Hundreds of arrests are made each day in the State of California and for the vast majority of those arrested, the constitutional right to bail is their only hope of resuming a normal life while muddling through the often lengthy and arduous process of settling their cases. The unfortunate truth is that even through circumstances in which charges are quickly dropped due to lack of evidence or blatant wrongful arrest, just a few days in jail can lead to job loss, distraught families, and irreversible exposure to the crass and often dangerous prison system. Much like the unfortunate happenstance of an automobile accident, misunderstandings that lead to arrest can befall even the most conscientious and law abiding citizens.
What is a Bail Bond? In its most simplest terms, a bail bond is an insurance policy (insuring the attendance of all court dates) bought by the defendant and often a cosigner FOR the court. Bailing out of jail is a long established constitutional right of all those arrested in the United States of America; withheld only in extreme cases to be mentioned later in this article. A bail bond is a promise to the state that the accused will return to all given court dates until their charges have been settled through sentencing. With a bail bond, the state or federal court system, allows the accused conditional release from custody so they can reassume normal functioning during their trial. Without a bail bond, the accused will stay in jail for the duration of their trial and are brought to and from court dates while in active custody. Like all legally binding promises, a bail bond requires a reliable backing that holds enough incentive to fulfill it’s requirements.
In most states, the driving inducement that validates a bail bond is monetary based. Specific offenses are assigned a standardized cash amount that increases in correlation to the severity of the offense, likelihood of returning to court, and criminal history. For example, a small non-violent crime can necessitate a bail amount of just $500 while a charge as serious as murder could require a bail bond as high as $1 million. The bail amount set for each charge is the sum of money bartered and forfeited to the court if the accused that is out on bail does not report to his trial to face his or her charges. Accordingly, if someone is out of jail between their arrest and their sentencing on a $10,000 bond, and they do not attend their assigned court dates, and are not presented for rearrest, the court is owed $10,000 in compensation for the broken contract of promised attendance. The process and options vary by state but in California an arrestee has two options when opting to bail out of jail. They can post the full cash bail with the court or they can pay a private bail bonds company to assume responsibility for that full bail amount by paying them a small percentage of the total (called the premium).
If one decides to post the full cash bail, they take the entirety of the ordered bail amount and give it to the courts as collateral bartered for the individual’s temporary freedom. The courts hold that money until the conclusion of the case and either release it–if the accused has timely faced trial–or keep it–if the accused fails to attend court as contracted. If sentencing includes a fine, the full bail refund will be less the total debt of that fine and any other court, jail, housing, or miscellaneous fees. Often times no payment plan will be offered for this as the amount is already there for the taking.
Most charges necessitate a bail amount in the tens of thousands and a majority share of Americans do not have a large amount of cash available to them at any given time. Fortunately, for instances when full cash bail is not achievable, bonding out can still be done with the service of a bail bonds company. Bail bonds companies offer an insurance policy honored by the State of California and that policy is as equally valid as full cash bail for the temporary release of an individual during their case. A drastically smaller percentage of money is needed to pay bondsmen than is needed to post the full bail, making bonding out possible on a much wider scale of incomes. In California this rate is up to ten percent of the bail amount. Bail bonds companies have employees skilled at finding people that have run to avoid facing trial, but also have the money needed to cover the bond amount if they are unable to present the accused for sentencing.
Ultimately, the purpose of bail is to protect the livelihood of individuals facing charges, while still insuring that those that have committed crimes will be presented to the courts to face justice. The larger the offense, the less likely a non-law abiding citizen is to show up to and face possible repercussions. The loss of major financial collateral is designed to hold people accountable while they are allowed to continue life out of custody.
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