If you're like most people, you don't exactly end up in a situation in which you're expected to bail yourself or a friend out of jail on a frequent basis. As such, you're probably not too sure how the process works. And much of what you think you know about posting bail, such as "facts" you've gathered from television and the media, may not be true at all. The bail system can get complicated, so make sure you don't fall prey to any of these misconceptions.
Misconception 1 — If you can't come up with the full amount of bail, you will have to stay in jail.
When you are arrested for allegedly committing a crime and are put in jail, the judge may elect to release you if a certain amount of bail is paid. Depending on the nature of the crime you are charged with, this bail amount could be $500, or it could be $100,000 or more. It would seem as though if you can't come up with this bail amount, you'd have to stay in jail until your trial. But this is not exactly accurate. Someone has to pay the court the amount of your bail, but that someone does not have to be you or a family member. There are companies called bail bond agents that can pay the bail for you in exchange for a fee.
Misconception 2 — Bail bond companies are all shady operations.
Some people are afraid to use a bail bond company because they have seen them portrayed in movies as being underground, barely legal operations owned by shady mobsters. Surely, there are some questionable bail bond companies, just as there are questionable businesses in every industry. However, most bail bond companies are totally above-board and provide a necessary service to the public. Hire a company with positive online reviews and a few years' history, and you should not have to worry.
Misconception 3 — You can't hire a bail bond company if you don't have the cash to pay them.
The bail bond company will still require a fee before they are able to post the rest of the bail amount. This is money you won't get back. But what if you do not have the cash to pay a bail bond company? You're not necessarily stuck in jail. Many bail bond companies will accept property as payment. For example, you could give them a car, a valuable piece of jewelry, or the like. They may require a greater value in property than in cash. For instance, they may demand $500 for their services but accept a ring worth $1000 instead since they have to take the time to sell the ring. Not all bail bond services offer this option, but many do — so ask before you assume.
Misconception 4 — Your bail bond agent can make a deal on your bail.
You may have seen TV shows in which the bail bond agent shows up, offers the court less than your bail amount, and ends up making a generous profit by charging you a fee based on the full amount of bail rather than the reduced offer. This simply cannot happen. The bail bond agent is a private business, not an agent of the court, and they have no say in the amount of bail the judge is asking for. If they bail you out, they will be required to pay the same amount you would have to pay if you were to post bail yourself.
Now that you know a bit more about the reality of bail and bail bonds, you'll be prepared if you ever need to bail a friend out of jail.