Cash Bond vs. Surety Bond

There may come a point in your life where you have to worry about getting yourself or a loved one out of jail. Sometimes this can be caused by a simple accident or a false arrest, but either way no one wants to have to wait for trial inside of a jail cell.

 Once a judge sets a bond amount for a defendant it is possible to secure their release, by either paying the entire amount up front (cash bond) or contacting a bail bondsman to put the money up (surety bond). There is a huge difference between these two methods, and everyone should know what they are before deciding to post bond.

Initial Payment

The initial amount that needs to be paid to secure someone’s bond differs greatly between a cash bond and a surety bond. If an individual decides to bail someone out with a cash bond, they will have to provide the entire face amount of bail demanded by the court before an inmate can leave. For instance, if a judge sets a defendant’s bail at $50,000, the entire amount must be paid up front, and then the inmate will be released. This money is then held as collateral until the completion of trial. 

A surety bond works differently and is the more usual road taken to bailing someone out of jail. Most people do not have the available funds to post a cash bond – and even if they do, there is no telling how long their money will be held up before the case is over. A bail bondsman can provide a surety bond to have the inmate released, for a mere fee of ten percent of the total bail amount. So in the case of a $50,000 bond, whomever is signing the bond must pay $5,000 up front. This fee is non-refundable once the bond has been posted, but no other money has to be exchanged or kept in limbo during the course of the trial.

What are the Risks?

There are inherent risks in securing someone’s bond. There is always the chance that a defendant may decide to go on the run, and not return to court. Unfortunately the risk of this is almost identical between cash bonds and surety bonds. If an inmate goes on the lam, and never returns, then the person who signed off on the bail bond is liable for the full bond amount. If a cash bond was put forward the courts will forfeit bail and keep this money.

If a surety bond was posted and the defendant takes flight, then the bail bondsman’s first course of action is to locate the defendant and bring them back in front of the judge; accomplished with either the help of the co-signer, or the employment of a fugitive recovery agent (aka bounty hunter).  If unsuccessful, the bail agent may sue for the bond amount or take whatever collateral an indemnitor (co-signer of a bond) provided to reimburse them for their lost bond.

Bounty hunters are trained professionals, so they have a far better chance of getting someone back into custody than a normal citizen. If a bail bondsman takes this action, the indemnitor is liable for the cost but if the bounty hunter is successful in bringing the defendant back to justice then that may be all the indemnitor is liable for. Since bounty hunters have a far better chance of tracking down a fugitive who doesn’t want to be caught, a surety bond provides additional security when signing off on someone’s bond.

There are stark contrasts between cash bonds and security bonds. The choice of which bond to secure is really a personal one. If a person has enough money to secure a cash bond, will not suffer by that bond being held for an extended amount of time, and trusts the person they are providing bond for then a cash bond is certainly an alternative. For most people, surety bonds are a safer and cheaper course of action; statistically speaking, higher fines and court fees are assessed with cash bail since there is an inherent “ability to pay” assumed.

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