What is bail?

Bail is a part of our legal system that permits an accused person to be temporarily released from custody, more commonly referred to as “jail”.  In criminal cases, it is a sum of money, real property or surety bond that needs to be posted by or on behalf of a defendant to guarantee his/her appearance in court.

What is a bail bond?

A bail bond is a financial guarantee made by, or on behalf of a criminal defendant that is used to guarantee his/her appearance in court through the end of trial upon release from custody.  Failure by the defendant to appear will result in a bond forfeiture.

How does a bail bond work?

The court system will set the amount of bail required for the defendant’s release.  Under state law, a surety company can provide a type of insurance policy or “bond” that guarantees payment of the full bail amount to the court if the defendant does not show up for all scheduled appearances.  These bonds are offered by licensed bail bond agencies.  Bail agencies charge a premium for issuing bail bonds, which is a percentage of the total bond amount, typically being 10%.  For example, the premium for a bond in the amount of $50,000 would be about $5,000, plus any additional fees required by the state.  The bail agency is required to charge the premium rate that it has on file with the Department of Insurance.  The premium is not refundable once the defendant is released.

What is the difference between bond amount and bond premium?

The bond amount is the full amount of the bail that was set by the court.  The premium is the dollar amount paid to the bail agency for posting the bond.

Who is an indemnitor/guarantor?

An indemnitor/guarantor is the person(s) willing to be responsible for the defendant while they are out on bail, and co-assumes financial liability to guarantee the full bond amount.

What is a bail bond exoneration?

Bail bond exoneration means that the surety is released from its obligation, and the liability for the bond amount is discharged.  This occurs when the legal process/trial has finished.  It does not matter whether the defendant is found guilty or innocent, or if the case dismissed.  Even  though the bond has been exonerated, any unpaid premiums, fees or charges incurred by the bail agency on the defendant’s behalf are still owed to that agency.

When does a bail bond forfeiture take place?

Bail bond forfeiture results when a defendant’s court appearance is missed.  If a defendant misses a court date, a bench warrant is issued for his/her arrest.  The court also sets a deadline for when the defendant must either be located/returned to custody or the bail bond “reinstated”, or the bail amount must be paid to the court.

What is a bail bond reinstatement?

This is a process in which a defendant who has experienced a bail bond forfeiture can have his/her bench warrant removed and the bail bond re-activated or “reinstated” with the court. This is a legal proceeding that usually requires action by an attorney and could result in fees being paid by the bail bond agency.  These fees are in turn passed along to the defendant/indemnitors.  Because of the time it takes for the courts to process these fees, the billing for this process can take several months to complete.

What is a summary judgment?

A summary judgment is a judgment made by the court against the surety for payment of the bond amount, and is issued by the court following a bond forfeiture.  The summary judgment is issued because the deadline for reinstating the bond or returning the defendant to custody has passed.