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Bail Definition

Bail is money or property given to a court as a form of guarantee that an individual undergoing criminal charges will return to court when summoned if they are released from jail before their court date. If the individual fails to return to court, they have the potential to be criminally liable, and the court can hold the money or bail previously paid.

How Does Bail Work?

When a defendant is arrested, they are usually booked into either a city or county jail. While the defendant is being booked, the police officer will take personal information about the defendant, their fingerprints, and file the crime they are suspected of committing.  The defendant is then placed in a holding cell. If the offense is minor, the defendant is released by signing a document and promising to appear in court. However, if the crime is severe, bail is required.

Bail is a necessary device to ensure that an individual being tried for a criminal offense will come back to court. A written or oral promise is not always sufficient to guarantee that a defendant will appear in court on the date that they are scheduled if they are released from police custody. When a judge sets bail, defendants will be required to deposit money to the court, which will be promptly returned once all of the legal proceedings are complete.

The amount of money that is required for bail is determined by the court and is typically calculated based on the severity of the crime, established ties the defendant has to the local community, criminal history, and the potential flight risk of the defendant. An individual that has a good job, no criminal history, and family in the area will likely have a lower bail set than an individual that does not. Every state has different laws when it comes to bail. Federal Law is quite strict with bail regulations since the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that the amount of bail cannot be excessive.

What Is a Bail Bond?

It is quite common for a defendant or their family to not have enough money to pay the cost of bail. Under these circumstances, a bail bond can be obtained to satisfy the amount the court set for bail. A bail bond is a written guarantee that the defendant will appear in court on their required court date. A Bail bond is a surety bond or insurance that the defendant has paid the required fee to the court. If the defendant fails to appear in court, then the court will keep the money from the bail bond.

A bail bond is purchased through a bail bondsman, who charges a set fee, then issues the surety bond to the court. If the defendant appears at all required court appearances, the bail bond is released, with no further payment being required of the bail bondsman. In any case, the defendant does not receive a refund of his fee to the bail bond agent, as this is the fee for the surety bond.

If, on the other hand, the defendant fails to show up at court, or "skips bail," the bail bondsman must pay the amount of the bail. If this occurs, the bail bondsman has the authority to track down the defendant, take him into custody, and deliver him to the court. A bail bondsman has no obligation to post bail for any given defendant and may refuse to do so for any reason. The most common reason for a bail agent to refuse to issue a bond is that the defendant poses a significant flight risk.

Bail is something that is taken very seriously when defendants are being tried for more severe crimes. Defendants are highly encouraged to follow the bail guidelines set out by the judge to avoid further criminal penalties. If a defendant's family does not have enough money, finding a bail bondsman will be the best option. It is essential to follow all the rules set out by the bail bondsman and show up to scheduled court hearings. By doing so, defendants will avoid any further legal or financial trouble from failing to show up to scheduled court hearings. For defendants with limited financial resources, there are court appointed attorneys available that can help explain this process further. When being charged with a serious offense, working with an attorney is vital to ensure the best possible outcome of the defendant's case.

Bail Glossary Definition

Bail is primarily a cash payment, or a bond given by a defendant to the court to guarantee their conditional release from custody. This financial guarantee promises that the defendant will return to all required scheduled judicial proceedings. If the defendant does not return to court, the court has the legal right to keep the cash payment or bond paid as security.