Even if you didn’t get thrown into jail today, it is always a good idea to have a working understanding of the legal system. You never know when that information might come in handy. Understanding the meanings of words like bail, bondsman, and bounty hunger will help guide you through the system if you ever happen to find yourself or a loved one facing time in jail. One concept that deserves attention is bail—what it is, where your bail money ends up, and how you can earn it back.
What is Bail?
First of all, you need to understand what bail is. Let’s say you get arrested for some petty crime and get thrown into jail. If you want to get out of jail and then return for your appointment in court when that time comes, you can pay bail. Bail is the amount of money required in order to set someone free until their time in court. The amount of bail required usually relates to the severity of the crime the person is being accused of. Smaller crimes mean smaller bail amounts. In the eyes of the court, bail is their security because if you don’t return for your court date, they get to keep your bail money. If you do appear in court when expected, your money is returned to you.
Who Can Pay Bail?
If you can afford it, you can arrange to pay bail yourself. If you can’t afford it, a friend or a family member can come to your rescue. If that isn’t an option, you can contract with a bail bondsman. This is a professional who will pay your bail for you once you’ve signed a contract stating that you will repay them once you have returned to court and have the money in hand. Of course, you will need to pay them an additional fee beyond the original bail amount. This is usually a certain percentage of the total bail amount and will be spelled out in the contract you sign. If you decide to try to evade the legal consequences of your actions by fleeing, the bondsman will do everything in his or her power to find you and get their money back. In other words, just be back in court when you said you would be.
Where Does Your Bail Money Go?
Once you’ve paid your bail, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. When you originally pay bail, the court system, usually the sheriff assigned to your case, holds on to your money. If you show up when you’re supposed to and you are exonerated of any charges, the money is returned to you within a couple weeks. If you fail to show up to court, a warrant is issued and your claim to the money is forfeited. Bail is a tool that the court uses to guarantee your return to court to face your charges. You don’t want to try to play games with the system. As in many situations, honesty is the best policy.