Bloom Legal Guide: Bail Bonds 101
Posted on Jan 24, 2014 in DUI/DWI, Local Issues
Although most people are generally familiar with the term bail bondsman, the details and mechanics of the process are often misunderstood.
After being arrested, a person may be given the option of posting a bail, a set amount of money to the court, in order to be released prior to their next court date or trial date. This assures the person’s appearance. When you appear at that court date, the amount paid is refunded, minus court fees. However, if you fail to appear that amount will be forfeited and a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Just because you are offered a release on a money bail, does not mean you are required to use a bail bondsman. Yet, many people cannot raise the full bail amount. That is usually when a bails bondsman comes into the picture. For a fee – usually a percentage of the total bail amount – a bail bondsmen will secure a person’s pretrial release. You also sign an agreement to pay the full amount of the bail should that person fail to appear. If the person who has been bonded appears at trial, the bail bond is terminated and the agreement ended, but the bails bondsman keeps his fee. If the person fails to appear, the bondsman is responsible for finding that person or they are liable for the entire bail amount.
But sadly, the for profit bail bonding is a system which capitalizes on low income communities and gives private insurance agents almost unlimited control over the lives of the people they bond out. It has lead to corruption, coercion and criminal collusion.
When you post a cash bond and you appear at court, you are refunded the bond amount minus any court fees. However, those who rely on a bail bond agent are charged a fee for the bondsman, which is never refunded. Essentially, they are paying a large price for their freedom regardless of the outcome of the case. They regard this fee as compensation for the risks they take and the costs they accrue. Nonetheless, the person who signs the bail contract has now fully tapped their resources and the likelihood of affording a private attorney has know been greatly reduced. Furthermore, the bails bondsmen make endless efforts in avoiding to pay the bond; creating a lengthy collections process within the courts. In the end its the co-signer of the bond who often ends up paying when a defendant fails to appear. The bail bond is in a no-lose situation wherein the bail bondsmen always get paid. For them, the higher the bond the more profit with no increased risk. They have no regard for public safety. In reality, the bail bondsmen play no role in ensuring a defendant makes his court appearance. Studies show there is no clear or consistent connection between court appearance rates for those released on a bail bond and those released on their own recognizance. While bondsmen have a responsibility to ensure a defendant comes back to court, most who do not make those court dates are apprehended by law enforcement, not bail agents. Further, bail is not forfeited if a person is picked up on a new charge while out on bail. So there is no incentive for bondsmen to provide support and assistance to those out on bond awaiting trial.
In the end, it may be more beneficial to seek a private attorney. All the money you spend on private representation will go toward obtaining a favorable outcome in your case. Additionally, an attorney may be able to get you a release on your own recognizance or help in reducing your bond amount. While this approach may result in a slightly longer stay in jail, the long-term benefits outweigh the use of a bail bondsmen.
Facing criminal charges is never easy. Every case is different and we cannot predict the outcome of your individual case. It is important to consult a lawyer regarding the facts of your case. If you are seeking a criminal lawyer or need legal help then please call our office at 504-599-9997 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further legal advice and for a criminal consultation.