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Is Collateral a Part of the Bail Process?

Once bail has been set – either by the jail or a judge – the next step is coming up with either the full amount (in the case of a cash bail) or 10% (when using a bail bondsman).  The remaining 90% of the bail face amount must be secured by collateral, to ensure the bondsman can cover the bail if the defendant fails to appear.  The concept behind bail collateral is to provide additional liquid assets in exchange for the surety bond.

The initial 10% premium is a fee paid to the bond company in exchange for its guarantee to the court that the defendant will appear as ordered.  The premium is considered fully earned and nonrefundable once the bail agency has posted the bond on behalf of the defendant.

Forms of Collateral

Collateral can be in the form of additional cash, a credit card payment, mortgage deeds on real property or unimproved land, business equipment, automobile titles, jewelry, assignments on paper assets such as stock certificates or bank accounts, letters of credit, or any other saleable possession of value.  Some unusual forms of collateral have been an oil well (1987 in Oklahoma) and a church (2010 in Queens, NY).

All collateral is surrendered to the bail company until the defendant makes all the required court appearances and the bail is exonerated.  Titles, certificates and deeds are held in trust by the bail company (rather than the actual vehicle or other large item being held), while smaller items like jewelry are generally secured in a safety deposit box or vault.  Before collateral can be returned, any outstanding payments on the premium must be paid.

Whomever puts up the premium and collateral for the bond is called the indemnitor; this may be the accused themselves, or a friend or family member.  The indemnitor would remain responsible for the full bail amount if there is a failure to appear for all ordered court appearances.

What happens to my collateral if the defendant fails to appear?

Collateral is basically a security deposit, to ensure the bail company will not have financial loss. If the accused fails to appear, the collateral is of course at risk.  However, chances are usually excellent that the defendant is going to be found, arrested and brought back in front of the judge within an allotted time limit. If the timeframe is not met, bail may be forfeited and the full amount becomes due and payable to the court. As the indemnitor you would be given a chance to turn the collateral property into cash, especially when the value exceeds the bail.

Keep in mind that the bonding company is in business only to secure the release of the defendant and ensure their appearance in court on the date ordered. The bail agent doesn’t want your property, and would incur expenses moving forward to claim it. All efforts are put toward finding the defendant (with your assistance) and returning him or her to the court; once this occurs, the collateral would be released back to you.

 

What Determines the Bail Amount?

After the bail amount has been set the bail bond process begins and that’s when you can help your friend or loved one “post bail.” Many people ask themselves, what determines the bail amount? Many times less serious crimes are bailable without going before the judge, and will be set from the “bail schedule” at the jail. The bail schedule is a guideline for common crimes and can include set amounts for traffic violations, misdemeanors, DWI (DUI) charges and even felony crimes like burglary or violent offenses. Each county has its own bail schedule that determines the bail amount. Here is an example, this is the 2012 bail schedule for the county of Los Angeles.

Ultimately, the judge has the last say as to whether or not bail is set and the amount of the bail. If the accused is charged with a minor offense, and they are employed and reside in the area, the judge may release them on their own recognizance with no bail required. Bail may also be lowered for a person with little financial resources.

The following background details about the defendant may affect the judge’s decision as to the bail and conditions that may be set:

1. Prior criminal record and their record of following court orders
2. Job and finances
3. Ties to family in the community
4. Length of time in the community
5. Property ownership in the community
6. Severity of the charges
7. Probability of conviction and potential sentence
8. Threat to public safety
9. Risk of flight and country of citizenship

Severity of Charges

Higher bail is likely if a serious crime is involved. If the crime was violent or severe (as in murder, kidnapping, drug sales, etc.) there is a low probability of bail; in this case the defendant will be remanded (no bail) to jail to await trial.

Prior Record or Warrants

If you have a criminal record the bail will be higher, but if the crime is serious as well then there may be no bail set. Things taken into consideration will be the number of your prior convictions, and their level of severity, as well as how recently they occurred.

If you have a record and have also had bench warrants, you are likely not going to have bail set. Since setting bail is all about your promise to appear as directed, bench warrants will send up a red flag about your reliability. If the warrant was for other reasons, or previously resolved legitimately, your defense counsel can argue the point during your arraignment to convince the judge to set bail.

What Is an Arraignment?

As the first stage of a criminal proceeding, the arraignment is a formal court appearance before the judge. In some cases the defendant will “attend” by way of a video camera set up in the jail. The arraignment generally takes place within 24 hours following an arrest, the suspect was arrested on a weekend – in which case it will usually be scheduled for the next business day. Also known as a bond hearing or bail hearing, the arraignment is the time and place where bail will be determined.

There is no evidence heard during an arraignment, nor are witnesses called before the judge. The arresting officer is not required to appear, the defendant’s innocence or guilt is not determined at this time and, normally, the defense attorney will speak on his or her behalf. If no private attorney has been retained, the judge will inform the defendant of his or her right to legal representation and will, if needed, assign a public defender.

Formal Charges

A court officer will call the case out by docket number followed by the name of the accused, as in: “The People against John Doe.” The defendant will then be placed in front of the judge (in person or from the jail by video), with the defense attorney and prosecutor present. The detailed public reading of the charges is usually waived, in lieu of a short statement of the charges and a brief review of the specifics.

The Plea

After the charges are read, the defendant’s attorney will enter a plea on their behalf from the following choices:

Not Guilty – The defendant is stating they did not commit the crime for which they are accused; a pre-trial date will be set.

Guilty – The defendant is admitting guilt to the facts of the crime; the judge imposes sentence or remands them to jail awaiting the sentencing hearing.

Nolo Contendere (No contest) – Essentially this is a guilty plea, except that this plea cannot be used against the defendant in a civil lawsuit; the judge imposes sentence.

Mute Plea – If the defendant refuses to make a plea the court will enter a not guilty plea for them; a pre-trial date will be set.

Decision to Set Bail

During the arraignment, the judge will be deciding whether to release the suspect on their own recognizance (ROR), or remand him or her to custody without bail, or will set bail a bail amount and possible conditions. The prosecutor offers a statement with respect to bail; how much he thinks it should be and whether he feels the accused is a flight risk. If bail has been requested by the state, the judge will now ask the defense lawyer for a statement. His response will be to challenge the prosecutor or introduce more information on the side of his client’s release. After all parties have made their statements, the judge will decide, and this will be the end of the arraignment.

After Arraignment, What Happens to the Defendant?

If bail has been set, the bailiff will escort the accused back to a holding area or to the jail until bail has been posted. If the judge has chosen an ROR (Release on Recognizance), the defendant will generally be allowed to depart the courtroom, for the promise to return on the court date set. Depending on the state, the suspect may have to return to the jail until the ROR has been processed.

March of Dimes

Bail Hotline at March of Dimes
Bail Hotline at March of Dimes

On Saturday April 28th, Bail Hotline showed their love and support for the March of Dimes by walking 6 miles around downtown Riverside to help raise money in the fight to prevent birth defects and premature births.  Many families and businesses from Riverside County participated in the March for Babies.  The walk began at the local Riverside Community College.  There were many different teams walking and one of which raised over 100 million dollars for the cause.

Bail Hotline at March of Dimes

Some of Bail Hotlines very own team included Lisa Fernandez, who initiated the participation in the event, Jennifer Velez and Darrin Ramirez.  The walk took about 2 hours to complete and all of the Bail Hotline team crossed the finish line.  Bail Hotline looks forward to working with the March of Dimes in the years to come.  Bail Hotline Focuses on great events like these to give back to the community.

Lots of People Showing Support

 

Showing Our Support

What Does Bail Cost?

Depending on whether you pay cash (for the total bail amount) or have a bail agency post the bond for you (a small percentage of the bail pays for a surety premium), the cost of bail can vary quite a bit.  In some cases bail is extended according to the jurisdiction’s bail schedule, which lists the most common types of offenses and defines the minimum bail amount for each charge.  More often, the judge will set the bail amount during the arraignment hearing, where other factors will be taken into consideration (such as severity of the crime, residency, employment, risk of flight, etc.)

How is the Bail Amount Set?

Each state’s Department of Insurance oversees the bonding industry within its borders, and defines the maximum percentage allowed for bond premiums.  In California, the standard premium is 10% of the face amount of the bail and there is also a bond fee of $15 per bond; i.e. if bail is set at $5000, then the premium is $500 plus $15 or $515.  Bail Hotline offers an 8% premium for clients who are union members, active members of the military, or have retained private counsel.

Though the actual bail amount is set by the court, you may be able to request a lower bail amount if you cannot afford the premium or face amount – depending on the state.  The Eighth Amendment (adopted as part of the United States Bill of Rights in 1791) prohibits the government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishment.

How Can Bail be Paid?

Sometimes the bail is “cash-only” and must then be paid in cash directly to the jail; otherwise a personal check is acceptable.  You might be able to pledge your home as collateral instead of cash, but there must generally be value of 2x the bail amount (this process could also take several days or weeks, as opposed to a matter of hours).  If you cannot pay the face amount of your bail in full, then a bondsman is your best option.  Bail companies charge a premium for providing a surety bond for your release; basically they are guaranteeing you will appear in court on the date stipulated.

The bail premium is nonrefundable after the bond is posted and accepted by the court system; at this point the bond company has liability and the premium is considered to have been fully earned.  The premium is good for one year, and must be paid again if the case goes longer. The bail can be handled by an out-of-state friend or relative, with faxed contracts and a credit card or wire transfer.

Bail Hotline offers flexible payments plans and payment options if you cannot afford the full premium to post bail, and we can work wih you to meet your specific requirements.  Keep in mind that if you do pay your bail in full, rather than securing a bail bond, the court may deduct court fees, fines, and even reimbursement for its public defender expenses before refunding the balance.  Statistically speaking, the fees and fines tend to be lower in cases where bonds are posted.

When Is a Bail Bond Exonerated?

After the legal process is finished, the bond is exonerated.  This means that the defendant is released from the obligation to appear or otherwise follow the court’s directives – which were promised as a condition of release.  The guilt or innocence of the defendant has no bearing exoneration and the bail balance is then released to whomever is named on the bail receipt.  Any payments still owed on the bond premium are still due to the bail agency.

How Does Forfeiture Occur?

When a defendant fails to appear in court as directed, a forfeiture of the bail takes place and a bench warrant is issued for their arrest. In some cases it may be possible to reinstate the bail bond if the defendant works through the bondsman or an attorney to set a new trial date.  There is generally 30-90 days to reinstate the bond or return the defendant to court. If the deadlines have passed, the court will issue a summary judgment and the total face amount of the bail must be paid.

Difference: Bounty Hunter and a Bail Bondsman

Though these two agents sometimes work together, there are big differences between them. Bail bondsmen and bounty hunters (aka fugitive recovery or bail enforcement agents) are at times confused with one another, but they each move in their own unique circles and are regulated in completely different ways.

The 1873 Supreme Court trial of Taylor v. Taintor is cited as the origin of the law that a person into whose custody a defendant is remanded as part of the bail process has “sweeping rights” to that person. When a suspect “jumps bail,” this is the time when these two professions will interact, ultimately to bring the defendant back in front of the court and assure the bail is voided instead of forfeited.

What is a Bounty Hunter?

Specializing in capturing fugitives, these recovery agents are paid a monetary reward (bounty) for their services of locating, arresting and detaining. They are in most cases employed by the bondsman, are usually paid around 10% of the bail premium and are not responsible for the fugitive’s bail in any way. Bounty Hunters claim to catch about 90% of defendants who fail to appear. {Rachel Clarke (June 19, 2003). “Above the law: US bounty hunters“. BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3003886.stm.}

Depending on varying state laws, bounty hunters can enter a fugitive’s private property without a warrant to arrest them (though they cannot pursue a defendant into another’s home without that owner’s permission or a warrant). They are generally asked to train and test with firearms, handcuffs, tasers, and other powerful weapons and protective vests. Some states do not require formal training or even a license, only the bondsman’s sanction to operate – however many states have legal requirements that leave an out-of-state bounty hunter powerless in pursuing a fugitive across their borders.

Texas requires a bounty hunter to be a peace or security officer or private investigator; Louisiana requires special clothing to identify themselves as such; Kentucky prohibits any form of bounty hunting, and the state doesn’t have a system of bail bondsmen, so only a peace officer can make an arrest – the variances are endless. Crossing into another country can cause a bounty hunter to be arrested for kidnapping; one example was when TV star “Dog” Chapman was arrested after going into Mexico to capture Andrew Luster, the infamous millionaire rapist and fugitive. Dog was released and he then returned to the U.S., only to be declared a fugitive himself and subsequently arrested for extradition back to Mexico.

What is different about a Bail Bondsman?

A bail bond company is licensed by each state’s Department of Insurance – to write contracts, post surety bail bonds to release defendants from jail, and handle various forms involved in allowing a defendant freedom until their assigned court date. The bail agent guarantees to indemnify the surety (insurance company) in case of forfeiture of the bail (for failure of the defendant to appear). Though a bail agent might go to a jail with papers to sign, they are typically not armed nor do they go out searching for a bail jumper to arrest.

Familiar with the local workings of the criminal court system and its regulations, the bond company can be instrumental in securing a more rapid release of an incarcerated suspect. Because the courts save money when working through professional bondsmen, it is typical to find lower fines and before refunding the balance; they also might deduct payment for public defender fees as well.

How Do You Bail Someone Out of Jail?

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.

What is a Surety Bail Bond?

The surety bail bond is a performance bond issued by a bail agency, on behalf of the defendant, as a guarantee that the offender will appear in court at the ordered date and time. The defendant pays the agent a fee (no more than the maximum percentage of the bail amount set by government regulation) in exchange for its financial strength to extend surety credit.

The bond company offers a standing security agreement with district court officials to post an irrevocable “blanket” bond, which covers the bail cost if any of their defendants do not appear.  The agreements are verified and certified by insurance companies, and eliminate the need to deposit actual cash or property for each suspect – thereby speeding along the release process.

The surety bail bond is popular in American courts where bail amounts are set higher than the poor can usually afford to pay. Bail agents offer these defendants a way to win their release until trial, allowing them to go home to their jobs and families, as well as to retain counsel and work on their own defense.  Because these suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, excessively high bail without access to surety bail bonds would create a violation of their Habeas Corpus rights.

Obligations of a Co-Signer

Usually a friend or family member is required to co-sign (indemnify) the bond and sometimes to provide collateral in the form of additional cash or property. The indemnitor would additionally be required to assist the agent in locating the defendant if they fail to appear.  The co-signer’s collateral would also be at risk, if the defendant is not able to be located and the bail is forfeited.

If the defendant fails to appear, the bail agency is authorized by the court to locate, arrest and bring their client to the judge’s bench. If the offender cannot be found, or the bail is forfeited, the bonding company will file an insurance claim or pursue the principal or their co-signer to recover its losses.

Why Choose a Surety Bail Bond Instead of Paying Cash?

 Here are a few good reasons you should use a surety bail bond, rather than just paying the bail all cash:

 1.      When paid up front, the court is now sure that it can collect at          least this amount in fines and court costs, based on your    demonstrated “ability to pay.”  Costs are substantially higher when cash bail is paid than when a surety bond is utilized.

2.      The defendant may now have difficulty getting a court appointed      legal defense – because, if you can pay for your bail in cash,          then you can probably also afford a lawyer.  Though it won’t    necessarily disqualify you from having a public defender, you can          count on any bail funds left over from court costs and fines going      to repay your court appointed defense.

3.      In most states, the courts cannot forfeit a surety bail bond for          any reason other than the defendant failing to appear.  If you         pay the bail in cash, and there are other terms or conditions to         the bail order, you may lose your money if any of them are        violated.

Once the bail bond has served its purpose of assuring the defendant’s attendance, the surety is exonerated (and the co-signer is released from their indemnity); this can be when the case is terminated or when the offender is returned to custody.  Much like car insurance payments, a bond premium is not refundable, since it pays the company for taking the risk that you will perform in accordance with the bail obligation. 

How to Choose a Bail Bonds Company

When your friend or loved one’s freedom is on the line, how do you choose between the hundreds of phone numbers glaring out at you from the phone book or Internet search results? Who you ultimately choose could make the bail experience an even larger nightmare for you and your family. Hopefully you will select a company that can offer competent assistance, affordability and compassion to decrease the stress of the situation in which you’ve found yourself.

Is the Bail Bond office convenient to you?

Proximity to the jails, as well as to your home location, can be an important factor when choosing a bond agent. Bail Hotline maintains over 25 offices in California, reaching from San Diego to San Francisco and inland from Indio to Victorville – and if you cannot make it to our office, we will come to you. A local bondsman knows the jails, the staff and all the details to help get a release as rapidly as possible.

How quickly can the bail be posted?

If a bond agency is organized and experienced, they will have a sure-fire system in place to get as early a release as possible for your friend or loved one. A good bail agent is going to be available any time of day or night, since an arrest can happen at any time. Bail Hotline is open 24/7 throughout the year, making certain you can reach a dedicated bail agent right when you need them.

Is the Bond Agency licensed in California?

A quick check to the Department of Insurance, by which bail agents are licensed, will verify whether or not your chosen bail agent can legally post your bail in California.

Does the Bond Agent offer payment plans?

Bailing a friend or loved one out of jail isn’t something you plan for. And coming up with 10-15% of the total bond amount set by a judge can be as out of reach as the moon for many folks. Payment options are an important feature – one that Bail Hotline offers and can tailor to meet your specific needs.

Does the Bond Agent have any reduced premium rates?

Some bail agents always charge the standard premium for bail bonds; in California that rate is 10%, and 15% for specialty bail such as a federal bond. At Bail Hotline, we can also provide bail services at the reduced premium rate of eight percent for clients meeting particular requirements; you must be either active military or a union member, or have retained a private defense attorney.

Wouldn’t you go to the best Bond Agent if you could afford it?

With most professional services, you pay according to experience, credentials and reputation – usually substantially more for the top in their field. The Bail Bond industry is one in which you should have the best every time – because premiums for standard bail bonds are set at 10% by the government. Unfortunately this standard also means that even a just-licensed bond agency is paid the same, so be sure to ask how long they have been in business. At Bail Hotline, we bring not only a decade of experience to the table, but also a family commitment to the highest standards of integrity, reliability and service to our customers.

Bail Bond Classifications

Bail Bond Classifications

If you are arrested and charged with a criminal offense, bail can literally be your “get out of jail card.” Obviously it isn’t free, but it does represent hope to secure at least your temporary freedom.  Going home to your family and your job, until your court date arrives, can help your defense and of course your financial position.

There are several types of bail that a judge can set, depending on a few different factors: the nature and circumstances of the offense, your family ties to the community, your financial condition, length of residence, your prior criminal history, character, and mental condition.

Cash Bond –  This means the court requires the total amount of bail to be paid in cash; typically ordered if you are considered a flight risk, have failed to appear for prior hearings or a warrant was issued for unpaid fines.

Surety Bond – A third party (friend, business associate or family member) agrees to be responsible for your debt of obligation. Generally this service is provided by bail agents, who are paid a nonrefundable premium of 10% of the bail amount (surety on the bond).  A bail bondsman gives a guarantee to the court, assuring they will cover the forfeited bail amount if you fail to appear.

Property Bond – You or your third party pledges real property, which must have a value of at least the amount of the bail; more usually it must be twice the amount set.  If you fail to appear the state can levy the property or file a foreclosure against it to recover the bail amount.

Combo Bail + Conditions – At times the court will combine a bail with specific conditions; requiring a cash or surety bond plus additional conditions to make certain the community isn’t put at risk, or to better assure you appear for your court date.  This can also include a protective order.  Conditions may require you to surrender a passport and any firearms, make mandatory phone calls to your police station, submit to electronic monitoring or house arrest, drug or alcohol testing or counseling.

Order of Protection – The court requires you to refrain from contact with the victim in your case, and from any criminal actions against them.  If this order is ignored you could automatically lose your posted bail and be subject to harsher fines or additional prison time.

Immigration Bond – This is a federal bond used if you are arrested and are an illegal alien.  You will deal directly with the DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) or the ICE (Bureau of Immigration & Custom Enforcement.  This specialty bond premium is usually 15-20% of the bond amount and the application process can be longer.

Federal Bond – More work is involved as well as more risk for the bail agent, so your premium will be 15% and the bail is generally going to be a lot higher.  Collateral will be required to cover the rest of the bond, but in this case you must attend a Nebbia (or bail sufficiency) hearing; essentially you or your family must prove the collateral and bond cash is from a legitimate source and not derived from criminal activity.

Released on recognizance (OR) – An unsecured bond wherein you will promise to appear at all judicial proceedings and not take part in any illegal activities or other restricted conduct the court deems inappropriate.  Usually a dollar amount is still set but not paid unless the court orders that it be forfeited.

Cite Out or Citation Release – The arresting officer issues a citation to you when you arrested, ordering you to appear at a specific court date and time.  These require no payment of security and usually are given out as soon as you are arrested.

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