How to bail bonds work in a criminal case?

Happy Friday, everybody. This week, let’s talk about how bonds work in a criminal case. It’s a really basic concept, but it’s a one that a lot of people don’t understand. So when you are charged with a criminal offense, then the judge or magistrate judge in your case is required to set a bond amount for that particular offense. Now, what a bond is, is it’s a sum of money that is paid to the court that is used to ensure that you appear at all future hearings. See the theory behind a bond is you’re supposed to put up a sufficient amount that you don’t want to lose because at the end of the case, if you post the bond in cash, that money comes back to you, assuming that you’ve made all of your court appearances like you’re supposed to. So the judge is supposed to take all of that into consideration, the severity of the offense, all that stuff, and determine what amount would be just enough for you to not really want to lose, but low enough to where it’s not becoming punitive or impossible for you to raise because the presumption of innocence means that unless you’re a danger to the community or a specific flight risk, a bond must be set to allow you to post it and get out while your charge is pending.

So when you’re charged, you typically have two different options to post that bond. You can either post the bond in cash, or you can post what’s called a surety bond. So when you post a bond in cash, that’s a relatively simple process. Let’s say your bond is a thousand dollars. You or someone you know shows up with a thousand dollars in cash, or a money order, or cashier’s check payable to generally the sheriff’s office of that county. And you give them that amount. They hold on to that amount in a specialized escrow account. And then when the case is over and your bond is discharged, that money minus a small fee comes back to you. You get it all back.

Now, the other option is what’s called a surety bond. That’s the more common option, especially if the bond amount is high enough to where you can’t personally come up with that amount of cash, let’s say 10,000, 20,000, $30,000. What a surety bond is, is you use the services that a bonding company or a bondsman and the bondsman then posts that amount on your behalf. They take the 20,000, $30,000 up there and they pay it on your behalf. In exchange for the convenience of doing that, the bondsman then charges you some fee. Typically, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of whatever the bond amount is. So on a $50,000 bond, you generally have to pay the bondsman about $5,000.

Now the benefit of posting the bond in cash, as I explained earlier, is at the end of the case, all of that money comes back to you. The benefit of posting it through a surety company is you don’t have to come up with a sum all together at once, but you lose that money because they’ve charged the fee and that’s their fee for doing that. So like I said, both options exist. Both of them have their own pros and cons. So if you or anybody that you know has been charged with a criminal offense and a bond has been set and you’d want to know what can you do to either get that amount lower or what your options are in posting that bond, give me a call. I’d be happy to walk you through it. Any other questions you guys have about this or any other topic as always, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to discuss this or any other issues that you’ve got going on that touch criminal law. Either send me an email, give me a call, happy to talk then.

Hope you’re having a great week, have a great weekend. And we’ll see you next time.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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