When a person is arrested and charged with a crime, they may be able to avoid going to jail while their case is pending. If a judge permits, the defendant can pay a sum of money known as bail to guarantee that they will appear in court when required. The money will be returned to them if they appear. If the defendant fails to appear, the defendant will lose the money, and they also may be charged with bail jumping. This is a separate crime that can result in penalties beyond those imposed for the original crime. A defendant can be convicted of bail jumping even if they are not convicted of the original crime.
Ways to Pay Bail
Cash or credit card
Valuable assets (such as jewelry or a car)
If you can afford to pay the full amount that the judge sets, you can post bail directly by cash or credit card. Many defendants instead post bail by getting a bond from a bail bond company. This involves paying a premium that is not refundable, since the bail bond company will lose the bail amount if the defendant fails to appear. The premium usually amounts to about 10 percent of the bail required by the judge. A third, less common option is to give the court a certain tangible asset that is worth the amount of the bail. This might be something such as clothing, jewelry, or a vehicle. The asset will be returned to the defendant after the case is over, just as the money would be.
Securing Bail Bonds with Collateral
If you get a bail bond through a company, you may need to secure it with collateral in one of your assets. In addition to paying the premium, therefore, you might need to give the company an interest in your home, your car, or another valuable piece of real estate or personal property. This would cover the loss that the bail bond company risks if you fail to appear in court, and it forfeits the amount of the bond. You will not be able to sell the property that is used as collateral during the course of the case. A defendant may be able to find a company that does not require securing the bond with collateral, but these are rare in many areas.
Hybrid Bail Payment Structures
The difference between court-financed and private bail bonds is that the court will return the full amount (minus an administrative fee) when the defendant returns to court, while the private bond company will keep the premium.
Perhaps you are unable to post the full amount of bail on your own, but you also are reluctant to purchase a bond from a bail bond company. Depending on the state where you live, you may be able to finance your bond through the court system. You might need to pay about 10 percent of the full bond amount to the court, and you might need to secure the bond with collateral, as you would with a bail bond company. However, a key difference between private bail bonds and court-financed bail bonds is that the court will return the 10 percent fee upon the conclusion of the case, assuming that the defendant does not fail to appear. If the defendant misses a court appearance, they will lose the full amount of the bond and possibly the asset that secured it. They also may face a bail jumping charge and may be required to stay in jail until the case ends.