February 29, 2024

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Bail Bonds – A Lifeline for Defendants in Need of Financial Assistance

3 min read
Bail is the amount of money a judge sets to release someone arrested for a...

Bail is the amount of money a judge sets to release someone arrested for a criminal case from jail until their trial date. Judges consider several factors when setting bail, including flight risk and the severity of the charges.

Defendants who cannot afford to pay their full bail can ask friends or family members to post their bail on their behalf. The bail bondsman will then secure the collateral, often property such as cars, jewelry, and houses.

Cost

A judge will set a bail amount a defendant must pay to escape jail. However, many people need the full amount. In these situations, bail bonds are a lifeline that can help people stay with their jobs and maintain responsibilities in the community while they await their court case.

Luzerne county bail bonds are surety bonds that allow people to hire a professional who posts the entire bond in exchange for a fee. The fee is typically 10% of the total bond amount, but a lawyer may advocate for a lower fee for their client. The person who pays the bond, often a friend or family member, is called an indemnitor.

These individuals assume significant liability and are financially obligated to appear at every hearing if the accused defendant fails to do so. This legal commitment emphasizes why it is important for the indemnitor to understand fully what they are committing to. Local statistics show that people who utilize bail bonds tend to have higher rates of appearance compliance than those released on their recognizance.

Collateral

Defendants released on bail often must provide collateral, such as property or credit. The idea is that people are more likely to go to court if their friends and family stand in financial danger if they don’t show up for a scheduled hearing.

Many of these defendants can’t afford to post a cash bond. They rely on Bail Bondsman to help them escape jail quickly so they can continue to work, care for their children, and attend to other obligations.

However, despite recent reforms, the industry has been criticized for its non-refundable 10% premium, hidden fees, and exploitative requirements. The legislature passed a law allowing state-registered nonprofit groups to provide low-income defendants free bail to remedy these issues. The law also exempts those groups from the licensing requirements of for-profit bail bond agents. This is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

Appearance

Bail bonds are financial incentives for accused individuals to appear in court. They are often called “surety bonds” because a bail bondsman works with an insurance company to provide financial backing for the bond. A defendant will pay a fee (typically 10% of the total bond amount) to a bail bondsman to secure their release from jail. In return, the bail bondsman guarantees the court that the accused will appear at all their appointed court dates.

The court will issue an arrest warrant if a defendant fails to appear. The bail bondsman will then forfeit the fee and any collateral they used to secure the bond. This is why the accused must attend all their court appearances. This also helps to avoid costly fines and other penalties that can be incurred in the event of a conviction.

Alternatives

While criminal justice advocates and public defenders recognize the need to reform bail, the issue remains complicated. One of the major obstacles is that judges retain considerable discretion when determining pretrial release conditions.

Defendants who cannot afford to pay bail sit in jail for days, months, and, in extreme cases, years. This incarceration does not reflect guilt or innocence and does nothing to protect the community. Rather, it reflects that most people can’t afford to cover a 10 percent non-refundable fee charged by a bail bondsman.

The amount of money required to post bond varies by state and is determined by the judge after arrest, based on whether the accused is considered a flight risk or a continual danger to the public. Some states have set lists that the judge works from to determine the correct bail amount. Others will allow defendants to use property as collateral for the bail amount. In either case, bail bondsmen step in to help.

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