Reality TV has made everyone more familiar with terms like bail and bonds and even bounty hunters. But what is bail, a bail bond and how do they work in reality?
Bail is an amount of money that is set by a judge to be paid by a person being held in jail due to being charged with a crime to secure their release from jail. The bail amount stands as surety that the accused will appear in court to be judged for their alleged crime without the need to be held in jail until their court date.
Once they have appeared in court and received judgement, the bail amount will be returned to them. In the event that the accused used a bail agent or bondsmen to post a bond on their behalf, the bail amount will be returned to the bondsmen. A fee (normally 10% of the total bail amount) will be charged upfront by the bail bondsmen and will not be refunded no matter the outcome of the case.
Where a person fails to appear in court, the bail amount will become forfeit. In other words, the bail amount will not be returned to the accused or the bail bondsmen. However, in the event that bail was posted by an agent, they have the opportunity to return the accused to jail in order to recover their funds. They may place a bounty in order to lead to the capture and return of the accused.
Bounty hunters normally receive a fee or percentage of the total bail amount in order to locate and return the accused to jail. This amount can be reclaimed by the bail bondsman from the accused through a civil lawsuit or by claiming an asset that was set as collateral for the bail amount.
In most cases, an accused who finds themselves charged with a crime cannot afford to pay bail in order to be released from jail. In this event, an accused will normally turn to friends and family members to pay for a bond on their behalf. These persons are referred to as surety and the bail amount will be returned to them in full once the accused has appeared in court with no additional fees or charges.
Bail bondsmen are often a last resort for people who have been charged with a crime and do not have the means to cover the bail amount themselves.