Insurance policies and coverage are pretty much par for the course in most people’s lives: auto insurance, life insurance, health and medical insurance, home insurance, accidental death insurance, etc. It seems like we can get coverage for a great number of possible events in our lives, and insurance helps us to manage the risks if they do happen. Most insurance companies offer a wide range of coverage, depending upon the type of insurance you are after, and the amount of coverage you are looking for. Not all insurance companies, however, will be willing to cover the cost of bail should you be incarcerated and wish to gain freedom, however temporary, while waiting for, and during the course of your trial. For that, you would need the services of a bail bondsman or a bail bonds company or agency, and preferably one that is covered by their own insurance.
In this arrangement, you are not covered by insurance per se, but your bail is covered by the bail bond agency for a pre-arranged fee, usually ten percent of the total bail amount. This percentage is generally fixed by law, and is given as a fee to the bail bondsman, and is therefore nonrefundable. In exchange, the bail bondsman agrees to put up a surety bond that would be accepted by the court, gaining you temporary release from incarceration pending resolution of the trial. All this, however, is made upon the explicit understanding that you, as the defendant, will show up on your scheduled court dates, despite having received temporary liberty.
Bail bondsmen or bail bond companies are usually licensed to operate by the state, which means that the court officials are aware of who are the legally operating bail bond agencies within their jurisdiction. If you’re accused of a crime and arrested in San Diego, then bail bondsman might be your solution to getting out of jail, bail bond companies usually put up a blanket bail that is acceptable to the local court system, which means that they will not have to put up separate bonds for each defendant released on their surety. This is a commercial arrangement where the bail bonds company agrees, for a fee, to cover your bail in the event that you do not appear for court, thus securing your release from custody. It is a risk that no insurance company will agree to cover.
For defendants who do not have the financial capability to pay for their bail, this is the most feasible option. They end up paying only a fraction of the amount of bail, and even though they may never get this amount back, they are also now legally allowed their freedom, however temporary. If they comply with all the conditions of the bail, and show up dutifully during the scheduled hearings and trial, then they do not have to pay anything else. This, even though bail may have been set at an exorbitant amount that they will never be able to afford.
Strictly speaking, however, the risks of such an arrangement is, for the bail bondsman, quite minimal. All they need to do is to make sure that the defendants appear in court. Even if defendants skip out on them and jumps bail, the bail bondsman covering his bail has ready and legal recourse in the services of a bounty hunter, who work professionally to bring a “skip” (or a defendant who skips bail) back to a court’s jurisdiction. Should the bounty hunter and the bail bondsman succeed in bringing back a skip, chances are that the court will impose a higher bail amount, which means a higher fee for the bail bondsman.
Many times, bail bond agreements are made with conditions that guarantee the performance of the defendant of their undertaking to appear in court: reporting requirements, for instance, that help the bail bondsman ensure the continued presence of the defendant within the local jurisdiction. If the defendant fails to meet those conditions, even before trial has started, the bail bond agency has the discretion to declare the bail bond agreement as cancelled. If any payment has been made by the bail bond agency to the courts, they will seek recourse or reimbursement from the defendant or his co-signer, whether in cash or against the value of any property that the defendant or his co-signer has put up as collateral. Even if the bail bonds company or agency ends up paying the total amount of the defendant’s bail, risk is minimized further for the bail bonds company by their coverage from an insurance company that is in the business of underwriting bail bonds. These kinds of arrangements have become almost an integral part of the court system of most state jurisdictions in the United States, and offers criminal defendants the ability to meet their bail requirements even if the amount of their bail is too steep for them.