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Understanding Bail

Understanding Bail

Anyone who's ever watched a police procedural TV show can tell you that being "bailed out" means not having to stay in jail after being charged with a crime. However, fewer people understand the actual purpose of bonds in our criminal justice system and what their options might be if they ever find themselves before a judge.

It's Not a Fine—It's Collateral

The biggest and most common misconception about bonds is that they act as some kind of fine, a punishment, for being charged with a crime. However, a bond is set before a trial ever occurs. The accused isn't convicted, so they cannot yet be punished.

Instead, bonds simply work as collateral. Generally speaking, those accused of substantial crimes have two choices: remain in jail until their trial, or pay the bond to secure their release while they wait for their court date. The bond amount (set by a judge) is the amount of money that they accused pays for their freedom and gets back only if they attend their own trial in the future. In this way, it gives the accused incentive to return to court to face their charges.

Different Kinds of Bond

There are different types of bonds that can applied to the accused following their arrest. Which one is applied to each case is decided by the judge based on the seriousness of the charge, the accused's circumstances and criminal history, and the judge's own prerogative.

Different kinds of bonds:

  • Personal recognizance. This is basically a personal promise to the court that the accused will return for their trial. It is usually only available to those with little to no criminal record, or are charged with minor offenses.
  • Cash bonds. These are bonds that are paid directly to the court by the accused. This is commonly known as "bail."
  • Property bonds. In some cases, the accused may be able to put up property as collateral in place of a cash bond. If the accused later fails to make their court date, then the named property is seized by the court.
  • Surety bond. This kind of bond is like a cash bond, but is paid by a third party (and also commonly known as "bail"). If the accused fails to show up to their court date, that third party is at risk of losing the money paid to satisfy the initial bond.

Who can pay a bond?

While ideally the burden of a bond falls directly on the accused, it is often the case the loved ones put up the money to free the accused while they wait for their day in court. Clearly, this has advantages for the accused and, in most cases, the money is returned to whoever pays at the time of trial (regardless of the outcome, as well).

Not all families have the resources to pay large bonds, however. In some cases, they may turn to a bail bond service. These services, sometimes known as bail bondsmen, will charge a nominal fee to pay the accused's entire bond. There is, however, risk involved: when accused individuals who are bailed out by a bondsmen later fail to appear in court, they may force the bondsman to hire a bail enforcement agent (or "bounty hunter") to search for the accused in order to reclaim the bond from the court.

If you and your loved ones are dealing with a criminal charge for the very first time and are looking for a proven counselor to help navigate you through the process, The Rossi Law Firm can help. From the initial arrest to a final verdict or settlement, our dedicated and aggressive Buffalo criminal defense attorney is prepared protect your rights and advocate on your behalf throughout every step of the process.

Want to learn more about what our firm can do for you during this difficult time? Contact us today.