What is bail or bonding out, and how does it work?

You have likely heard it on tv or in a movie, or maybe even in real life: so and so is out on a $10,000, or some other amount, bond. You might have asked yourself, “how is this person able to afford that high of a bond?” The reality is no such thing as a get out of jail free card, but there are numerous ways a court can release someone pending a trial. A person can be released on a written promise to appear, into someone else’s custody, on a secured bond, or an unsecured bond. Written promises to appear and being released into someone else’s custody are exactly what they sound like. So how does being released on a bond work?

First, a magistrate or judge will set your bail amount. They take several factors into consideration, such as: prior criminal history, prior failures to appear, ties to the community, and severity of the crime. Normally the bond is lower for someone who has little to no criminal history (not talking about traffic tickets), is well established in the community, and is not accused of a heinous crime. I have seen individuals charged with a felony get released on a written promise to appear and/or unsecured bond.

An unsecured bond is exactly that, unsecured. A person is not required to put any money down to get out. The kicker is this: if that person fails to show up to court, the unsecured amount must be paid in full.

In a situation where a secured bond is issued the accused has two options: (1) pay the bond in full or (2) use a bail bondsman. In the event a bond is paid in full, you are released and all you have to do is appear for trial. If you use a bail bondsman, the bondsman will typically require that you put down ten percent (10%) of the bail amount plus a fee. The bondsman will typically require the accused to secure the remaining portion of the bond with collateral, i.e. a house, car, or other items of value. If the accused does not show, the bondsman takes the collateral in exchange for losing the money used to post your bail.

The most important question is, “What if I cannot afford the bail?” This is where a skilled attorney comes into play. Bail is supposed to be set at the lowest amount which will ensure you return. If the bail is too high, we can draft and file a motion for a bond reduction. We will go in and argue why the bond is too high, what factors ensure you will return, and what we think the bond should be. The judge will then decide to reduce the bond or keep it where it is.

The second most important question is, “What happens with the money if I appear in court and resolve my case?” If you paid the bond in full, once the case is resolved and all court costs and fess are paid, the money is returned to you. If you used a bail bondsman, the ten percent (10%) you put down is returned and the bondsman keeps the fee they charged you.

If you, or a friend/family member, have been charged with a crime, and need your bond reduced, call Dobson Law Firm to help. All consultations are free. Our office number is 919-591-2240.

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