If a friend or loved one is arrested and asks you for help getting out of jail, it can put you in an awkward situation.They have obviously turned to you for help, and you don't want to let them down in their time of need. However, posting bail for someone else can potentially be a costly investment. Here are some basics to know in order to guide you to your decision on if (and how) to help.
What is bail?
When a person commits a crime and gets arrested, they may be offered the opportunity to pay an amount of money to leave jail until their court date. This is called bail. The amount of bail will depend on many factors, including the crime committed and past offenses. If bail is paid, the accused will be released from jail with the assumption they will show up to their court dates. If bail is not paid, they will remain in jail.
Paying in full
If the full amount of bail is paid, the full amount will be returned when the person shows up for their court date. This is the incentive for the accused to come to court. If they do not show up for court and fulfill their obligations, the money will not be refunded.
Hiring a bail bondsman
Bail has the potential to be very high. A bail bondsman can help with these large amounts of money. Typically, a person pays about 10% of the total bail to a licensed bondsman. The bondsman may also collect collateral in other forms to ensure the accused will show up in court. The bail bondsman then will get them released from jail with the promise that they will show up for court.
The amount of money paid to the bail bondsmen is non-refundable. They act as a type of insurance, so paying them is comparable to paying your insurance premium on your car each month. No matter the outcome of the case, the money paid to the licensed bondsman is not coming back.
Bail bonds companies take a risk on the people they bail out of jail. If they don't show up for their court dates, the bail bond company will be out the full amount. This is not good for anyone involved. The bail bondsman loses money and the accused has now skipped court.
What happens next?
Sometimes the bondsman will still have enough in collateral from the accused to cover the amount they lost. If they don't, they will likely hire someone to find the accused. This is a bounty hunter. Bounty hunters will track the person down and return them to the jail. The bondsman will then get the money they lost in bail back and the person will remain in jail until they can be seen in front of the court.
If you have been asked to put up bail for a person close to you, ask yourself if you can trust the person to show up to court. Then, decide if you can commit to the full amount, which you will get returned once commitments with the court are fulfilled, or if you are willing to pay a lesser amount to a bail bonds company that won't be returned.