Most people cannot afford to pay bail in order to be released from jail until their court hearing or trial. In this case, a friend, family member or other person can post bail on your behalf. This person is called a surety. A bail bondsman is a professional surety who can pay bail for your release for a fee.
You should be able to contact a bail bondsman or agent from jail or ask another person to do so for you. Once you or your representative have completed all the necessary documentation, signed the bail bond agreement and paid the fee, they will post bail on your behalf at the court or jail where you are being held.
The fee that will need to be paid to the bail bondsman is normally a percentage of the total bail amount set by the court (in general, around 10% – 15%). This fee is non-refundable and does not form part of the actual bail amount. There are also other requirements for bonds that you must fulfill. These include proof of residency, proof of income, etc. Each bonding company in every state is a little different.
The agreement with the bail agent will involve a clause that you will need to appear for all your court dates. If you do not show up for a court date, the bail amount that was posted may become forfeit. In other words, the bail bondsmen will not be able to recover the amount of bail that they posted on your behalf.
If the bondsmen is able to locate you and return you to jail within a specified period of time after missing a court date, the bail amount may still be returned to them. Once you have been returned to jail, you will not be able to receive bail again or be released until sentencing has been passed.
In the event that the bail bondsmen is not able to recover their funds, you become contractually liable to repay the full amount to the agent. Depending on the agreement signed with the agent, they may sue you in civil court or attach your goods or assets that you may have signed over as collateral for the bail bond.
In the event that a family member applied for bail through an agent on your behalf, that person may become liable for the full bail amount. Once again, this is dependent on the type of agreement that was entered into with the bail agent. A bail agent must explain all the terms and conditions of the agreement to you upon application.