Most people never give the issue of bail bonds a second thought until they need to use this valuable service. A quick and easy-to-use guide can help dispel the fear of the unknown, so read on and learn how to take action when your loved one calls on you for help getting out of jail.
Call the Jail
You will need to find out if your loved one has been offered bail and how much the bail will be. If no bail has been granted, it is likely that the judge felt the need to keep your loved one behind bars until their court date. You might want to hire a defense attorney or use the public defenders' office to find out more about the bail situation. The bail is set, in most cases, at the arraignment. This meeting usually occurs soon after the arrest, though there might be a delay if the arrest took place on the weekend. Your loved one will have a chance to enter a plea of "guilty," "not guilty," or "no contest" (nolo contendere) at the arraignment.
Understand the Difference in Bail and a Bond
Most of the time, bail is set at thousands of dollars. The amount of bail is commensurate with the crime the defendant is accused of, their previous records, their community ties, and more. Bail is often too expensive for most people to afford, so that is where bonding companies step in. Bail bonding agencies provide freedom from jail without having to pay the full amount of the bail.
The bond is usually only a fraction of the bail and is thus more affordable. You might find that the bail is about 10% or so of the full bail. For example, if the bail is set at $10,000 you would only need to pay the bail bonds-person $1,000. Those funds are not refundable, however. If you paid the full $10,000 and your loved one appeared at subsequent court appearances as agreed, the full amount paid would be refunded to you.
Contact a Bail Bonding Agency
You can find these agencies in a phone book or online, and many of them answer their phones 24/7. You can even use a bail bond to get someone released from jail over the phone, in some cases. If you are not in the same city, some bail bond services will accept certain forms of payment over the phone. You can expect to be questioned closely by the bonding agent about the reliability of your loved one and the chances they will appear in court to face the judge on the appointed day. If your loved one fails to show up, they may contact a "bounty hunter" to track them down.
To learn more about bail and bail bonds, speak to a friendly bail bonds-person.