The criminal justice system is complicated, especially for someone unfamiliar with it. This is especially true when you’re trying to understand terms like bail, bond and the role of a bondsman. Knowing these terms can make a significant difference if you or someone you know finds themselves on the wrong side of the law.
The court doesn’t always keep a defendant in custody in the period between an arrest and a trial. Instead, they might set a financial amount that allows the person to be released from jail.
Deciphering bail and bond
Bail is a set amount of money that acts as insurance between the court and the defendant. If the defendant has the funds, they can pay the amount outright and will be released. The money will be returned to them if they show up for all their scheduled court dates.
However, not everyone can afford the entire bail amount, so they may need to bond out. A bond is a promise to pay the bail if the defendant doesn’t show up for court dates. It’s like a check the court can cash if the defendant skips out. A bail bondsman handles a bond.
A bondsman is a person or agency that will pay the bail in exchange for a fee, usually a percentage of the bail amount. The bondsman will then be responsible for ensuring the defendant appears in court. If the defendant skips their court date, the bondsman will owe the court the entire bail amount.
Being released on your own recognizance
In some cases, a defendant might be released on their own recognizance. This means they don’t have to pay bail but are released with a promise to return for court dates. It’s an option typically reserved for those who aren’t deemed flight risks and have ties to the community.
While many bails are set automatically, others require a court date. Knowing what to expect during this hearing and others during the process is beneficial so you can prepare.