Generally you will receive a call from your friend or family member, telling you that they have been arrested and want to be bailed out. They may have little other information but while they are still on the phone, be sure you have their full name, date of birth, name and location of the jail, what the charges were (if known) and when they were arrested.
Contact the Jail
Ask to speak with a booking officer and find out whether or not the bail is cash-only. Also ask the dollar amount of the bail, confirm what the charges are and the date of arrest. If there is a cash-only bond required, and you have the funds, you can go directly to the jail and pay the bail; the defendant will be released in your care.
Because defendants usually want to get out of jail as soon as possible, most jails have set standard bail schedules, which outline the bail amounts for ordinary crimes. By paying the bail defined in that schedule, you might get someone out of jail quickly, instead of having him or her wait for arraignment before a judge.
What You Should Know about Cash Bail
If you post a cash bond (for the full amount of the bail), it can be ultimately used to pay for court costs, fines and even the public defender. The remainder will only be returned to the person whose name is on the bond receipt, and only after the case has been terminated or the offender has been convicted and returned to custody. Statistics show that fines and court fees are substantially higher for cases where cash bail was paid, as opposed to those for which a bail bond was posted.
Contact a Bail Bond Agency
If the bail amount is high, or beyond the means of the defendant or their family, the next step is to find a bail bondsman. Locate a local bail bond company with good reviews or references, and make sure they are licensed by the California Department of Insurance. Select a company that demonstrates professionalism, treats you with respect and shows patience with your concerns.
Answer all the questions (as given above) that the Agent will need to secure the defendant’s release. Be prepared to arrange a bond premium payment of up to 10% of the total bail amount. If the defendant doesn’t have the funds available on a credit card or in a bank account, you might decide to pay it for them. If you aren’t a relative or don’t want to put up the cash, ask the bond agent if they can work out a payment plan with the person incarcerated. This might involve a credit check and a trip to the jail (there may be a fee for this service).
Responsibilities of a Co-Signer
Whether the defendant, or someone else, pays for the bond premium or obtains a payment plan – as the co-signer, you are responsible if they do not make the payments, or if they fail to appear. If the defendant does not show up for all ordered court appearances, it is considered as skipping out on bail. As the co-signer you would be expected to help secure their arrest, or their return to “the bench” to appear before the judge. If you put up personal collateral (in the form of cash or property) realize that, should their bail be forfeited for failure to appear, your collateral could be at risk for the full amount of bail.