Apart from common knowledge, (and what they may have seen on t.v.) most folks aren’t intimately familiar with the criminal justice system. A lot of times, it’s this lack of knowledge that causes so much stress when they find out that a friend or loved one has been arrested and taken into custody. Can we see them? How do we get them out? How long will it take? These are all pretty common questions we get from out clients, but sometimes there’s also a bit of confusion with the terminology used by the courts.
One of the more common points of confusion is the difference between “bail” and “bail bonds.” “Bail” is one of the rights granted by the 8th Amendment of the US constitution. It’s an amount set by a judge that the court is willing to accept as collateral to allow the release of a defendant before their court date(s). The amount will vary widely, depending on the number and severity of crimes that the defendant is being charged with, and in some cases it can be withheld altogether. Instances in which bail is withheld are few and far between, and typically involve a defendant who has skipped bail in the past (not shown up for court), or who posses a significant threat to the community, should they be released from jail.
A “bail bond” is something you can obtain by working with a bail bondsman. When bail is set by the judge, people seldom have the cash handy to cover the full amount of bail to get their friend or loved one out of jail. In situations like this, calling a bail bondsman and obtaining a bail bond essentially means that the bail bondsman puts up the money for you so that the defendant can be released.
If the defendant meets all of their court obligations, there is no additional financial responsibility on the part of the person who bailed them out of jail. However, if the defendant does not show up for court, the person who bailed them out of jail will be responsible for paying the full amount of bail to the court.