If you have a family member behind bars, you might be willing to do just about anything to free them. Bail bonds are designed for just this purpose. Once a court sets bail, you can either pay the fee directly to the court or borrow the cash from a bail bondsman.
Here's a quick guide to make sure that you understand your rights when you go through this process:
Bond vs. Appearance Bond
A traditional bond works like a deposit, you pay 10-15% of the bond to bail bondsman or 100% to the court, and the person being held behind bars is released until their court date. If the person you paid bond for doesn't show up for their court date, the bond is kept by the court and a warrant for their arrest is issued. Aside from making sure that the bondsman you work with charges a fee consistent with those in your area, you should also make sure that you clearly understand their fees before you give them any money.
An appearance bond (or cash bond) differs from a traditional bond because the entirety of the bond must be paid in cash. Appearance bonds are typically set if an individual has a history of missed payments (fines, dues, child support, etc.) or skipped court dates. If the friend or family member you're considering posting bond for has a history of any of these offenses, you'll likely need to post their bond in cash. However, if your friend or family member has a relatively clean record and/or substantial assets to serve as collateral, a lawyer might be able to final a motion to make the bond traditional.
Posting an Appearance Bond
If you're posting an appearance bond, you'll need to abide by the following steps.
- Take It to Court: if possible, post your cash bond in court. This will expedite the process and may gain a release for the friend or family member behind bars much quicker.Posting bond at a jail can sometimes delay the release of an individual by up to two weeks. Thus, you should always try to post bond in court.
- Pay the Exact Amount: When you attempt to post the bond, make sure that you have the exact amount specified by the judge. Most jails do not provide change. It's also critical to demand a receipt that's signed and dated by the supervisor on duty at the jail. This will ensure that you can direct any questions might have to a supervisor at the jail.
- Transfer the Bond: Once you have secured bond, you will need to provide the court with a receipt of the bond. Having it signed and dated will make the process much easier for the presiding judge.
- Understand Refunds: As long as the individual you posted bond for shows up to court, you should receive a refund of your bond within two to six weeks. If the payments take longer, you should head to court with your receipt and any paperwork pertinent to the case.
Failure to Appear (FTA)
The worst case scenario when you posted bond for someone is when they fail to appear in court. Just because they might be FTA, however, doesn't mean that you will lose all of your money. A skilled attorney can file a review of the FTA. If the individual who failed to appear in court can prove that some extenuating circumstance kept them from showing up to court on time, the judge can reschedule their case, which renders their FTA null and void. You should always ask your bail bondsman about FTA consequence before you give them any money.