A bail bond is an insurance policy that allows a person who has been arrested and charged with a crime to be released pretrial. It guarantees that they will show up for all court appearances, so if they miss even one court date, the policy goes into default (also known as forfeiture status).
It is at this point that a bail bond agent -- along with the individuals who have co-signed and vouched for the defendant -- plays his most critical role. Once a bond goes into forfeiture, the clock starts ticking.
The bail agent has a specified period of time, which varies from one jurisdiction to another, to seek out and find the defendant and remand him or her back into custody. If the defendant can’t be located within this time frame, the bond goes into judgment. It has now become the bail agent’s responsibility to pay the full amount of the bond to the court.
For varying reasons, it’s in everyone’s best interests to get the defendant back into custody. Often, the family, loved one or friend who has cosigned on the bond or put up collateral on behalf of the defendant plays a significant role in this process.
What do you do if you’re on the hook for someone you’ve bailed out? Just how much are you liable for? And how do you protect yourself?
- have a strong relationship to the person you are bonding out
- understand the details of the case and the charges that the defendant is facing
- provide the bail agent as much relevant information on the defendant both before and during the process
- have the full amount of the bond readily available should you have to pay
You should never bail someone out of jail with whom you do not have a strong relationship. Casual acquaintances, extended family and friends of friends can be much bigger flight risks than close immediate family members to whom you have strong emotional ties. Ultimately, it is important to understand that you are putting yourself, your family and, potentially, your assets at great risk should the person you bail out decide to not show up and disappear.
By understanding the details of the case, you can make a more informed decision on whether you can or should put yourself on the line for the person who is asking to be bailed out. Ask yourself -- are they responsible? Do they have a lawyer? Are they innocent? Will they keep their promise to show up? Only you can know the probable answers to these questions. It is critical that you fully understand the risks and potential downsides before you agree to indemnify anyone’s bail bond agreement.
Do provide the bail agent as much relevant information on the defendant both before and during the process
During the underwriting process -- when a bail agent gathers information on the defendant and their case to determine whether they will agree to write the bond -- you should provide as much relevant information and background on the individual as you can. These details are vitally important. Not only will it assist in determining whether the defendant will be released at all, more important, it will help the agent locate him in the event they jump bail.
Relevant information includes job status and location, current residence, family contacts, friend contacts and social media account information. The more information you provide, the better you can protect yourself -- and the greater the likelihood the bail agent will write the bond.
When you work with a bail bond agent, whether it be as a defendant or an indemnitor bailing someone else out of jail, be certain that you have resources readily available to pay the full amount of the bond. This is important in the event the defendant cannot be reached after the allotted time period expires and the bond goes to judgment or default.
Since you took the risk, it is your responsibility to pay the bail bond agent the full amount of the bond since they will be, in turn, paying it to the court. If you have put up collateral to cover the cost of the bond, the bail agent will transfer it into cash or you will need to make other payment arrangements until the full amount is paid.
It is never a good idea to try and run or hide from a bail agent. They are trained professionals and they will eventually find you. In fact, as an industry, over 98% of defendants released on a commercial bail bond go to court or are remanded back into custody. That makes bail the most effective form of pretrial release. When a bail agent is financially on the hook, they will put together the resources needed to find the defendant. In addition, the individual who has indemnified the bond, i.e., vouched for the defendant, is solely responsible for paying the judgment if they don’t show up. Hiding a defendant is definitely not a good move!
If you are an individual responsible for paying a bail bond that has gone into forfeiture and has decided vanishing is a good way to avoid paying, think again. A bail agent has as much incentive to find you as they do the defendant who has skipped. Many bail agents are also professional investigators (and often have law enforcement backgrounds), so they are very good at tracking and monitoring defendants and those close to them.
Not only do they have the resources to finding people, they may also bring legal suit against you and your assets for breach of your signed bail bond agreement. Family members, loved ones and friends of defendants often put up collateral. If either a defendant or the indemnitor runs, bail agents have the legal right to take ownership of the collateral.
Because you’ll be working with your bail agent throughout the trial process, building a trusting relationship is important. Unlike public sector pretrial release programs that simply ask questions without verifying answers, a qualified bail agent will absolutely verify everything.
Provide clear, thorough and accurate answers so that you can be ensured of complying with your agreement, while they provide you with the best service possible.
The concept of bail was created to ensure accountability in our criminal justice system. When someone makes a promise to the court they are required to keep it or otherwise be held accountable. In the case of bail, this means that you or the defendant whom you have bailed out will show up for all court cases. Failure to do so leaves the person who financially secured the bail bond on the hook for the full amount of the bond. This has the potential of destroying the personal finances of an individual.
If you ever find yourself in the situation of having to bail out someone you know, and then suffering the double whammy of having them skip out on the bail bond which you have indemnified, do everything you can to work with and help your bail bond agent. Trust them to do their job to find the defendant and then remand them back into custody. Just remember that if the bond goes to judgment or default, you may well have to stand behind your promise to pay the full amount of the bond.
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