A long time ago, a rich man got into an argument with another rich man. Instead of fighting a duel that would end the life of one of them, the two agreed to have a tribunal or respected judge settle their problem, but to make sure neither of them left without settling the score, a “surety” representative was found. Here are a few things you may find interesting about the over 1,000-year-old bail system.
A surety was a wealthy friend of one of the accused that agreed to pay all the fees and costs associated with the accused individual if the suspect fled the town or village before meeting with the tribunal or judge to settle the argument. The wealthy patron was also responsible for making sure the accused made it to the meeting.
In the late 1890s, San Francisco, California, founded the first system for collecting bail from accused individuals that would allow them to leave jail and return to their business. Just like the Lehigh County bail bonds you may be familiar with today, the San Francisco bail companies collected money from anyone in jail. If the person didn’t return for his court appointment, a bounty hunter was sent to bring him back to the court – dead or alive.
Today the modern bail system still has some of the residual laws that once revolutionized the legal system, but there many things that have changed. For example, while a bounty hunter may look for someone that skips out on their appointed court meetings, the accused will be brought in alive 99.99 percent of the time. Another change is that bail is set by the state in relationship to the crime and not mandated by the judge.
Bail has changed over the many years it has been used, but one thing has stayed the same – people need bail to get out of jail. You may no longer need a surety for your bail, but you still do need to attend all your court meetings.