Bail agents get asked this question often. A bail bond fee, also known as a premium, is akin to an insurance product where an individual pays a fee for a product or service. In the case of a bail bond, the bail agent is offering to get your loved one out of jail and assume financial liability for the defendant and guarantee that they will appear for all required court appearances. Many applications for services also charge non-refundable fees, such as an application for enrollment in school or a loan application.
In return for accepting this liability, the bail agent will require a non-refundable fee, usually 10 percent of the total bond, and some form of collateral, such as jewelry, a car title, equity in a home or other asset that has value. Bail bonds offer the defendant a chance to be freed from jail for a fraction of the total bail amount. Bail amounts will vary depending on the charge. Many non-violent misdemeanor offenses have bail amounts of $500 with more violent or serious offenses having higher bail amounts. For instance, a charge of battery can have bail set at $2,500. Posting bail directly with the court would require that the full $2,500 be paid for release and many people don’t have the resources to do that. Using the services of a bail agent would require a non-refundable fee of $250. The bail agent would then guarantee the full amount of the bail with the court on behalf of the defendant. If the defendant fails to appear for any court appearance and cannot be returned to jail, the bail agent then must pay the full amount of the bond to the court within a specified amount of time.
Collateral is an extra layer of accountability for the defendant to adhere to conditions of release. Unlike the non-refundable fee, collateral will be returned when the defendant’s court case is completed and if they appeared at all required court hearings and paid off all financial obligations. This is regardless of whether the defendant is found guilty, innocent or the charges are dropped.
A co-signer is also required on the bail bond as another layer of accountability. A co-signer is someone who is financially stable and accepts the financial burden for appearance of a defendant. They are obligated legally to fulfill the requirements of the bail bond to the bail agent and court.
Regardless of the outcome of a case, the bail agent delivered the services outlined in the bail contract; the disposition of a defendant’s case was not part of the financial transaction. The premium paid was for the services and expertise rendered by the bail agent to get a defendant released from jail and guarantee their appearance in court.
The bail bond industry saves taxpayers millions of dollars annually and is user-funded. Bail agents live and work in communities all across the country – their services are invaluable to public safety and to the overall criminal justice system.