Sufficient Surety in the Criminal Justice System

The commercial bail industry has a long and historic partnership in the criminal justice system. The purpose of bail is to ensure the appearance of a defendant in court. Commercial bail has done this for generations in the U.S. with an astounding record of reliability and accountability at no cost to the taxpayer. It is a system that protects our communities.

The driving tenant of the term “sufficient surety” in the criminal justice system means that a guarantee is given that an accused criminal will appear in court until disposition of their case.

A surety is an individual who undertakes an obligation to pay a sum of money or to perform some duty or promise for another in the event that person fails to act. They promise a court to supervise a defendant while they are out of jail, often pledging an amount of money or property to the court to do so.

A surety underwriter is a person who reviews a surety bond application and determines if the company can provide the bond in question. They evaluate risk both for the company and the client seeking a bond. A surety underwriter has a responsibility to both the client and the company to minimize risks.

A bail agent acts as “surety” for defendants they post a bond for and in turn, are underwritten by a surety insurance company. The bail agent promises the court that they will ensure the defendant’s appearance in court.

Bail or bond (which means the same thing) is an amount of money pledged in cash, property, or surety bond for the purpose of making sure that a person attends all required court appearances. The bond allows an arrested person to be released from jail until his or her case is completed.

When defendants use a bail bond agent for release from jail, they pay the agent a small non-refundable fee (usually 10 percent of the total bond amount) and the agent acts as a surety for that defendant. If the defendant fails to appear for any court proceeding, the bail bond agent must pay the full amount of the bond to the court if the defendant cannot be apprehended and returned to jail within a specified amount of time per state statute.

Victims of crime depend on the criminal justice system to ensure that defendants are released on sufficient surety to guarantee appearance in court. When there is no “skin in the game,” or a sufficient guarantee that the accused criminal will appear in court, they often don’t.

The commercial bail industry is the only entity in the criminal justice system that provides sufficient surety to the taxpayers and victims of crime. The industry guarantees the appearance of the defendant in court and is user-funded, not taxpayer-funded. Taxpayer-funded pretrial release systems and the use of risk-based assessment instruments using only an algorithm to determine risk offer no such guarantee. Yet they are being touted as the panacea for bail reform across the country.

When the criminal justice system fails to create sufficient punishment to deter the action the law seeks to prevent, criminals take the laws to be mere suggestions. When criminals don’t fear the consequences of their actions, crime spikes.