When the police arrest you for a crime, it does not necessary mean you have to remain in jail until your court date. Depending on the nature of your crime and your prior criminal record, the judge can either release you on your own recognizance or grant you bail, allowing you to remain out of jail while awaiting your trial. Below is some more information on bail and bail bond.
An Overview of Bail
In legal terms, bail means a set amount of money that the judge will require you to deposit with the court clerk to guarantee that if released from jail, you will appear in court as required during your trial. If you adhere to your bail terms, the court will return your money after your case is settled. On the other hand, if you fail to appear in court as required, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest and consequently, you will forfeit your bail.
To decide whether to grant you bail or not, the court will have a bail hearing. During this hearing, the court will consider factors such as your criminal history, your family ties, your financial resources, any history relating to substance abuse, and your overall health. Along with the financial bail determination, the court could also impose certain restrictions on your release such as enforcing a curfew, limiting your travel, or require you to undergo psychological, alcohol or drug testing/treatment. Additionally, the court may revoke or suspend your gun ownership privileges. At this point, it is important to note that bail proceedings tend to vary from one court to another.
An Overview of Bail Bonds
You can post bail either as cash or through a bond. In legal terms, a bond is a legally binding contract that requires a third party to pay a set sum of money if a defendant fails to adhere to his/her bail terms. Typically, a bond is guaranteed by personal assets such as valuable personal property, real estate or savings. The most common types of bail bonds include:
• A surety bond — this type of bond involves a third party or a bail bond company (obligor). In essence, the third party or obligor guarantees the court that they will pay the bond forfeiture should the defendant fail to appear in court as required. This guarantee is typically made through a surety company or by pledge of assets owned by the bail bond agent.
• An appearance bond — With this type of bail bond, the defendant is the obligor.
• Property bond — In some cases, you can use a property bond to obtain bail. In this bail process, the court essentially records a lien on your property. This means that if you fail to adhere to the terms of your bond, the court can reposes and sell the property in question to recoup the forfeited bail amount.
Typically, the court will require the defendant to post bail in cash or a bond guaranteed by an insurance company with enough assets to satisfy the value of the bail bond. In most cases, the cash bail amount tends to be lower than the bond amount because courts know that bail bond agents generally accept less than 100% of the value of a bail bond as security. It is also important to note that once you post a bond or cash bail, the court can have a surety hearing to determine the source of your bail money. Of course, courts do not accept money from illegal sources.
How the Bail Bond Process Works
If you (the defendant) cannot raise your entire bail amount on your own because of one reason or another, you can seek help from a bail bond agent. To secure the services of a bail bond agent, the agent will require you to pay a nonrefundable fee, which typically ranges anywhere from 10% to 20% of the face value of your bail amount. Once you do this, the agent will secure the rest of your bail money in the form of collateral. If you lack adequate collateral, the agent might ask your friends and relatives to help you cover your bail. If you make bail, the court will release on bail and require you to show up in court during the duration of your trial. If you fail to show up in court as required, you will forfeit your bail, and the court will require the bail bond agent to pay up the remaining 90% of your bail’s face value. When this happens, the agent will use your collateral to settle the remaining bail amount. On the other hand, if you appear in court as required, the court will dissolve your bail bond upon the conclusion of your trail and return the collateral to bail bond agent. In turn, the agent will keep the 10% to 20% nonrefundable fee as his/her profit.
Things to Consider when Selecting a Bail Bond Company
Some of the important things to consider when choosing a bail bond company include:
• Professionalism and courtesy – To a bail bond company, you are a paying customer. For this reason, you should choose a company that demonstrates a high-level of professionalism and courtesy. More specifically, the company should be able to address all your questions and concerns in a professional manner. At the same time, it should make you feel that it genuinely cares for your cause.
• Transparency – Avoid companies that are not upfront about its charges and fees. Additionally, avoid companies that use high-pressure tactics to coerce you into signing contracts with vague fee details.
• Customer Reviews – Before you choose a bail bond company, find out what its current and former clients have to say about the company and its services. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use online resources including reputable review sites and online forums. Our friends over at Bluestar Bail Bonds provide a directory of local providers as well. If you can, seek recommendations from some of the actual clients.
A bail bond agent can help you make bail, allowing you to stay out of jail during the duration of your trial. However, not all bail bond companies are created equal. To choose a good bail bond company, follow the tips discussed in this article.
1. List of Jails in Los Angeles
2. Los Angeles CA Prisons Wiki