The history of bail in America is nearly as old as the country itself. Since 1789 there has been a bail system allowing noncapital offenses release until trial for a surety, an exchange of money.
Still, it’s not every day that you personally need to bail someone out of jail. It can be a confusing and overwhelming process. Hearing bail set at $300,000 is enough to make your stomach drop.
If you’re not familiar with the bail process, here are five tips that will take the stress out of posting bail.
1. Stay Put
When you get the call from jail that your loved one has been taken into custody, your first instinct is to rush down and sort things out. Despite how it appears on TV, you can’t just swoop in, throw some money on the counter, and take your teenager home with you.
Instead of waiting around at the jail, stay put. Get online and start looking for bail bond services near you. Make a phone call and get the ball rolling so that once your friend has been processed, you’re calm and ready to post bail.
2. Estimate the Bail Amount
While you won’t know the bail amount for sure until it’s set, you can get a pretty good idea. Common crimes have standard bail amounts.
Most misdemeanors carry bonds under $3000, some of them under $500. A quick search online will get you a chart of judicial district guidelines for suggested bail.
In some cases, the bail isn’t set without a court appearance before a judge. Violent crimes, criminal history, and mounting evidence for a conviction can drive up the cost of bail.
3. Do the Paperwork
Once you know the price, you’re ready to determine if you’ll need help paying bail. If you can rustle up a couple hundred dollars, go ahead and post bond yourself.
If you’re dealing with impaired driving or certain felonies, you might find it harder to come up with several thousand or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That’s where bail bond services come in handy. For a small fee, bond agencies assume the risk of a weighty bail. Before you contact a bondsman, get some paperwork together to streamline the process.
You’ll need the defendant’s name, date of birth, and social security number. You’ll also need to know information about the facility where your loved one is being held, like the name and phone number.
Your bondsman will ask you questions about your relative’s background and criminal history, including pending warrants. It’s also good to make a note of the crime they’re charged with and any booking or inmate numbers.
4. Know the Conditions
If you’ve never had to deal with the criminal justice system, posting bail might be an unfamiliar concept.
What does bail mean in your situation? It’s simply an exchange of money to guarantee that a defendant will show up for their court date if only to recoup the money spent on bail.
Regardless of the verdict, bail gets returned after required court appearances are met. If you post bail out-of-pocket, you’ll get the money back. If you go through a bond service, they’ll recover their investment.
The fee paid to the bail bond agent, usually 15% of the bail amount, is non-refundable because of the risk assumed by the agency.
5. Show Up
What happens when a bond becomes due and the defendant doesn’t appear in court? Bondsmen have the ability to arrest a defendant in the process of bond revocation.
Showing up in court is the most important part of posting bail.
Posting Bail Doesn’t Have to Be a Mystery
Posting bail doesn’t have to be a mysterious and stressful process. If you gather all the pertinent paperwork and find a reputable bondsman, you can get your loved one home in just a few hours.