What is Bail? Do I Need a Bail Bondsman?

If you have ever watched a court drama on television, you may be familiar with how the bail process works. When someone is arrested for a crime, it may take weeks or months before they are tried in a court of law. Instead of waiting in jail for their trial to start, a person may be released on bail, a sum of money paid to the court to ensure that the defendant will appear when their trial date arrives. The bail will then be returned after the court process is finished, providing the defendant appeared in court. There are several different types of bail that are used in criminal law.

Cash Bail

With cash bail, the defendant pays the entire bail with cash, which is held by the court until all proceedings are complete.

Surety Bond

In this instance, a friend or relative of the accused contacts a bail bondsman. The bail bondsman agrees to pay the court if the accused fails to appear for trial and collects a percentage of the bail amount for the service. They also often require some kind of collateral to ensure the defendant appears in court.

Property Bail

The accused can also offer their property as a guarantee to appear in court. A lien is placed on the property by the court, and if they fail to appear, the property can legally be foreclosed on.

Release on Citation

Instead of being arrested and booked for a crime, an officer may issue a citation ordering the person to appear in court.

Release on Own Personal Recognizance

The accused may be released without paying bail. A judge may issue this type of bail if they feel as though it is unlikely the accused will fail to appear in court. This is often for minor, nonviolent crimes.

History of Bail

Bail in the United States originated from a system of bail in England during the 17th century. When the United States gained independence from England in the 18th century, the bail process was written into the constitution under the Sixth and Eighth Amendments. Under these amendments, excessive bail is prohibited and the bail must be offered for all bailable offenses. Later, the Judiciary Act of 1789 deemed all non-capital offenses as bailable. Almost a century later, Congress passed the Bail reform Act of 1966, which was later revised in the Bail reform Act of 1984. This legislation required bail be set at a reasonable price. Also, it allowed for those who were deemed a danger to society to be denied bail.

How to Post Bail

To post bail, the accused is required to pay with cash or check in the amount of the bail, put up property worth the price of the bail, or seek a bail bondsman for a bond.

The Use of a Bail Bondsman

It is always a good idea to speak with a lawyer either before or after the bail is set. Often, a lawyer can present the judge with reasons as to why bail is not necessary or they can also convince the court to lower the bail amount. If bail is set, a bail bondsman can be a good choice if the accused does not have the funds to pay the full amount. A bail bondsman agrees to pay the court if the accused fails to appear. If the accused does not appear in court, the person who signed the contract with the bail bondsman is required to pay the price of the bail to the bondsman. Using a bondsman is not recommended if the person posting bail does not trust that the accused will appear in court.

This article is courtesy of David Michael Cantor, Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney and named partner of the Law Offices of David Michael Cantor. For more information about David, please see his website: http://dmcantor.com.