Bail is one of those words that we all hear all the time, and yet most of us don’t actually know what it means. Recently, California passed a law that ended cash bail. Good? Bad? Who knows? Someone in the news is denied bail. Good? Bad? Who knows?
This may not seem like something worth knowing about, but that’s only because you haven’t ever needed to understand it…yet. None of us can be certain that we won’t need to ever post bail, either for ourselves or someone we know.
Because of that, we should all have a decent idea of just what bail is.
Thankfully, Horst Law in Nashville has provided a pretty comprehensive explanation of the process for us.
Before getting to how you post bail, we have to talk about a few basics. First, we should discuss why bail exists at all. Bail exists to ensure a person who has been charged with a crime shows up in court. The idea is that if there is no financial incentive to show up, far more people would simply run away after they’ve been charged. If you pay bail, you only get that money back once the person charged shows up in court to face those charges.
Next, we need to know how bail is determined. According to Horst Law, this can happen in two ways. A bail amount can be set for small crimes within the first day. Otherwise, the police can request a judge to set the amount, which can take up to five days.
Until the amount of the bail is determined, there’s not much you can do to get out of police custody.
Now that there’s a bail amount set, you can pay it in several different ways. You can put the whole amount up in cash or check. You can also put property up as collateral for your bail. Finally, you can get a bail bond through a bondsman. This typically means you put up about 10% of the bail and the bondsman then provides you with a bond. If the person then fails to show up for their court appearance, though, you may owe the bondsman significantly more than the initial bail costs.
Remember, again, that you do get bail back so long as the accused shows up to face charges. In that case, it is really just about having the money or property on hand to handle the initial cost.
However, if that person doesn’t show up, you will forfeit the bail costs. So, if you are ever asked to post bail for someone, be sure they are a person you can trust to show up for their court appearance. Otherwise, you may be putting your house or your savings at risk.
I hope this helps anyone who will ever be in the unfortunate position of needing to provide bail for either themselves or for someone they know. These are just the basics, but I hope this outlines exactly why someone needs bail and what the risks are for you.