April 11, 2012

Bail Bond

Posted in My Thoughts tagged , , , , , , , at 6:53 pm by Wyllo

A bail bond is one method used to obtain the release of a defendant awaiting trial upon criminal charges from the custody of law enforcement officials.  It is a written promise signed by the defendant or a surety (one who promises to act in place of the defendant such as the defendant’s family, a friend or a professional bail bondsman) to pay an amount fixed by  the court – usually an amount commensurate with the gravity of the alleged offense- should the defendant named in the document fail to appear in court for the designated criminal proceeding at the date and time specified.

When it comes down to using a bondsman, most defendants are financially unable to post their own bail, so they seek help from a bail bonding agent, who, for a non-refundable fee of 10 to 20 percent the amount of the bail, posts bail. The bondsman becomes liable to the court for the full amount of bail if the defendant fails to appear for the court date. However, before agreeing to assume the risk of posting bail, the bail agent often requires some sort of collateral from the defendant, such as jewelry, securities or written guaranties from creditworthy friends or relatives of the defendant. This collateral acts as security to ensure repayment for any losses the bail agent might incur. If the defendant appears to be a “poor risk,” and unlikely to return to court for trial, the bail agent will refuse to post bail. A defendant who has a record of steady employment, has resided in the community for a reasonable length of time and has no prior criminal record is more likely to be considered a good risk.

The bail agent, the defendant or another interested party posts bail in the form of the bail bond at the court where the defendant is required to return for the proceeding. The court clerk issues a bail ticket or similar document, which is sent to the police to notify them that bail has been met. The defendant is released from custody when the bail ticket is received by the police. Liability under the bail bond ends when the defendant fulfills the conditions of the bond by appearing in court on the specified date, or if the terms of the bond become impossible to execute, such as by the death of the defendant or by his or her arrest, detention or imprisonment on another offense in the same or different jurisdiction.

If a defendant fails to appear for trial on the date specified in the bail bond, the court issues a warrant for the defendant’s arrest for “jumping bail” and the amount of the bond is forfeited to the court. The bail agent is generally authorized by statute to arrest the defendant and bring him back for criminal proceedings.

A bail bond may be similarly used in cases of civil arrest to prevent a defendant from fleeing a jurisdiction to avoid litigation or fraudulently conceal or dispose of assets in order to become judgment-proof (incapable of satisfying an award made against him if the plaintiff is successful).

The states of Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Oregon have enacted laws making it illegal to post bail for profit, thereby outlawing the occupation of bail bond agent.