In the majority of criminal cases, defendants have the ability to pay bail. The court will decide on an amount of money that the defendant can pay to remain out of jail, until the defendant’s court date arrives. When the defendant appears in court on the court date, the money is returned to the defendant. The court essentially uses the collateral money to act as insurance that the defendant will appear in court. The collateral money is called bail.
In some cases the court will set the bail higher than what the defendant can afford to pay. When the bail amount is too much for the defendant to pay, then the defendant can turn to the services of a bail bondsman. A bail bondsman will carry the burden of the bail in exchange for surety bonds to make certain the defendant appears in court.
Know Your Bail Bonds
The first step in properly using a bail bondsman is to know the types of bail bonds that exist. There are 3 varieties of bail bonds:
- Cash bonds are cash or money orders.
- Property bonds use property or value of property as collateral.
- Surety bonds mostly resemble a loan. The bail bondsman pays the total amount of the bail to the court. The defendant pays a percentage of the bail amount to the bail bondsman along with an agreement to appear in court.
Know the Bail Amount
Find out what the bail amount is at the jail. The judge presiding over the case sets the bail amount by the severity of the crime and the possibility of the defendant being a flight risk. Some crimes are severe enough that bail is not granted. The majority of the time there is a pre-determined bail schedule to dictate the bail amount for common crimes. The sooner a defendant knows the amount of the bail, the sooner the defendant can begin to decide what course of action he/she will take. A defendant may also request that a judge lower the bail amount.
Know the Bail Bondsman Fee
Different states have different laws, which dictate the fee percentage a bail bondsman is allowed to take. The standard fee is around 10%. Some states prohibit the use of commercial bail bondsman. Some states (Maine, Oregon, Kentucky, Nebraska, Illinois, and Wisconsin) do not allow surety bail bonds. The court clerk can assist you with understanding the bail bondsman fees.
Find and Contact a Licensed Bail Bondsman
There are many ways to find a bail bondsman. A defendant can look online, in the yellow pages, in a phonebook, at numbers posted in the courthouse, and more.
Settle Up with the Bail Bondsman
Once the bail bondsman has shown up with a license, itemized receipts, and a signed contract, it is time to pay the bail bondsman fee. It is possible to discuss other forms of fee payment, if the bondsman fee is still too high. Collateral and property are the two most common forms of non-monetary fee payments. A bail bondsman does not normally accept credit cards or personal checks.
Appear in Court
Go to court on the scheduled court date at the scheduled court time. Once the appearance is made, the court refunds the bail bondsman the amount of the bail. The bail bondsman receives his/her money back plus the fee, and the contract is settled.
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