For those who have never encountered the criminal justice system, bail bonds and how they work can be confusing. Bail involves payment to a court ensuring that the arrestee, known as the defendant, will appear in court as required if he or she is allowed out of jail. It is a way for a defendant to meet legal obligations during a criminal case without the need to stay in custody.
Bail allows for a defendant’s freedom while attempting to mount a criminal defense. It is also a critical piece of the criminal justice system because it reduces the number of defendants taking up jail space. Limited jail space is better used to house dangerous criminals. Allowing bail for minor offenses or non-violent offenses helps ensure that innocent people are safe from dangerous criminals.
A judge may set bail at any point in time after a person enters the criminal justice system. Typically, it occurs after a person is arrested and appears for the first time in court. At this first hearing, a judge will charge a defendant with a crime and set bail. It is important to note that a court has not determined guilt at this point. Instead, a judge has issued a criminal charge that will require defense in court.
Most jurisdictions will have a bail schedule that dictates the amounts for certain crimes. These bail schedules and state laws dictate whether a defendant can receive bail after being booked or if a hearing must take place. Once a bondsman collects payment for an issued bail, the agent will remit it to the court. He or she will also charge a fee for service. For example, Pennsylvania bail bonds agents may charge 10 to 15 percent of the bail amount.
The process of posting bail is complex. It also involves financial risk. Getting qualified legal advice and seeking out bail experts is the best option to navigate the criminal justice system.