The process of posting bail involves a contractual undertaking guaranteed by a bail bondsman and the individual posting bail. The bail agent guarantees to the court that the defendant will appear in court each and every time the judge requires.

The defendant is charged a percentage of the bail amount, for this service. The defendant, a relative or friend of the defendant, typically contacts a bail bondsman to arrange for the posting of bail, before getting released. Prior to the posting of a bail bond, the defendant or a co-signer must guarantee that they will pay the full amount of bail if the defendant does not appear in court.

A family member or a close friend of the defendant will typically post bail and co-sign. Collateral is occasionally but not always required for a person to be bailed from jail. Usually, a defendant can be bailed from jail on the signature of a friend or family member. Co-signers, in most cases, need to have a job and either own or rent a home in the surrounding area.

After a bail agreement is signed, the bail bondsman posts a bond for the amount of the bail, to guarantee the defendant’s return to court.

If the defendant does not arrive to court as required (or “skips”), the co-signer is held responsible for the full amount of the bail. If the defendant is then located and arrested by the bail bondsman, the co-signer is also responsible for expenses the bail agent incurs while searching and capturing the defendant.

The five basic release options available to an arrestee are, surety bond, release on his or her own recognizance (O.R.), release on citation (“Cite Out”), property bond and cash bail.

Surety Bond

An alternative to cash bail is the posting of a surety bond. This process involves a contractual undertaking guaranteed by an admitted insurance company having adequate assets to satisfy the face value of the bond. The bail bondsman guarantees to the court that they will pay the bond forfeiture if a defendant fails to appear for their scheduled court appearances. The bondsman’s guarantee is made through a surety company and/or by the pledge of property owned by the agent.

For this service, the defendant is charged a premium. To be released pursuant to the posting of a surety bond, the arrestee, a relative or friend of the arrestee, typically contacts a bail bondsman – an individual licensed by the State to post surety bonds. Prior to the posting of a surety bond, the bail bondsman undertakes a detailed interview of the proposed guarantor of the surety bond, as well as of the arrestee and relatives of the arrestee, as part of the underwriting procedure for a bond.

By involving the family and friends, as well as through the acceptance of collateral, the bail bondsman can be reasonably assured that an individual released on surety bond will appear at his or her appointed court date, as required until the case is adjudicated.

After this procedure is concluded, if an agreement is reached, the bail bondsman posts a bond for the amount of the bail, to guarantee the arrestee’s return to court.

Considering the financial risk, a bail bondsman has an interest in supervising bailees and ensuring that they appear for trial. If a defendant “skips,” the bail bondsman has the financial incentive to find the defendant and return him/her to jail. Bail bondsmen primarily profit only when the defendant appears for trial. It’s generally accepted by judges that bail bondsmen have dependable methods of ensuring defendants requisite court appearances.

Citation Release

This procedure, known as the “Cite Out,” involves the issuance of a citation by the arresting officer to the arrestee, informing the arrestee that he or she must appear at an appointed court date.

The Cite Out usually occurs immediately after an individual is arrested. As a consequence of the failure to follow complete booking procedures, the true identity and background of most individuals released on citation are never established. This results in the release of numerous arrestees who may have outstanding bench warrants or who present a significant danger to society.

Accordingly, in these cases involving Cite Outs, the arrestee may never be placed in custody, and like the O.R. release, such an arrestee’s appearance in court depends exclusively upon the integrity of the alleged felon and his or her voluntarily returning to court.

Property Bond

In rare cases, an individual may obtain release from custody by means of posting a property bond with the court. Here the court records a lien on the property, to secure the bail amount. If the arrestee subsequently fails to appear at the scheduled court date, the court may institute foreclosure proceedings against the property to obtain the forfeited bail amount.

Cash Bond

To be released on cash bail, an individual must post with the court the total amount of the bail, in cash, to secure his or her return to court on an appointed date, and thereafter until the case is concluded. Full cash bonds provide a powerful incentive for defendants to appear at trial. If the defendant shows up for his/her scheduled court appearances, the cash is returned to him/her. If the defendant fails to appear, the cash bond is forfeited to the court.

Own Recognizance (O.R.)

Another method of release, pending trial, is through a county or law enforcement administered pre-trial release program. Usually, the staff members of these programs interview individuals in custody and make recommendations to the court regarding the release of these individuals on their own recognizance (i.e., without any financial security to ensure the interviewee’s return).

The interview process is often conducted over the telephone, with little inquiry to the individual’s background to determine whether the detainee is likely to appear in court and with virtually no verification of information provided by the detainee.

Since no money or bond is posted to secure the detainee’s appearance in court, he or she faces no personal economic hardship from his or her conscious failure to appear.