When you have a family member in jeopardy of spending a long time in jail after they have been accused of a crime, you may be faced with the stressful task of raising money to pay bail. One of the most common ways for people who cannot afford to pay the court directly for the bail is to use the services of a licensed bail bond agent. The agent will enable you to pay a small percentage of the actual bail amount and post a bond to the court to cover the cost of the bail on your behalf. However, if you have never had to go through the process of securing a bail bond before, there are a few things you need to know about the process.
How Does a Judge Determine the Bail Amount?
Unless your relative has been charged with an especially heinous crime, a judge will set a bail amount to be paid to the court to secure the release of the accused.
Judges have the final word on the bail amount. Generally, the judge will take into account several factors when setting bail such as:
- The criminal history of the accused
- Length of residency in the local community
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse
- The physical and mental condition of the accused
In addition to setting bail, the judge may also impose other restrictions such as a curfew, travel limits, and revocation of gun privileges in addition to requiring drug and psychological testing.
How Do You Pay for a Bail Bond?
Bail amounts can range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the crime and the opinions of the judge in charge of setting bail. Your first order of business is to contact a state-licensed bail bond agent. Gather the following information before you call or visit the agent's office.
- Full name of your relative accused of the crime
- The time and date of the arrest
- The booking number
- The location of the jail where your relative is incarcerated
- The exact details of charges
Depending on where you live, you may be able to complete the entire transaction over the phone and electronically. You will need to provide proof of a government-issued photo ID and other documents that show proof of income and residency.
In some cases, you may need to meet the bail bond agent at the jail or visit their office to fill out paperwork.
Bail bond agents charge clients a percentage of the actual bail amount. State laws determine how much agents can charge. For instance, in some states, an agent can only collect up to 15 percent of the bail amount.
You can pay the agent in cash or credit card. Some agents will also accept collateral such as property deeds and stock options.
How Do Bail Agents Ensure That Defendants Will Show Up for Court?
Since bail agents secure your relative's freedom by paying the court a certain amount of money on your behalf as a state-licensed representative, they want to make sure defendants show up so they can get their money back from the court after the case is resolved.
In some states, bail agents can require clients who are considered high risk by courts to wear electronic monitoring and GPS devices.
It is in your best interest to do everything possible to make sure your relative shows up for court; otherwise, you could be on the hook to pay the full bail amount. Plus, the judge in the case will issue a warrant for your relative. In addition, the bail agent has the right to send bounty hunters to find your relative.
However, if you have a good relationship with your relative and they understand the risks of not appearing in court, chances are this extreme scenario will not take place.
For more information, contact a local bail bonds service.