How the Bail Works?

Interviewer: How does bail work and how is bail set?

Zach Peagler: Bail is set in a couple of ways, but on the more serious charges like felony offenses, the person will be arrested and they have to appear before a judge within 72 hours, and that judge will listen to a brief recitation of what the charges are. Then they’ll determine an appropriate bail, for which there are guidelines depending on the charge. Some cases can result in no bail. On the less serious misdemeanor offenses, there’s usually a set bail amount that each municipality or county government will use. For instance, if you’re charged with DUI, depending on the municipality, it’s a preset amount of $500 to $1,000, usually. Typically the person can either pay a cash bond for that amount or hire a bail bondsman to bond them out.

Interviewer: Just for the record, does that have to be all paid in cash?

Zach Peagler: There are different ways you can make bond, but if you have $1,000 bail for instance, you can pay $1,000 cash and the court will hold that money in trust, essentially, and it’s used to guarantee that you’ll show up for your court date. But if you work through the process and you’re found guilty of the charge, then your bail money will apply towards your court costs and fines for that case. Now, if you use a bail bondsman, you pay them a fee to post your bond, and they have credentials with the court system that allows them to post a bond, and they’ll usually take 10 to 15% of the bond amount and charge it to the client. The drawback to that is, you’re not going to get any of that money back. That’s a straight fee to the bail bondsman, and then when you show up to court, they will release the bond, but you don’t get any credit towards your court costs or fines with that money.

The obvious benefit to that is it costs a lot less to get out of jail and to pay a bail bondsman than it does to try to cover the entire amount of the bond in cash. You can also post a property bond. Different counties and municipalities have different rules for that, but essentially you or someone from your family can provide them with proof that you own a piece of property and that there’s enough equity in that property to cover the amount of the bond. If you don’t show up for court, they could forfeit the bond and take the property, theoretically, although that doesn’t happen in practice very often at all.

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