When an individual is arrested for a crime, he or she is usually arraigned within 24-48 hours, at which time the judge decides if and how the suspect will be released from the court system. The most popular way for a judge to release a suspect is on bail, which means that the suspect must pay the court a specific amount of money to be released until his or her court date.
The judge can specific whether the money must be paid by cash or by bond. Usually, they allow for either.
The purpose of a bail bond is to ensure that the suspect will be present on his or her court date, and the judge sets the bail amount accordingly. For example, a wealthy suspect with a home in Switzerland and a passport may be considered a “flight risk”, which means that the bail amount will be set higher than for someone with limited means. Thousands of people fail to appear in court each year, which costs the justice system money.
There are four basic types of bail bonds.
Bail Bonds Option #1: Cash
Paying your bail amount in cash is the first option that you have for bail bonds. Sometimes, if the judge feels it necessary, he or she can order that the bond be paid in full. This means that if bail is set at $10,000, you must give the court $10,000 in order to be released from prison until your court date.
Bail Bonds Option #2: Secured Bail Bond
A secured bail bond is one in which the suspect puts up collateral in exchange for release and must sign a contract agreeing to appear in court for his or her trial date. Secured bail bonds are sometimes called property bonds, and usually involve the signing over of a property title in equal amount to the total bail bond. The property bond can be offered from the suspect or from anyone else who is willing to put up the collateral for the suspect.
Bail Bonds Option #3: Unsecured Bail Bond
The third option is an unsecured bail bond, which is the least common and rarely offered for any offense over a misdemeanor. With an unsecured bail bond, the suspect signs a contract which agrees to pay the court the bail bond amount if they do not appear in court.
Bail Bonds Option #4: OR
The final type of bail bond is OR, or Own Recognizance. A suspect released on his or her own recognizance means that the court can say with sufficient confidence that the suspect will appear on his or her court date.
Bail Bonds: Using a Bail Bonds Service
Bail bonds can be set extremely high, depending upon the alleged crime, and very few people are able to make bail on their own. For that reason, most people use bail bonds services, which involves the posting of the bond by a third-party individual.
A bail bonds service requires that the suspect (or a family member) put up 10% of the bail bond amount, while the bonds service puts up the remaining 90%. When the suspect appears in court, the bondsman gets back his 90% from the court and keeps the remaining 10% as his service fee.
Bail bonds services run a risky business because, if the suspect fails to appear (FTA), then they are “out” the 90% they paid. In that instance, the judge will issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the suspect, and if the bail bonds service can find the suspect and bring him back to prison, the 90% bail bonds amount they paid will be refunded. For that, they use bounty hunters.