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Bail Glossary

This glossary contains commonly used terms and phrases used by the bail bond industry.

Bail Conditions

Conditions may be applied to a bail bond, and can vary depending upon the type of bail, the restriction of the court, and the bail bond agreement.  One necessary condition of bail is the obligation to appear for all court proceedings.  Other common conditions may be limited travel, continued employment, regular check-ins with the bail agent, or the requirement to attend court mandated classes or treatments.  Failure to comply with bail conditions is not an offense, but may lead to the defendant being arrested and surrendered back to the court, where he or she will be remanded to custody. 

Premium Payments

The bail bond premium is the cost to post a bail bond, which in many states is restricted by law to 10% of the bond amount.  For example, if a bond is set at $10,000, a $1000 premium would be paid to the bail bond company in exchange for posting the bail bond and releasing the defendant from custody.  The bail bond premium is usually paid by cash, check, or credit card.  The premium amount is non-refundable and fully earned upon release of the defendant, regardless of the final disposition of the defendant’s case.  Paying a bond premium to a bail agent is usually a more affordable option than posting a cash bond.

Bail Agreements

This is the contract that exists between the indemnitor(s) and the bail agent.  The agreement generally includes the following: the name and contact information of the indemnitor, the date the bail bond was executed, the bond amount, the criminal charge(s), and the court in which the defendant is required to appear.  Upon signing this agreement, the indemnitor is assuming the responsibility for ensuring that the defendant appears for all of his or her court appearances.  The agreement also states that if the defendant fails to comply with the conditions of the bail bond, the collateral placed as security for the bond may be seized by the bond agency in order to pay the bail amount to the court in the event of forfeiture.  The signature of the indemnitor is required to make this agreement binding. 

Surety Bonds

A surety bond is a contract among three parties; the defendant, the court, and the bail agent.  A bail bond is a type of surety bond used to secure the release from custody of a person charged with a criminal offense.  The defendant or indemnitor will pay a premium in exchange for the bail bonding company’s financial strength to extend surety credit.  In the event of a forfeiture of the bond, the bonding company will pay the forfeiture, and will turn to the defendant or indemnitor for reimbursement. 

Bond Indemnitor

A bond indemnitor is also known as a co-signer or guarantor.  As the bond indemnitor, you are responsible to the court and to the bail agent for the defendant’s adherence to the contract agreement and conditions.  Bond indemnitors are often family members or friends of the defendant. A bond indemnitor takes full responsibility for the defendant’s appearance in court, and will often be asked to pledge collateral or security to guarantee the appearance.  Failure to comply with these conditions may result in the forfeiture of the premium payment as well as the pledged collateral.  

Bounty Hunter

A bounty hunter captures fugitives for a monetary reward.  A bounty hunter is also known as a bail enforcement agent, fugitive recovery agent, skip tracer, and bail fugitive investigator.  Bounty hunters are often hired by bail agents to locate, arrest, and return the fugitive to the jurisdiction of the court.  Bounty hunters must be properly licensed according to the laws of each state. 

Skipping Bail

This term is used when a defendant leaves the jurisdiction of the court, or commits any other act, in order to avoid a required court appearance after a bail bond has been posted on his or her behalf.  Typically, the court will issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest following the missed court appearance and bail is forfeited at a specific time period thereafter. 

Federal Bonds

Federal bonds are bail bonds for criminal cases in the U.S. District Courts, and include interstate crimes. A federal judge determines the bond amounts, as there are no schedules of bail amounts set for individual crimes.  The normal premium charged for a federal bond is typically 10-15% of the bond amount.

Immigration Bonds

An immigration bond is a type of federal bond used for detainees held by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Immigration bonds are similar to state and federal bonds in the respect that they are designed to guarantee the defendant’s appearance at all court proceedings, and immigration charges are also subject to immediate forfeiture should the defendant fail to appear in court.  Unlike state and federal bonds, the only release options for an immigration detainee are cash bonds posted through ICE, and surety bonds posted through a properly licensed bail bondsman. 

Appeal Bonds

An appeal bond is also known as a “Supersedeas Bond.”  This is a type of surety bond that a court requires from an appellant who wants to delay payment of a judgment or sentence until the appeal is over.  

Cash Bonds

A cash amount or money order is paid by the defendant or other individual to cover the total amount of the bail bond. The court holds this money until the defendant’s case has been concluded, at which time the cash is returned.  Full cash bonds provide a powerful incentive for defendants to appear in court.  Failure to appear for court appearances could result in forfeiture of the bail bond, which may ultimately result in the forfeiture of all cash posted. 

Own Recognizance

A defendant is released from jail on the promise that he or she will appear for all scheduled court appearances, without posting bail.  This term is also referred to as, “ROR,” Release on own Recognizance.  In order to determine a defendant’s eligibility for ROR, a court administrator or judge will typically interview the defendant while in custody, and a recommendation is made to the court. 

Collateral

A bail bond company will often require collateral in addition to the premium that is being paid for a bail bond.  Collateral is anything of resale value that is used to secure the amount of the bail bond, such as cars, jewelry, boats, computers, firearms, or the equity in your home.  In some cases, the collateral will remain in the secure possession of the bail agent until the defendant’s case has been concluded.  Collateral is returned after charges are dropped, sentence is determined, or innocence has been proven.   

Removing Bond Liabilities

This is also referred to as “exoneration” or “discharge” of the bail bond.  The liability of a bail bond is removed once all of the terms have been satisfied, which includes attendance at all court proceedings.  The defendant is still responsible for any fines or penalties associated with the case.  Upon court verification of the discharge of the bail bond, the bail agent will typically return items that were pledged as collateral, unless outstanding premium or other payments are due. 

Withdrawal of Bail

The primary condition of a bail bond is the requirement to appear in court, however other conditions may be stipulated by the court or the bondsman such as completion of a treatment program, checking in with the bondsman regularly, or maintaining employment.  If information becomes available that would indicate the defendant’s intent to flee the court, or if certain conditions of the bond are not being met, the bail bond can be withdrawn and the defendant will be returned to custody.   Also, if the defendant poses a threat to the community or commits another crime while out on bond, the court may deny or withdrawal the existing bail bond.  

Right to Arrest

In many cases, bail agents have a greater license to arrest than local law enforcement officers, due to the Supreme Court decision of “Taylor vs. Taintor.”  This decision states that, “When bail is given, the principal is regarded as delivered to the custody of his sureties. Their dominion is a continuance of the original imprisonment. Whenever they choose to do so, they may seize him and deliver him up in their discharge, and if that cannot be done at once, they may imprison him until it can be done. They may exercise their rights in person or by agent. They may pursue him into another state; may arrest him on the Sabbath; and if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose.” Bail agents and bounty hunters are not required to obtain additional warrants or extradition papers, and can enter the residence of the defendant for the purpose of arrest.  Special circumstances or state laws may involve the notification of local law enforcement prior to entry.