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What is a Surety Bail Bond?

  • October 17, 2017

A Surety Bail Bond is an alternative to cash bail bonds, wherein instead of paying cash, the release of a prisoner from jail pending trial is arranged on the basis of the financial guarantee of a person or the surety to make payment. This is usually only allowed in cases where the bail is set at no higher than the amount of $5,000.

What usually happens is that the bail bondsman will be coordinating with a person, usually a relative or loved one of the person applying for bail. They will co-sign a promissory note to pay the full amount of the bail if the defendant does not show up for court.  They will also need to pay the fee for the bail bondsman, which is usually set at ten percent of the total bail amount.  This fee is non-refundable, regardless of what else happens during the course of the trial.

Alternatively, the bail bondsman could, with the coordination of the defendant’s relative or loved one, and upon payment of a ten percent fee, post surety themselves, taking collateral in the form of property or real estate in case defendant should jump or skip bail.

In a sense, you are availing yourself of the services of a bail bondsman for the fee of ten percent of the total bail amount, and instead of paying the total bail amount to secure a defendant’s release, the bail bondsman will post a surety bail bond instead. This is the usual course taken by most people who do not have the financial capacity to pay the entire bail amount, and certainly do not have the financial solvency to wait until the case is resolved before getting their money back, if at all.

In a way, a surety bond functions similarly to insurance, where courts allow a defendant temporary freedom pending trial, but making sure, as far as they are able, that the defendant will return when their court date has arrived. If they do not, then courts can go after the co-signer for the full amount of the bail.

The bail bondsman tries to minimize the risk for the co-signer by securing the cooperation of the co-signer to help locate the defendant and to bring them back. Alternatively, the bail bondsman can hire a bounty hunter who would do the same work of locating the defendant and bringing them back to face the judge.  If the bounty hunter succeeds in bringing them back into custody, the co-signer may only be liable for the cost of the services of the bounty hunter, and not the full amount of the bail. Bondsman at assures that co-signing a bond carries a lot of risk in certain cases, that’s why cash bonds might be a preferred option.

Cash bonds, on the other hand, are paid to cover the total amount of the bail. Compared to surety bonds, cash bonds are fairly simple to understand. The judge sets bail, and the defendant can be released pending trial when he puts up the total amount of the bail amount. Those who usually avail of cash bonds are those who are financially able to cover the total amount of the bail, and who have the capacity to absorb the temporary loss of the bail amount pending resolution of the case. In general, cash bonds are set at a higher amount precisely because it is assumed that those who can cover the total amount of bail can absorb the possible loss of said amount, thus increasing the risk that they might not show up for court. If they don’t appear on their court date, then the cash bond is deemed forfeited.

By contrast, a surety bond is availed of most often among defendants because it means that the defendant only has to put up a percentage of the total bail amount, usually ten percent.  He does not need to come up with the entire bail amount in order to secure his temporary release.

A bond may be made with conditions, and the defendant must make sure that he understands the conditions of the bond, at the risk of the cancellation of the bail bond. Some of the general conditions that can be set include checking in regularly with the bail company, or not leaving town. If such conditions are not met, the bail company can cancel the bail bond, and defendant forfeits the money paid, while at the same time being taken once more into custody.  The bail bondsman has a vested interest in making sure the defendant shows up for the court, which is why they often hire bounty hunters.