A bail bond is a legal agreement between a defendant, a bondsman and the respective court. It allows the arrested defendant to be released before trial on the condition that he or she will show up for all court dates. There are different types of bonds available depending on the charges faced, the criminal history and the defendant’s financial situation. The judge determines the type of bail bond for each case in a bail hearing. The common types of bonds are listed below:
- Cash bond: In a cash bond, the defendant is required to pay the full amount of his bail in cash (some courts may also accept check, money order or credit card payment).This type of bond is often used when the judge is not certain whether the defendant will show up in court, or has unpaid fines or fees from other cases. If the defendant, or the defendant’s friends or family, have the bail amount available, they can post the cash bail. As long as the defendant complies with the court by showing up on the court date, the cash bail will be returned at the end of the case.
- Surety bond: Surety bonds are often used when a defendant cannot afford to pay the bond set by the officiating judge. A friend or relative contacts a bail agent or bondsman to posts the bail on behalf of the defendant. The bail agent will appear in court with the accused and pledge to pay the full amount of money if the accused person does not make the court appearances. The bail bond agent charges a certain premium (usually 10 percent of the bail) and obtains collateral from the defendant or a co-signor to minimize the risk of loss. If the defendant fails to make his or her court appearance(s), or the bail agent is not paid, there may be severe repercussions depending on the local jurisdiction.
- Property bond: A property bond, also known as secured bond involves a pledge of property such as a car, house, or other property, as a way to ensure bail payment. The defendant or anyone willing to put up collateral on behalf of the defendant can post a property bond. In most cases, the property is valued at least twice the cost of bail. If the defendant misses the court appearance, the court will take possession of the property in order to cover the cost of bail.
- Unsecured Bond: In an unsecured bond, no money is required upfront. The defendant signs a contract with the court agreeing to pay the bail bond amount, if he or she fails to appear in court.
- Federal bond: A federal bond applies to federal criminal cases. To bail the accused out of jail, a surety bail bondsman is needed to post a federal bond. A federal bond is expensive, and there is usually a 15 percent fee. Unlike bail bondsmen who guarantee bails from their own assets, a surety bail bondsman's guarantee is backed by an insurance company.
- Immigration Bond: An immigration bond is used to secure the release of a defendant detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).The immigration bond process goes through a number of federal offices, making it more costly than other different types of bail bonds. A specially licensed bond agent is required to post an immigration bond with premiums costing as much as 15 to 20 percent of the total bail amount.
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