The set amount of money paid in exchange for one’s freedom and release after an arrest is called Bail. In most cases, when the police arrest an accused person, such accused person will be booked – a process where essential details about the accused person are recorded. This information includes name, address, birthday, appearance and of course the said offence. In the process, the police will conduct background checks, followed by a mug shot. Until booking takes place, no accused person can secure their release, which can be done immediately after booking in some cases especially if the crime committed is less grievous.
For serious crimes, the accused person can only be released after a bail hearing where a judge will assess the accused person’s eligibility for bail and the cost and other conditions determined. In many instances, the severity of the crime committed, past criminal records and imminent threat to the community affects the amount of bail and other terms surrounding it.
Interestingly, most people who have not been involved in a court case or do not have careers related to law, just hear the term bail used loosely and did not precisely know what it means and how it can be effected.
If you are in that category above, you may wonder. Why does anybody have to pay to secure his or her release if they have not been proven guilty?
While bails are not determined based on the financial capability of the accused person, our justice systems around the world employ it as a financial guarantee that an accused person will appear in court, thus allowing for proper investigation without having to remand the accused person in custody. Bail will enable people to live their lives normally until they are proven either innocent or guilty; it allows the accused person prepare a strong legal defense and to take care of other affairs. After paying the said amount on bail to the police, the accused person will be released and will have such bail amounts refunded once they show up in court. If peradventure, the accused person does not show up in court, the money paid to secure the bail will be forfeited, and the accused person will be re-arrested by the police.
We have laid an excellent premise, which can allow us to peruse precisely what bail bonds are.
Of course, bail bonds are effected to secure the release of an accused person too, but it defers this way. Suppose Mr. A who is the accused person of a particular crime is not able to pay the amount set for the bail. Mr. A can seek the services of a bond agent as they are called, who will pay on his behalf and serve as surety before the court. Most bond agents charge a non-refundable fee of about 10-20% of the total amount payable as bail for their services. Although the accused person will still be responsible for paying the whole amount stated on the bail and other terms as required to the bond agent, the bondsman, will agree to settle the rest of the bail if the accused person jumps the bail conditions, by tendering a bond before the court.
So how does this affect the ordinary person out there?
Bail bonds have their merits and demerits. When you consider bail bonds critically, you may not be able to decide which side of the debate you fall.
On the part of the accused person, bail bonds ease them of financial constraints and ensure that the accused person does not get involved in illegal activities. With bail bonds in the picture, the accused person does not have any restriction. If it happens that the accused person does not present himself, the bondsman or bond agent will be required to pay the bail amount and interest, but will not be held accountable for the crime. Instead, an arrest warrant will be issued for the accused person. Although many times, the bond agent undergoes the trouble of looking for the accused person too.
Recognizable bail and signature bail are alternatives that accused persons can use if it turns out that they cannot afford their bail amount. However, given the flimsy nature of recognizable bail and signature bail, most courts stick with bail bonds as they are stricter because of the financial implications and other conditions attached to it.