It was late at night and you were sound asleep. The phone rang and at first you weren’t going to answer it. You rubbed your eyes and tried to gather your bearings while you reached out for the cell phone that was simultaneously chirping into the silent night and vibrating, trying to jump off the nightstand. You caught it in a nick of time only to find out your son, daughter, husband, or other loved one had been arrested. You immediately sat up and tried to figure out what to do and, more importantly at that hour of the night, the difference between bail vs bond.
When you’re talking about bond vs bail, many people use these terms interchangeably. They are not the same. If you are being advised to seek a bondsman to get your loved one out of jail, it’s important that you understand the distinction between the two.
Sure, the difference may not be a major concern when you’re calling various bondsman in the middle of the night because they will understand exactly what you need once you explain it to them, and while it is essentially referring to money that gets set aside, determined by a judge, in order for somebody to be released from jail pending a trial, there is a very real difference between bail and bond.
Let’s first define what bail is.
When a person is arrested and faces a judge, that judge will determine how much money must be paid in order for the defendant to be released from custody pending a trial. The amount that the judge declares is considered bail. Bail can be paid in numerous different ways. Some courts will accept credit cards in lieu of cash payments. Others will only accept a certified check or cash.
The judge has discretion when setting bail, even though he or she will have certain guidelines to follow. The bail is an attempt to secure the defendant’s return to court to face the charges, either in a trial by jury or by judge. If bail is set too low for significant charges that the defendant is facing, there is a risk that defendant may skip town and not return for their appointed court date (Connecticut Department of Justice).
Some courts will also accept property that is at least the value of the bail that has been set. This is where a bondsman may be required, especially if bail is set at a significant amount. A family member or even the defendant may be able to place personal property up for their bond.
If they do and don’t show up to court to face the charges, the court has the legal right to seize any property or money that has been put up for the bail. For those who don’t have enough assets or money to pay for bail, they often turn to bondsman or bond companies that specialize in getting defendants released from jail.
Now, let’s define what bond is.
A bondsman or bond company can be thought of as being quite similar to an insurance company. When a person has been arrested and is given a specific monetary value for bail, he or she now has to either come up with the money, have a family member or friend come up with the money, or seek out a bond company to essentially buy ‘insurance’ that he or she will return to court to face the charges.
The bond that a company will put up in order to ‘ensure’ that a particular defendant will return to court when they are supposed to is approximately 10% of the bail amount set by the judge. In some states, this can be as low as 3% of the total bail amount.
This bond amount is considered nonrefundable. That means the defendant or family is not going to get that money back, but it secures the release for the time in which they are waiting for their trial date to approach.
In the event that the defendant does not show up to court, the court system will immediately seek to arrest the defendant and also secure the full amount of the bail, from the bond company. If the defendant fails to show up to their appointed court date, they not only face potentially added charges and an even higher bail when they are arrested, the bail bond company can employ the services of a bail recovery agent, more commonly referred to as a bounty hunter.
If the company does not secure the defendant for return to court, it will be responsible for paying the entire amount of the bail.
In many cases, once the defendant is being released because a bond company was hired, that bond company may request certain assets be put up by the defendant to help backup their promise to return to court at the appointed date.
Whether or not you have to deal with bond or bail at any point in time your life, for yourself or somebody you love, it can be a frustrating and frightening time. Some individuals who have a habit of going in and out of the court system know the bail versus bond scenario quite well. They are often well-versed in just what each of them means and how much they or a family member would have to put up to a bond company to have them released as soon as possible.
If your loved one has been arrested over the weekend, they will remain there until court open back up again the following Monday (or a later time, depending on if the Monday is considered an official holiday).