How do bail bonds work?

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Having to understand the bail process for the first time can be intimidating. Fastrak Bail Bonds is here to explain all available options so that you may make an informed and educated decision.

Please contact us if you don't find what you need here. Our friendly and experienced bail agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer all of your questions and concerns.

  • CASH BAIL - click image for details
  • BAIL BOND - click image for details

The Booking Process

When an individual is arrested and booked in the local police department or county jail, he or she is alleged to have committed a crime. During the booking process, the person’s charges, personal information, description, photograph, fingerprints, and Department of Justice background check are all registered with the arresting agency.

In addition, personal property, including monies taken from the inmate during the booking process is itemized and recorded by the detention officer. The person being detained is also allowed to make telephone calls in accordance to California Penal Code Section 851.1.

The Purpose of Bail

The sole purpose of bail is to guarantee the individual's return to court, to answer any alleged criminal charges against that person and until fully exonerated by the court. When an individual is charged with a crime, our constitution guarantees the presumption of innocence of every person, and according to the eighth amendment of the constitution has a right to non-excessive bail.

The Bail Process

Once a person is finished with the booking process, they are eligible for release on bail. The bail amount for the person’s release is established by the county bail schedule. The bail schedule’s establishment is pursuant to the Uniform Bail Procedures Committee and approved by the judges of the Superior Courts of California in each county.

Furthermore, someone may not be eligible for bail based on the following reasons:

  1. an outstanding warrant for their arrest
  2. a court order holding that person without bail
  3. bail schedule – no bail for the alleged crime, such as murder, a capital crime

In most cases, bail can be posted on warrants that indicate a bail amount. A person being detained without bail due to a court order or bail schedule may also be required to appear in court and have their case heard by a judge prior to the posting or issuance of bail.

* Note: The time required for the booking process and release of a person on bail is determined by the detention facility and its policies, staff availability, data transfer, etc …

There are two main options to posting bail:

  1. Cash Bail
  2. Bail Bond
Option 1: Cash Bail
Illustration: Option 1: Bail

The FIRST OPTION is to deposit *cash, cashier’s check, money order, or *personal check in the total amount of bail directly with the jail or courthouse. The deposited money will be held to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court on the alleged charges and until the case is resolved.

Once the case has been resolved, the deposited money will be returned to the depositor regardless of the outcome of the case. Once again, the bail money deposited is only to ensure the person’s appearance in court, not for fines assessed or penalties. Please wait between 90 and 120 days for the return of money deposited.

* Note: When depositing cash or a personal check to obtain the release of a person, most police departments and county jails have a maximum amount they will accept. Please contact them directly for their policy.

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Option 2: Bail Bond

Illustration: Bail Bond Process

The SECOND OPTION is to obtain a bail bond through a licensed bail bond agency. A bail bond is good as cash. In addition, it ensures the defendant’s appearance in court on the alleged charges and until the case is resolved. A co-signer, called an Indemnitor, enters into a contractual agreement with the bail bond agency on the defendant’s behalf and is responsible for the total amount of bail and premium (fee) for the service. The premium (fee) charged is usually 10% of the bail amount and is regulated by the California Department of Insurance. In some cases, a bail bond can be written at 8% with certain requirements.

Depending on the seriousness of the charges, the co-signer may also be required to secure the amount of bail with collateral such as real property (house), savings account, stock account, letter-of-credit, etc…

Bail bonds requiring a signature only are based on the credit worthiness of the co-signer, seriousness of the charge(s), and the arrest history of the defendant.

In summary, the differences between posting bail directly and obtaining a bail bond:

Type Liability Premiun Upon completion of case
Cash, certified check, personal check, CC
Depositor liable for total bail amount. No premium paid. Money returned to the depositor.
Contract, collateral, premium
Co-signer liable for total bail amount. Premium paid. (non-refundable) Bail bond exonerated and collateral (if any) returned.

Failure to Appear

Once a person fails to appear in court on a scheduled appearance date the bail or bail bond may be forfeited by the court. In addition, a bench warrant will be issued for the person’s arrest and a notice of the forfeiture will be mailed to the depositor or bail bond agency.

Upon notification, the depositor should contact the defendant and have them appear in court immediately. The money deposited for the person released on bail may be lost if the defendant fails to appear within the prescribed time by law of 180 days in the State of California.

Furthermore, once the defendant appears in court, it is the judge’s discretion to reinstate the bail or take the defendant into custody. The defendant must have a very good excuse and show just cause for failing to appear. Having the wrong date, over-sleeping, car problems, are not sufficient excuses.

If the defendant is taken into custody, the depositor of bail or the co-signer on the bail bond will be relieved of the liability. The bail money deposited with the court will be returned to the depositor and the bail bond in forfeiture status will be reinstated and exonerated by the court, relieving the co-signer of his or her obligation to the bail bond.

If the defendant appears in a timely manner and the judge reinstates his or her bail, the defendant’s court case will continue as planned and the depositor of bail or co-signer on the bail bond will not experience a loss.

Note: If a forfeiture occurs on a bail bond, the bail bond agency must provide a reassumption of liability to the court. Otherwise, the defendant will be taken into custody and the bail bond will be exonerated relieving the co-signer of their obligation to the bond.

Co-signer's Rights

The co-signer and bail bond agency work together, making sure that all contractual obligations and state laws regarding bail are adhered to. Both parties have an interest, to ensure the appearance of the defendant in court. Below are actions that can be taken by the co-signer and/or bail bond agency.

  • Surrender the defendant
  • Revoke bail for any reason
  • Apply restrictions to defendant

Right to Arrest

The bail agent has the right to arrest under the authority of law which can be traced to the Common Law of England. Once an individual fails to appear in court as so ordered, and without just cause, that court forfeits the bail bond. At this point in time, the individual has breached his or her contractual agreement and can be surrendered under the bail laws of that state.

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