Bail Bonds FAQ and Much More

If you read my guide to bail bonds here and still have some more questions hopefully this FAQ page will help. If there’s anything you think I forgot to cover feel free to drop me a line using the contact page.

How does the court determine the bail amount?Most jurisdictions have bail guidelines which are used to determine bail. Judge’s have considerable leeway when determining bail and take a number of factors under consideration such as the seriousness of the offense, whether or not the defendant has ties to the area, and their criminal background. If the judge believes there’s a chance the defendant will flee they may deny bail.
Why would a judge deny bail?A judge might deny bail for a few reasons. First, if the defendant has a criminal history the judge may decide they should stay in jail. Second, if they have no ties to the community like family, or a full-time job the judge may be concerned the defendant will flee and skip bail. Third, the judge may rule that the severity of the crime warrants keeping the defendant behind bars.
How can I convince the judge to reduce bail?In addition to the bail guidelines, a judge considers the seriousness of the defendants crime and the likelihood they’ll flee when determining bail. While there’s no guaranteed way to reduce the bail amount, showing the judge that you have ties to the community is the best way to get bail reduced. This can be accomplish that by having family and friends attend the bail hearing to vouch for the defendant.
Do need to hire an attorney to represent me during the bail hearing?An attorney is not required for a bail hearing but some defendants prefer to have one present. An attorney may be able to make the case for a reduced bail but the judge has full control when it comes to setting the amount.
How long does it take to set bail?Bail is usually set by a judge within 48 hours of arrest. For some small level crimes the sheriff may be able to set bail when the defendant is booked and allow them to post bail immediately.
What if I miss a court date after posting bail?If you miss a single court date bail will be revoked and you will forfeit the entire amount. In addition, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
What if I can’t afford bail?If you and your family can’t afford bail you can get a bail bond through a bail agent. A bondsman will charge you a fee, generally 10-20% of the bail amount, and will provide the court with the remaining cash in the form of a bond to get the defendant out of jail. You will need to provide a collateral asset like a deed to your house or car which will go to the bail agent if the defendant misses a court appearance and bail is forfeited.
Can I post bail without getting a bail bond?Yes, you can pay the entire bail amount in cash if you have it available. Most people choose to use bail bonds because they don’t have the funds available.
How much do they cost?Bail bonds cost 10-20% of the bail amount which is known as the bond premium. The amount of the premium varies by state and bail agency. In addition to the premium you will need to provide collateral to make up the different between the bail amount and the cost of the premium. So for example, if bail is set at $20,000 and the bail agent charges a 15% premium you’ll need to pay $3,500 for the bond. You will aso need to provide collateral in the amount of $16,500. This could be the deed to a house or car, jewelry, or other valuable. The agent may also charge other flat fees on top of the premium.
What if I don’t have enough cash for the bail premium?Many bond agents offer payment plans that make it easier for afford the bond premium. You’ll pay less up front but more in the long run because they will charge you interest on the premium.
Do I need a cosigner/guarantor to get a bail bond?Every bondsperson has different criteria when issuing a bond. Most prefer defendants to have cosigner or guarantor to dissuade them from jumping bail. You may be able to forgo having a cosigner in exchange for paying a higher premium.
When do I get the bail bond premium back?The bail premium is non-refundable and will not be returned even if the defendant attends all their hearings and is acquitted.
Does a bail agent need to be licensed?Yes, a bail agent should be licensed by the state Department of Insurance. Always ask a bondsperson to show you their license before signing a contract.
Can I get a bail bond for someone who lives in another state?Yes, they’re known as transfer bonds. A bond is purchased through a local bondsman who transfers it to a bail agent in the jurisdiction the bond is needed.
How do I get my bail money back?If you posted bail without getting a bond you will receive the entire amount back after the trial is finished as long as the defendant attended all scheduled court hearings. The entire amount will be returned even if they are convicted.
What if I jump bail?If a defendant missed a scheduled hearing they will be in violation of their bail and will immediately forfeit any money they paid for bail. In addition, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. The bail agent may use a bounty hunter to track the defendant down and return them to jail.
What happens if I’m convicted?Regardless of whether or not you’re convicted, as long as you attend all scheduled hearings your bail will be returned when the trial is complete.
When is bail revoked?When bail is issued it normally comes with certain restrictions. These commonly include requiring the defendant to attend all their hearings, they cannot be arrested for another crime, they cannot consume alcohol or drugs, etc. If the defendant violates any of these provisions the judge can revoke bail and the defendant will return to jail and forfeit the entire bail amount.
Can I get my bail money back if I change my mind?If you change your mind about posting bail to get someone out of prison you have two options. First, the defendant can surrender and return to jail at which point you can petition the court to get your bail money back. Or second, either the defendant or another party can pay the full bail amount at which point your payment will be refunded.
What is a reinstatement?Reinstatement is the process in which bail that had previously been revoked is reinstated by the court. When this happens bail is no longer forfeited although some fees may be required to process the reinstatement. Additionally, the warrant that was issued after bail was revoked will be dismissed.
How does a surety bond differ from a bail bond?They are the same thing. Both are backed by an insurance company that agrees to pay a defendant's bail in exchange for a premium.
What is a personal recognizance bond?When a defendant is released on their own personal recognizance it means that the court does not consider them a flight risk and releases them from prison without setting bail.


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Clive Johnson

Clive is a bail expert from the Tucson area who started this site to correct a number of myths about the industry. He's also a family man with a wife and three kids. When he's not working he spends his time on the golf course or at the Rotary club.