonds agents typically ask the defendant or the person paying the fee on the defendant’s behalf to provide security for the bond and to sign a contract for the terms of the bail bonds agreement. For example, you might be asked to sign a security interest in your vehicle or home to the bail bonds agent. If the defendant fails to show up in court and cannot be located for eight weeks, the bail bonds agent will begin the process to repossess or foreclose on the lien. Fortunately, however, the skip rate for bail bonds is less than 2%, meaning that the risk of losing your collateral is low.
Once your friend or family member finishes his or her case, the bail bonds agent will no longer have a security interest in the property you posted as collateral for the bail. You will receive a release and will have no further obligations.
What happens if a defendant fails to appear in court or violates the conditions?
If you go through a bail bonds agent to secure the release of your loved one, it is crucial for him or her to follow the bond conditions and to appear in court. If he or she fails to appear or violates the conditions of the bond, the bail bonds agent will try to locate him or her, take him or her into custody, and take him or her back to jail. Bail bonds agents are given a grace period after a defendant has violated the terms of his or her bond to locate him or her. If the bail bonds agent cannot find the defendant and bring him or her back to court within the grace period, the agent will have to pay the full amount of the bail.
Bail bonds agents can use bounty hunters to locate defendants and apprehend them. Bounty hunters are not law enforcement officers. While they do not have general powers to arrest people, they do have the ability to arrest defendants who have skipped their bail bonds. Their arrest powers come from the contracts that defendants sign with the bail bonds agents.
These agreements typically allow the bail bonds company to arrest the defendants if they violate the conditions of their bond, including failing to appear in court. As long as the defendant is located by the bail bonds agent and is apprehended within the grace period, the collateral for the bond will not be forfeited.
Similar to all other parts of the criminal justice system, bail and bail bonds are more complicated than most people realize. Posting bail can require you to pay a substantial amount of money and can come with serious risks. The availability of bail bonds can allow you to secure your release or the release of your loved one without having to pay the full bail amount upfront.
Understanding your options and ensuring that you are protected is important. If you do choose to go through a bail bonds agent to secure the release of your loved one, make sure that he or she will always attend court and follow the other conditions of his or her bond. To learn more about bail bonds and how to secure your release or the release of your loved one, give us a call at 407-595-8515 or send us an email today.