A bail bond is an agreement by a defendant to appear for trial or forfeit a sum of money set by the court. The bond is underwritten by a bail bondsman. A bail bond is an agreement by a criminal defendant to appear for trial or pay a sum of money set by the court. The bail bond is cosigned by a bail bondsman, who charges the defendant a fee in return for guaranteeing the payment.
A person who is charged with a crime is typically given a bail hearing before a judge. The amount of the bail is at the judge’s discretion. A judge may deny bail altogether or set it at an astronomical level if the defendant is charged with a violent crime or appears likely to be a flight risk. Judges generally have wide latitude in setting bail amounts, and typical amounts vary by jurisdiction. A defendant charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor could see bail set at $500. Felony crime charges have correspondingly high bail, with $20,000 or more not uncommon.
Once the amount of the bail is set, the defendant’s choices are to remain in jail until the charges are resolved at trial, to arrange for a bail bond, or to pay the bail amount in full until the case is resolved. In the last instance, courts in some jurisdictions accept title to a home or other collateral of value in lieu of cash.
Bail bondsmen, also called bail bond agents, provide written agreements to criminal courts to pay the bail in full if the defendants whose appearances they guarantee fail to appear on their trial dates. The agent may also require a statement of creditworthiness or may demand that the defendant turn over collateral in the form of property or securities. Bail bondsmen generally accept most property of value, including cars, jewelry, and houses as well as stocks and bonds.