Bail bond agencies are common in the USA and in its former commonwealth, the Philippines. In other countries, they are not legal. These agencies are licensed to put up bail for criminal defendants. Other bonds are issued by banks and insurance companies. However, putting up a bond on behalf of a criminal would put their investors’ and customers’ money at risk so they shy away from this risk. On the other hand, bail bond agencies serve criminals only.
How Do They Work?
Each bail bond agency must have insurance. This ensures that any bail amount owed to the court will always be paid, even in the case that the agency does not have enough of their own money to pay it out.
Bail bond agencies are licensed by the authorities. Friends and family contact them when they cannot come up with the amount required to set free whoever is in jail. If it is cash bail, the agency pays the money to the court. A surety or a property bail bond is much simpler as the agency has to give an assurance that the arrested person will show up for court, failure to which they will pay the bail money in full. For the bail bond agent to do all this, you have to pay an amount in premium.
How Much Should You Pay?
Many people are not sure how much they ought to pay as premium to the bail bond agent. In some states it is 8% while in some it can be as high as 10% of the bail amount. In addition to this, you still have to pay up the bail amount in case the person under trial flees. The premium amount, seeing that it is determined by laws and regulations, is not negotiable. Most laws direct that the amount should not be exorbitant or inadequate. It is therefore illegal to get a discount that goes below the payment rate set by the law and such a bail bond agency could lose their license. Some agencies trick people into believing that they can get a discount but end up charging them the full amount.
In light of this, you should always ask for the payment rate chart or guideline and countercheck with the law. This way, you will be able to know the bare minimum, which will help you find the cheapest agency.
Will You Get Your Money Back?
There are two possible scenarios. The person under trial could either show up for all court dates or he or she could flee. In both cases, you cannot get your premium back. That amount is paid out as a fee for the bail bond agency to do their job. Only in special circumstances would you be entitled to any of that money. If the agency violated your agreement in any way or did not provide certain services as promised, you could use these as grounds to get a percentage refund. If there is no breach of contract, then the premium is not rightfully yours after paying it to bail someone out.
Whenever a court case is wrapped up, the judge will either find the accused guilty or innocent. In the latter, one is able to go free. However, the former presents a variety of options. Some crimes do not amount to jail time. They could either attract a fine or certain hours of community service. In the case of drug or substance abuse and anger-related crimes or incidents, the court could prescribe rehabilitation or anger management sessions. This, however, is not always the case. Crimes such as robbery with violence and murder, among others, attract jail time.
Temporary Jail Time
This type of jail time varies. It depends on whether a judge grants you bail or not. Once you are arrested, you have to be held in custody. Once your court date is set, more commonly at a later time, you can either spend that time in jail or out in the free world as you go about your normal duties. For more severe crimes, bail may not be granted. However, if it is, you are required to show up for your court dates. If you do not, you are arrested, kept in jail plus you forfeit the amount you paid for the bail bond.
Who Determines Jail Time?
The court determines the jail time you get once you are sentenced. This is not haphazardly done. Instead, it follows guidelines that are set by the law. In a number of cases, the law stipulates the minimum mandatory sentence when it comes to jail time. If you are found guilty of such an offence, then your sentence would be upwards of the set duration and not any less.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the prescribed jail term punishments for whichever crime you, your friend or family member is accused of. This will help you stay informed on whether or not the punishment is fair after the sentence is administered. If the sentence is too harsh, then you can consider appealing the decision.
Factors Used in Jail Time Determination
The law does not always stipulate minimum or maximum sentences in jail time. This is primarily because all crimes are not the same. In some situations, there are special factors and variations to consider. In this case, the judge will consider a number of factors in determining jail time. These include:
- The accused and their criminal history. If they have not had any priors, then the fewer the jail time they are likely get
- The mental state of the accused. They might end up in a psychiatric facility as opposed to a jail for the prescribed period
- The severity of the crime
- Whether the accused was the primary actor in committing the crime or whether they were just an accomplice
All these inform the judge’s decision. These determinants can fall into one of two categories: a mitigating or an aggravating condition. Any determinant that falls in the former will play a role in reducing the number of years one is sentenced to jail. The determinants that fall in the latter, however, ensure that the accused gets more years in jail.
The legal system in the USA is considered one of the best in the world. After all, it keeps the free world in check according to many. However, it is not as straightforward as many would like to believe. It takes some research and study to understand the legal system and adhere to the set standards to avoid jail.
How is the Hierarchy?
Federal law is that which is recognized in the entire country regardless of the state. It springs or descends from the constitution and cannot be debated otherwise. Federal law cases are heard and determined in the federal court. Additionally, every state has the legal authority to come up with its own laws, rules and legislations. Each state has the autonomy to set its own standards. Crimes that go against the state laws are heard by the state or local courts. In this case, it is better to get a lawyer from the state who understands the laws of the state best. You would be better placed.
Who Does the Law Apply To?
The federal law applies to everyone: citizens and immigrants (legal or illegal). Every individual enjoys the basic rights as provided for by the constitution. Therefore, everybody is also required to comply with these laws. However, when it comes to state laws, the laws apply when you are within the state’s borders. It does not matter whether you are a resident or just a visitor.
This is why it is important that you know a state’s laws before visiting and choosing to relocate there. What could be normal in one state might be considered a crime in another. Unfortunately, ignorance is not defense and not knowing is never an acceptable excuse once you are arrested and prosecuted.
What Happens if You Do Not Comply?
Failure to adhere to the laws and guidelines leads to arrest. There are no two ways about it. If you break the law then you have to be arrested and charged in court. Federal laws are easy to adjudicate as they are dealt with in the federal court. However, most people fall victim to state laws. It is especially common for those who do travel, live or work inter-state. Some laws may hold in some states and not in some. This is why the conflict of state laws in a popular topic in US Law schools.
Once you are charged in court, matter pertaining to bail setting, bail bond payments and bail agencies come into play. It is important to understand how these work as they could come in handy if a friend or family member gets into such a predicament.
The legal system in the USA follows a well-defined hierarchy that is enforceable in the country, trickling down into the states which also have their own laws and regulations. Everyone within the borders ought to adhere to these laws and faces arrest and prosecution if they do not. All this basic information is important and will help you to avoid run-ins with the law.
Have you ever received a call from a family member or friend asking you to bail them out? If you have not, it is likely that you will be confused if you ever receive that dreaded phone call. It becomes challenging and confusing when you do not know what to do and how to help them. The bail bonds process is not as straightforward as many would prefer it to be. However, you can learn a few pertinent issues about the process below. It might come in handy one day.
How Much Should You Pay?
Bail amount is not standard across the board. A judge first has to determine whether or not the accused is going to get bail. The judge is also tasked with setting the bail amount. This is set in compliance with the guidelines that are set out by the law. Each state has a range that is acceptable for various crimes. With these guidelines, the judge is then able to set an amount that fits the crime one is accused of.
Some of the factors that are used in determining the amount include whether or not the accused:
- Has strong ties to the community
- Has a stable job that they are committed to
- Is a flight risk
- Has a past criminal record
With these factors, the judge is able to come to a reasonable decision which the accused must respect and adhere to.
How to Post Bail Bond
Posting a bail bond can be simple. All you need to do is pay the cash to the court and the accused will be out in no time. You might not be able to get the person out of jail immediately since they have to be processed before being released. The duration of time it takes to do this depends on how crowded the jail is and how many people are being set free on bail.
You might also have to put down collateral such as a title deed or a log book in order to get the accused out of jail. This usually means that you will pay off the amount owed in case the person flees. Failure to do so allows authorities to take your property and sell it off to recoup the amount owed.
Contacting a Bail Bond Agent
In many cases, people do not have the cash at hand required to bail someone out of jail. If you find yourself in such a situation, then you can contact a bail bonds agent to do this on your behalf. You will need the following information:
- The name of the accused
- The state, city and jail that they are held in
- The booking number
- The amount of bail required
With these details, the bail bonds agent will be able to get the accused out of jail. It is preferable to use a bail agent also because they are well versed with the process and therefore get the person out of jail faster.
Once you are in jail and a trial has been set, there are only two options: to stay in jail or to be released on condition that you attend the court dates. In the latter, you can be released of your own cognizance if you do not pose any risk. You could also be released on a bail bond.
How is Bail Determined?
Bail is determined by the court. It is not done arbitrarily but by allowing the guidelines as set by the laws and regulations of the state. A number of factors come into play when it comes to whether or not one gets bail and how much they have to pay if they do get it. These include:
- Family and societal ties: Is the accused firmly rooted in the community and in his or her family? Those who have strong ties are likely to be granted bail.
- Stability: Does the accused have a stable job that they will go back to as they await trial? Those who do have jobs are more likely to get bail.
- Criminal history: Has the accused been involved or linked in other criminal acts? Do they have a record? If the accused has a detailed record, then he could engage in other illegal activities when granted bail.
- Flight risk: Does the accused have reason and/ or resources to flee, especially to faraway places via plane? If they do, it gets harder to get bail and if they do it is a large amount.
What Options Do You Have?
If you have to bail someone out, you have a number of options. The first is to raise the amount of cash required and pay it to the court. This is only possible if you have easy access to money. The second is to contact a bail bond agent. Once you are in touch, you will be required to pay a premium in order to get the agent’s services. Once this is done, you will also be required to acknowledge that you have to pay the full bail bond amount if the accused flees before his or her court date. In some cases, you are required to put up property deeds, log books and other legal documents. These act as a guarantee of bail bond payment in case the accused flees. Failure to pay the amount would force the agents to seize your property.
Is Your Money Refunded?
Most people’s concern is that they will lose the money they put up as bail. As long as the accused shows up for court and does not travel outside the state or country without prior permission from the court, you get your money back. This is only possible after the trial is done, whether or not the accused is found guilty of the crime. However, if they flee or travel without prior permission, you forfeit this bond and lose your money whether or not they are found innocent. In addition to this, the accused is thrown in jail for the remaining period of time until the trial is over.