How Do Bail Bonds Work?Author: Portner & Shure
What is bail?
Bail refers to the cash or bond provided to guarantee the defendant's appearance in court in return for the defendant's release until the court date or dates. By posting bail, bail bondsmen ensure a defendant's constitutional right to remain free from custody pending trial.
What are the types of bail bonds?
The main types include:
- A personal recognizance bond: A personal recognizance or PR bond is a release from custody based on a promise to appear in court. A defendant pays no money and is released from jail based on their personal responsibility to return. A personal recognizance bond is sometimes coupled with a cash bond.
- A cash bond: A cash bond is a monetary guarantee that a defendant will return to court. The full amount of bail posted by the defendant in cash.
- A corporate surety bond: A surety bond is a contract with a bail agent for the bail amount. A surety (insurance) company underwrites the bond in exchange for payment of a premium percentage of the bail's full amount. Some form of collateral secures the remaining bond amount.
- A federal bond: A federal bond is used for cases that deal with federal offenses (example: interstate crimes).
- An immigration bond: An immigration bond is a bond set for someone held by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (such as an immigration violation).
What factors does the court take into account when setting the amount of bail?
The Magistrate or the Judge can set the amount of the bail at their discretion. The Magistrate or the Judge will take into account such factors as:
- Nature of the charges being sought;
- Defendants prior arrest record;
- Level of cooperation with jail staff/arresting officers;
- Defendants standing in the community;
- Employment status;
- Length of time the defendant has lived in the community; and
- A professional bail bondsman is an individual whose business is to pledge his or her own property or security to guarantee the bail bond to the court.
What is collateral?
Collateral must cover the amount of bail, as it backs the defendant's promise to show up in court. Some examples of collateral include vehicles, property, jewelry, stocks, bank accounts, and certain other assets.
Do I get my money back after the defendant goes to court?
The defendant must make the required court appearance(s) and the case must be decided. Then the collateral gets released and the bond gets exonerated (released from obligation) based on the court appearance and decision. You do not get back the money paid to a bondsman, as this amount is the bondsman's compensation for getting the defendant out of jail before the court appearance(s).
How much will a bail bond cost?
Bail bonding is a regulated industry in Virginia. A bail bond in Virginia usually costs 10%, which is the minimum mandated by law. 15% is the maximum. These percentages are set by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Systems (DCJS).
What if the defendant I bail doesn't show up to court?
In this case, the court will issue an arrest warrant, and the co-signer (usually a family member or friend who arranges for bail) will become responsible for the bail's full amount.
In what court will the person I bail have his case heard?
The three main types of courts in Virginia where a case may be heard include:
- General District Court: General District Court (GDC) handles most traffic violations and misdemeanor cases. These cases are usually less-serious criminal cases and are punishable by up to a year in jail.
- Circuit Courts: Circuit Court hears felony cases. These cases relate to more serious criminal matters like homicide, robbery, and burglary.
- Juvenile and Domestic Relations: Juvenile and Domestic Relations (J&DR) handles cases involving juveniles and family members. These cases include crimes committed against a minor child or household member.
If the Magistrate or the Presiding Judge of the bond hearing determines that the offense is such that bail is not warranted in this case, determines that there is reason to believe that the defendant might be a "flight risk" or the safety of the public might be compromised by granting the defendant bond, the defendant will be remanded to the Sheriff's Department and will remain in custody until the trial.