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The Difference Between Bail and Bond

The Difference Between Bail and Bond

There is a technical difference between the terms “bail” and “bond,” but it’s a distinction that’s often largely overlooked in the real world. The terms are commonly used interchangeably to mean either the amount of money set by a judge that must be paid before a defendant can be let out of jail or the actual process of “bonding” or getting out of jail. According to bail bonds experts, however, there is a real difference between the two terms.

Bail. When a person is arrested for a crime, the judge has discretion in setting the amount of money that must be paid for the defendant to be released from jail. That amount of money is the bail. Bail can be paid in a number of ways. Courts accept cash or a certified check – some accept credit cards for cash payments. It’s also possible to pay the amount of bail by surrendering property at least equal to the value of the bail. For example, if the bail is $100,000 – which indicates a serious crime – a defendant can leave the title to property that’s been valued for that amount. If the defendant doesn’t show up in court, the property can be seized by the court. Defendants who don’t have enough property or cash often turn to companies that specialize in releasing defendants from jail.

Bond. These bond companies are very similar to insurance companies. In effect, the defendant is buying an insurance policy that allows his or her release from jail. The bail bond company sells this insurance policy – or bond – to the defendant. The price is usually 10 percent of the bail amount set by the judge. That amount is non-refundable. However, if the defendant doesn’t show up for his or her court hearing, the court expects the full cost of the bond. Often, particularly with higher bail amounts, a bail bonds company will also ask for security from the defendant. That way, if the defendant skips bail by not showing up for a scheduled court appearance, the bail bond company has something valuable that can be sold to pay some or the entire bail amount to the bond company. A defendant who skips bail may trigger the services of a bail recovery agent, also known as a “bounty hunter.” It’s in the best interest of the bail bond company to find the defendant and deliver him or her to the court. If not, the company must pay the entire amount of the bond.

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