How Does Bail Work: Understanding Your Rights

Being arrested is a likely scenario for many, especially with the increased vigilance of the law enforcement agencies. If it happens, you do not want to stay in jail as this will ground your day-to-day activities. This is why many people’s first thought upon landing in jail is about getting out. One way of doing so is by posting a bail. This is security to ensure you appear in court proceedings until the final judgment. So how does bail work? This content highlights what a bail is and how it works.

What Is Bail?

A bail is a bond, a cash, or property that an arrested individual gives to a court of law to ensure that he or she appears in court if needed. If you don’t show up, the court keeps the bail and issues a warrant of arrest. How does bail work? For you to answer this question, you have to first know about the types of bails. There are five types of bails.

1. Cash Bail

This is where the accused pays the full amount of bail in cash. Sometimes, the court can accept a credit card or even checks.

2. Surety Bond

How does bail work when you opt for a surety bond? A surety bond is also referred to as a bail bond and can be used for any amount of bail. However, it is especially useful when the accused cannot afford to pay the bail. It involves a relative or a friend of the accused contacting a bail agent, also referred to as a bail bondsman. The bail bondsman bails the accused after receiving a collateral. In addition, the bail bondsman typically must be paid a commission of the bond. However, the bail agent risks the full bond if the defendant does not appear in court for proceedings on the required date.

3. Release on Citation

Sometimes, an officer does not book the suspect at all but will instead issue a citation that says the accused must appear in court on a particular date. This process is less thorough compared to taking the suspect to a police station and performing the normal booking procedure.

4. Property Bond

How does bail work when paying with a property? Some instances will need the defendant to provide property, which acts like a bond. Here, the court gets a lien on the property in the amount of the bail. If the accused doesn’t appear in court, it forecloses on the property to recover the bail.

5. Release on Own Personal Recognizance (O.R.)

  • The judge may also release the accused on O.R., which implies that he or she shows up on the arranged court date and doesn’t have to pay bail. This is applicable when the charge is a minor, nonviolent crime and when the accused is not a danger to others or a flight risk. Flight risk is when a person is likely to flee and not appear for the court proceedings.
    A defendant released on O.R. signs a promise to show up in court. This usually happens at the first court appearance. If the judge denies the request, then the accused asks for a low bail. Factors that can convince a judge to grant O.R. release include:
  • You have family members, including parents, a spouse, or children living in the community
  • You have lived in the community for many years
  • You’re employed
  • You have no criminal record
  • You have been charged before but have always appeared as required

What Is a Bail Bondsman?

So how does a bail work when you don’t have money to post bail? This is where you need to seek the services of a bail bondsman. A bail bondsman is also known as a bailer or bail agent. It is the person who provides bail as a surety for a criminal defendant’s release. The bail bondsman is covered by a special insurance company called a surety company that pledges to pay the full amount of a surety body if the accused does not appear in court. In return, the bail agent charges the client a 10% premium and collects collateral, for example, a car or boat, a title to a house, electronics, or jewelry.

By getting the relative or friend involved, the bail agent hopes that the defendant feels compelled to appear in court since the relative or friend will pay the bail agent’s premium and has collateral. The bail bondsman’s bond is also at stake and if the accused does not appear in court, which is referred to as jumping or skipping bail, then it is the agent responsible for paying the entire bond. If the accused jumps bail, the bail bondsman might seek a bounty hunter, but only if it is legal in that state.

Commercial bail bonding is illegal in some states including Oregon, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. In other states, the bail bondsman needs to be licensed.

How Does Bail Work?

So how does bail work? A bail works by releasing the defendant in exchange for an agreed amount of money that the court holds until all the court proceedings are complete. The court, by offering the bail, hopes that the defendant shows up for all court trials on specified dates in order for them to recover the bail.

Court trial typically starts weeks or months after the initial arrest. You don’t want to spend all that time in jail, so posting a bail is the most viable option for you. Therefore, if not for a bail, many individuals, some of whom may be innocent, would have to wait in jail until the trials begin. This inconveniences the defendant endures can be a source of financial hardship since the person cannot work. Besides, the individual will also miss a lot in his or her life, such as holidays and family events.

Not everyone is eligible for bail, particularly dangerous suspects or a person who has been linked to criminality before. This implies that not all persons released on bail are acquitted, and thus, to prevent dangerous suspects from being released, the court implements these safeguards.

Bail Process

How does bail work and what is the bail process? If you are arrested, you will first be taken to a police station to be processed or booked. When you’re booked, a police officer on duty records information about you as the suspect. This includes personal information, such as the birthday, name, address, and appearance along with the alleged crime.

Then the police officer will conduct a criminal background check by taking your fingerprints and a mugshot and then seizes and inventories any personal property. The property is returned when you’re being released. You are also checked for intoxication and required to make a phone call to inform your family member of the arrest. You are then put in a cell, typically with other recently booked suspects.

When you have committed less serious crimes, you may be allowed to post bail immediately after being booked. If you cannot post bail immediately, you must wait (less than 48 hours) for a bail hearing. The judge then determines whether you are eligible for posting bail and at what cost. The bail amount depends on the severity of the crime but is also dependent upon the judge. Some jurisdictions have a standard bail amount. For instance, Los Angeles recommends $25,000 for sexual assault or perjury, $1,000,000 for kidnapping and intending to rape, and $100,000 for manslaughter.

However, the judge also considers the defendant’s criminal record and the history of showing up for past court proceedings, if any. The judge may also look into the defendant’s ties to the community, whether the suspect can harm others or any other considerations that may be raised by the attorney. Sometimes, bail can be waived altogether.

Conclusion

Our main goal was to address the question of how bail works. A bail is considered a bond, a cash, or property a defendant gives to a court of law to ensure that he or she appears in court proceedings.

There are different types of bonds. Cash bail is when the accused pays the full amount of bail in cash. Surety bonds entail securing the services of a bail bondsman and are useful when the accused cannot afford to pay the bail. A person can also be released on a citation. This is applied when the officer does not book the suspect but will instead issue a citation that says the accused must appear in court on a particular date. You can also be released via property bond where the property acts like a bond. Last, they may release you on O.R. where the judge releases the accused on his own recognizance.

A bail is important as it works by securing a person’s release, if arrested, in exchange for an agreed amount of money that the court holds until all the court proceedings associated with the case of the accused individual are complete. This way, you get to resume your day-to-day activities. We hope that this article has adequately answered the query, “how does bail work?”