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 with no support.

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

What is a Cash Bond?

As the name suggests, a cash bond is a type of bond in which cash is held, serving as a guarantee of payment to the court. It’s the easiest and most straightforward type of bond when someone is bailed out of jail but it can also be an expensive option as it requires the full amount to be paid in cash.

In the cash type of bond, the court is given a guarantee that the accused will show up for the court dates. In case they don’t, they forfeit the entire amount as the court keeps the cash. On the other hand, when the arrested person shows up for the trial, the full amount is returned. The accused or a family member or friend posts the full cash bond.

What is a Surety Bond?

A surety bond involves a slightly more complicated process compared to a cash bond. In simple terms, it can be thought of as a loan received by the accused to post bail. How it works is that a bail bondsman is hired to post the bail. They are typically paid a non-refundable premium, which is 10% of the entire bail amount. The bail bondsman then posts the full amount of the bail.

An important point worth noting is that those who fulfill bonds this way borrow the bail amount from a surety company instead of paying their own money. In the event that the arrested person fails to appear in court, the bond agent becomes liable for the full bail amount. This is why bail agents will always interview the defendant to assess their potential flight risk before committing to help.

Initial Payment for Cash Bond vs. Surety Bond

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 upfront, and then the inmate will be released. This money is then held as collateral until the completion of their 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, whoever is signing the bond must pay $5,000 upfront. 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 – Cash Bonds vs. Surety Bonds?

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.

FAQ: Understanding Cash Bonds and Surety Bonds in the Bail Process

1. What is a cash bond for?

A cash bond is used in the bail process as a guarantee to the court that the accused will attend all required court dates. The entire bail amount set by the judge is paid upfront, typically by a friend or family member. This bond requires the full amount in cash, ensuring the defendant’s compliance with court requirements.

2. What is an example of a cash bond?

An example of a cash bond is when a court sets a bail amount of $10,000. The defendant’s friend or family member then pays the full $10,000 in cash to the court. This amount is held until the defendant fulfills all court obligations, ensuring their presence at trial. 

3. Are surety bonds refundable?

No, surety bonds are not refundable. When obtaining a surety bond for jail, a non-refundable premium (usually 10% of the bail amount) is paid to a bail bond company. This fee is for the service of the bonding company posting the full bail amount and is not returned, even if the defendant adheres to all court requirements.

4. What is a cash collateral bond? 

A cash collateral bond involves securing a bond with cash or personal property equivalent to the bail amount. This serves as collateral to the court or bail bond company, ensuring the defendant’s appearance in court. If the defendant fails to appear, the collateral may be forfeited.

5. How do you calculate a cash bond?

To calculate a cash bond, simply use the full bail amount set by the court. For instance, if the bail is set at $50,000, the cash bond amount will be $50,000. This is different from a cash or surety bond, where only a fraction (typically 10%) of the total bail amount is paid as a fee to a bail bond company for the service of posting the bail.

Remember, the choice between a cash bond and a surety bond often depends on individual circumstances, including financial ability and trust in the defendant’s commitment to meet court obligations. For personalized advice, consider contacting a professional bail bond agent.

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. To seek professional help for your unique situation, contact our professional Bail Bond Agents now!

Branch Office
  • Open 24 Hours