What Does “Bond Exonerated” Mean?

Judges gavel with calculator on table in background for calculating bail amount

If you’re unfamiliar with court proceedings, bail can seem complicated. This is completely understandable – after all, there are many stages involved in the bail process. 

One such stage is “exoneration”. What is exoneration, though, and how does it relate to bail bonds? Below, our agents explain bond exoneration and what it means for you.  

What Is Bail?

First, let’s clarify what bail itself is. 

Bail means that a defendant can leave custody while they await trial in a criminal case. In exchange for early release from custody, the defendant must agree to certain terms. These terms are known as conditions of release. They must also pay a bail amount set by the court.   

All defendants will be expected to show up in court as required for scheduled hearings. If the defendant fails to appear in court, they’ll lose their bail money and they could be arrested. 

What Is a Bail Bond?

A bail bond is the sum of money posted by a defendant to secure release. It’s co-signed by a bail bond company that agrees to pay the full bail amount. The bail bond company usually charges a fee for this service. In California, the fee is often around 10% of the bail amount. 

Not every defendant needs a bail bond. If you can afford to pay the full amount yourself, you can. However, most defendants can’t afford the full amount, so bail bonds are a great alternative.     

What Does an Exonerated Bond Mean?

Bonds are exonerated, or discharged, when the case against the defendant is over. In other words, there are no further court dates scheduled and the case is closed. 

It doesn’t matter if the defendant is found guilty or innocent. When proceedings end, so do the defendant’s financial obligations to the court. The court “releases” the defendant from these obligations and exonerates the bond.  

Examples of Bond Exoneration

There are various outcomes that can trigger bond exoneration. Bail bonds may be exonerated when:

  • The prosecution drops the case against the defendant.
  • A defendant makes an early guilty plea.
  • The judge dismisses the case for lack of evidence.  

These outcomes share one thing in common: they all mark the end of the case against the defendant. Innocent or guilty, the case draws to a close and bail is no longer an issue.  

Does Exonerated Mean Released?

Not technically. It means you’re released from paying the court any bail money. Bail can be exonerated even if a defendant agrees to plead guilty. 

If a defendant is exonerated, this is different. In this context, exoneration means the charges are dropped and the defendant is cleared of wrongdoing.   

White capital letters spelling bail bonds graphic overlay on judges gavel

Do You Still Owe Any Money if Bail Bonds Are Exonerated?

You might. Although you won’t pay the court any more money for bail, you might still owe the bail bondsman money. For example, you’ll still owe any unpaid fees, premiums, or associated costs. 

Will You Get Your Bail Bond Money Back?

If you pay the full bail amount from your own pocket, then yes. Once bonds are exonerated, you get this money back. However, if you use a bail bonds company, you won’t get your premium back. This is considered “earned” and it’s non-refundable

Can Bail Exoneration Be Denied?

Yes. Although courts routinely exonerate bail bonds, they can deny them. Typically, courts might deny exoneration if a defendant violates the terms of their bail. For example, if they skip court hearings or go on the run, the court might refuse to exonerate bail. 

Bond Exoneration Revocation for Felony Charges

Will a judge refuse exoneration if a defendant faces felony charges? 

Possibly. This is more common if the defendant commits a felony while released on bail. For example, it’s a felony if a defendant wilfully fails to appear for scheduled hearings. Judges are unlikely to exonerate bonds in such circumstances.

What’s more, some felony charges mean that a defendant is no longer eligible for bail. In these cases, bail bonds won’t be exonerated. 

Get Bail Bonds Today

Posting bail can seem complicated, but it’s easy with the right team on your side. At Bail Hotline, we can match you with a reputable bail bondsman who can help. We’re available 24/7 across California and we can answer any questions you have about the process.
During business hours, feel free to visit our offices. Day or night, you can give us a call or reach us online. We’re here for you when you need us!

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