What is a Bail Bond? A Complete Guide

When a defendant is awaiting a trial, depending on the type of crime and jurisdiction, the judge may decide to grant them a bail option. This allows them to go about their normal lives until the day they are required to appear in court. But, they will have to pay a specified amount of money for the court to grant them this temporal release.

In a case where the defendant cannot afford the amount set for bail, using a bail bond may be their only way out. A bail bond is a service that a surety bond company provides to a defendant to assist them to get out of jail till their court date. Let’s learn more about the bail bond and all it entails.

What is Bail?

A knowledge of what bail means will likely enable a good understanding of the concept of a “Bail Bond”.

Bail represents a security that guarantees that an arrested person will appear in court for trial. This security, however, is usually in the form of a determined amount of money that the judge decides. 

The defendant pays this money in exchange for their release and as a guarantee that they will make an appearance in court for trial. Bail is refundable, it is as collateral to ensure that the defendant returns to court for trial. 

This means that if the defendant shows up for court, the court refunds the bail to them. But, if the other way round, the court keeps collateral and issues a warrant for the arrest of the defendant.

However, not all cases are liable to the option for bail. Bail may be offered to a defendant based on the type of crime committed and the jurisdiction. And, the court’s perception of the defendant may contribute to their decision of whether or not to offer them a bail option. 

If the court believes that the defendant may run away and not appear in court it may not offer them the bail option. This is often referred to as ” flight risk”.

Bail amounts vary based on the judges’ discretion and jurisdiction. The amount for a felony is usually high, typically around $20,000 while a nonviolent misdemeanor may attract $500.

Since bail amounts are often high and most defendants may not afford them, they may need financial help. Which is where a bail bond comes to play. 

What is a Bail Bond?

Considering the high amount set for bail, defenders may be faced with financial pressure. The reason is that if they can’t afford this money, the next option would be to wait in jail until their court date.

Many defendants may not consider the latter an option because they will want to get out of jail as soon as possible for many reasons. These reasons may range from taking care of their family, retaining their jobs, to getting themselves ready for their court proceedings with a clear head. 

Court proceedings can sometimes take an unnecessarily long time, weeks or months and these offenders may not fancy putting their lives on hold for such a long time. To solve this challenge, they may choose a bail bond if the option is available to them, as not all states accept bail bonds. Also, the crime in view is a key consideration for the bail bond option.

A Bail Bond is a service provided by a surety bond company that secures the release of a defendant from jail. The surety bond company provides this service through a bail agent or Bail Bondsman.

A bail bondsman furnishes the bail amount for the defendant so that they can get out of jail and prepare themselves for trial on the set date.

If the bail bond option is available to a defendant, they can reach out to a bail bond agent for help. Two types of Bail Bonds exist, include :

  • Criminal Bail Bond: This type of bond is specific to criminal cases.  
  • Civil Bail Bond: This type of bond applies to civil cases.

How Do Bail Bonds Work?

If the defendant decides to hire a bail bonds agent, the agent will have to enter into a written contract with the court. The contract is to facilitate proper understanding that they will be held responsible if the defendant ends up not appearing in court on the trial date. And, they will have to pay the full amount of the bail.

The agreement will also spell out the collateral required to ensure that person shows up in court and the fees involved.

The bail bondsman charges the service fee of 10% of the bail amount which the defendant has to pay upfront. In addition, they may require a statement of creditworthiness – proof that they don’t have a bad credit history.

Most likely the bondsman will demand collateral from the defendant to serve as a security in case they don’t return to court. The collateral may be in the form of property such as houses, cars, jewelry, or securities. Once the bail bond is delivered – the bail agent bonds the defendant out of jail, the court releases it until trial.

Before the defendant leaves the jail, the court gives both the defendant and agent a court date, receipt, and all other related documents. This is important especially for the bail bond agent, to help them keep track of the defendant.

Upon returning to court, the defendant is required to pay the bail amount and get their collateral back. However, if the defendant fails to return to court, the bail agent will have to pay the full amount of bail to the court. Afterward, the agent can hire a bounty hunter to track the defendant down and take them back to jail.


A bail bond is an option for many defendants. Rarely would anyone choose to stay in jail, but lack of funds can be a real limitation. However, with this type of surety bond, there is a way out for these offenders.

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