Bail bonds are a lower-cost investment to help a suspect leave jail between an initial booking on charges and future court dates. With some charges, bail is set automatically if there are no prior arrests or mitigating circumstances. For all others, bail hearings are following an arrest. At the court appearance, the judge will take into account any state requirements for bail, recommendations from the district attorney, and comments from a defense attorney before setting the final amount. 

When bail is set, the full bail amount can be provided to the court to secure release. For larger bail amounts or smaller bail totals when a person is in a lower income bracket, using a bail bonds service lowers the total amount of upfront cash needed to leave jail. While there are consistencies in many states across the U.S. in how bail bonds work, each state uses its discretion for setting a bail system, allowing the use of bonds and governing the fees associated with using a bond service. 

Where are bail bonds standard? 

In the U.S., most states have a bail bonding system in place, but there are a handful of states where the practice is not allowed. Wisconsin, Washington D.C., Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Oregon do not use bail bonds. Wisconsin, for example, limits setting bail for any reason other than to encourage future participation in court hearings. If a cash bond is set, the defendant needs to have the full cash amount posted. If cash isn't required, a signature bond can be signed that leaves a defendant owing the court the bail amount if the terms of release are violated.

Is the process the same everywhere else?

State statutes dictate how bail bond services can operate. Some states are much more restrictive with the fees a bail bond agent can charge for their service while others allow rates of 10 to 20% of the bail amount. 

For example, when bail is set at $50,000, a 10% fee means the bail bond firm is paid $5,000 to provide the bond. The $5,000 is never returned, even if all court appearances are upheld and the case resolves with a not guilty. Different states may also limit the amount of collateral a defendant or family member needs to put up to back the remainder of the bond. Unlike fees paid to a service, collateral is returned after successful court appearances.

For more information on bail bonds, contact a professional near you.