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WHAT ARE BAIL BONDS? Bail involves a process in which a defendant is released in exchange for money. This money is a type of “insurance” that the defendant will show up for his or her court dates. Bail bonds exist because trials can take weeks or months to work their way through the court system and bail permits a defendant – who may be innocent – to wait for their trial at home, while pursuing normal activities.
THE BAIL PROCESS….. When people are arrested for a crime, they generally are taken to a local law enforcement station where they are booked. This involves recording information about the crime that allegedly has taken place, as well as basic information about the suspect. During booking, a police officer usually will take a mug shot and fingerprint the suspect. Then they will run a background check on the suspect. The officer will hold onto any of the suspect’s personal property – this will be returned to the suspect when he or she is released. The officer generally will allow the suspect to make a phone call and will check to see whether the suspect is intoxicated. After the booking procedure, the suspect is incarcerated in a county jail or station lock-up.
THE BAIL PROCESS (CONTINUED)… What happens next depends on the crime itself. For crimes not deemed serious, the suspect is often allowed to post bail immediately. In cases involving serious crimes, the suspect will have to wait in jail – usually no more than 48 hours – for a bail hearing. At the bail hearing, a judge or magistrate will decide whether the suspect may be released on bail. The judge then will decide the amount of bail.
HOW IS BAIL DETERMINED? When determining bail for a suspect, the judge will consider the suspect’s flight risk and the severity of the crime. If a suspect has a criminal history, or a history of not showing up for court appearances, that may affect a judge’s decision about bail. The judge may consider whether the suspect is a risk to others, whether the suspect has ties to the community, the stability of residence, work history and the nature of the crime. As a result of this information, release conditions and bail terms are established. Ultimately, the bail is at the judge’s discretion, although some jurisdictions have bail schedules, which set a standard bail amount.
POSTING BOND…. Once a judge has determined an amount for bond, the suspect usually can be released if he or she posts the bond in cash or in assets. If the accused or the family of the accused does not have the money or the assets to pay for bond, they can apply to a bail bondsman. The bondsman will take a percentage of the bond amount – usually between 10 and 15 percent of the bond money depending on the state – and will supply the rest of the money so that the suspect can leave jail. If a suspect cannot afford bail or a bail bondsman, he or she can appeal the bond through his or her attorney.
DON’T SKIP OUT ON BAIL BONDSMEN…. When you post bail, the court basically assumes that this is an assurance that you will show up for your court date. If you paid your bail in cash, then you will receive a full refund when you show up on your court date. However, if you don’t show up for court, then you forfeit the money you paid for bail. Since bail is not cheap, this is usually a huge deterrent for people who are thinking about skipping their court appearance.
BOUNTY HUNTERS If you show up for your hearing in Court, the bail bondsman keeps his 10% share of the money you put up at the time you applied for the bond. If you do not show up at a Court ordered hearing, either a warrant is issued by the Judge for your arrest by a Peace Officer, Marshall, or sometimes a County Constable. If a bail bondsmen has been burned by a lot of people, or if they think you are a high flight risk, the bondsman will hire a bounty hunter to come find you and drag you back to the jurisdiction where you committed the offense.
SKIPPING BAIL (CONTINUED)…. Once the U.S. Marshall or bounty hunter finds you, then you are locked up in jail for skipping town and not attending a court ordered hearing for however long the Judge decides.
CONCLUSION TO SKIPPING BAIL….. The bail bondsman is then entitled to keep the entire amount of bail set by the Judge while you either serve out your time in jail or until you come up with all of the bail money and pay off the bail bondsman what is owed to him plus all court costs. You still serve jail time for Contempt of Court by missing out on your hearing date, plus fees you owe the court and the bail bondsman all of the bail assessed against you by the court.