BAIL 101

What is bail?

Bail is a set amount of money and/or property that the defendant promises to the courts in order to be released from custody while they wait for their court hearing. How much money and/or property the defendant has to put up as collateral can vary depending on:
  • What state bail is posted in
  • The nature of the crime
  • The defendant’s ties to their community
  • The defendant’s prior criminal history
  • Whether or not the crime was committed against a protected class of people
  • Whether or not the crime was nonviolent
  • Whether or not the defendant would be a danger to the public if released
  • Whether or not the defendant would flee the state and/or country if released

Why are there so many factors to consider?

How bail works and what amount defendants have to pay are determined by the state. Some states have a set range on what bail should be for certain crimes. Others leave it up to the judge on the case to determine how much bail is fair. When deciding how much to set a defendant’s bail, the judge usually considers the nature of the crime as well as the defendant’s prior criminal history, ties to their community (employment, family, etc), and likeliness to flee from criminal proceedings if released. If the judge thinks the defendant would probably try to leave the state or even the country after being released, then they can order them to surrender their passport or wear an ankle monitor as a condition of their bail.

Who qualifies for bail?

Besides those that commit capital crimes like murder or terrorism, everyone is eligible for bail; although, the amount of bail required gets more expensive as the severity of the crime increases. As a matter of fact, the amount of bail for a felony can be up to ten times more than bail for a misdemeanor. If the defendant can’t afford to post bail, then they can request a hearing to ask the judge to reduce the amount. While the court is required to consider the defendant’s wish, they aren’t obligated to change the bail amount at all.

How do I post bail?

While defendants are technically allowed to post their own bail anytime after the initial arrest (depending on the state), they often don’t since they would have to pay the full amount on the spot via cash, check, or credit card (if accepted). The family and friends of the defendant can post bail on their behalf; however, they would have to pay the full amount upfront as well. This can be especially difficult since banks and loan institutions very rarely provide money for bail. Which is why so many choose to have a bail bond company post bail on their behalf instead. By hiring a bail bondsman, a defendant’s loved ones only have to come up with enough to cover the initial fee (usually 10-15% of bail amount) and collateral before the company posts bail. Which means that the defendant is able to be released as soon as a few hours after their arrest. If the defendant’s family and friends aren’t able to afford the bondsman’s fee, then they can use alternative types of collateral like property, jewelry, or even credit cards as long as they amount to the fee amount. If not, then they may have to sign off on several methods of collateral to make up the difference. At the end of the case, those that paid the full bail amount upfront will receive their money back (minus an administrative fee) as long as the defendant shows up to all of the court proceedings– regardless of the verdict/plea. Those who hired a bail bonds company will not be repaid the money they spent on the initial fee (even if the defendant comes to all of the court proceedings) and are responsible for paying any remaining dues.

What happens if the defendant doesn’t show up to court?

When a defendant doesn’t show up to court, then a new warrant is issued for their arrest and the money posted for their bail is surrendered to the courts. If a bail bonds company was used to post bail, then the court will keep the bail money and the bail bondsman keeps the loved ones’ collateral. Often times bail bondsmen will also use a bounty hunter to track the defendant down and bring them back to court’s jurisdiction as well. If the bail was paid out of pocket, then the family or friends that paid won’t get any of their money back.

Can posting bail impact my credit score?

Paying bail can negatively impact your credit score if you use a credit card to pay the full amount or to finance a bail bondsman. Failing to pay the fees associated with hiring a bail bonds company can result in your credit score being lowered as well as additional charges, higher interest rates, and repossession attempts.

Can posting bail impact my credit score?

Paying bail can negatively impact your credit score if you use a credit card to pay the full amount or to finance a bail bondsman. Failing to pay the fees associated with hiring a bail bonds company can result in your credit score being lowered as well as additional charges, higher interest rates, and repossession attempts.

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