Bail is set at "x" amount of dollars. This is what is commonly stated at arraignments, but what does it really mean? How do bail or bail bonds really work? There always seems to be a lot of confusion over whether or not you will get your money or property back. Then there is the question regarding innocent, guilty, pleading guilty, and/or house arrest. How does bail work in each of these situations? The following should help clarify these things for you.
Paying Cash Bail to the Courts
If you pay cash bail in full to the courts, and your relative makes all court appearances as requested and expected, then the court will issue you a refund of your cash bail once the case is finally settled and a sentencing hearing (if applicable) is completed. Since most people do not have a thousand, five thousand, ten thousand, or more just laying around in a safe or bank account, they got to a bail bond agent.
The Bond Agent Does Not Refund
There are reasons why the bond agent does not refund what you give him/her. One, the bond agent only takes ten percent of the total bail amount from you in order to give you the bail bond. On a one-thousand-dollar cash bail amount, he/she is not getting much from you.
Two, the bond agent needs to be paid for his/her services. You are requesting that he/she put up the remaining bail amount as an assurance that your relative will make it to every hearing. He/she gets all the money he/she puts down to help release your relative from jail. The ten percent from you is for services rendered. It is akin to borrowing the money from a friend, but not having to pay it back because the money goes directly to your friend and bypasses you.
Three, you are asking a bond agent to take a risk on your relative. If your relative jumps bail, the bond agent loses all the money he/she put up to spring your relative. It is only fair that he/she gets to keep the ten percent you contributed to the financial losses he/she incurred. Additionally, if you used property to secure the bond, that property is now the agent's, who must sell it and give the courts any remaining money owed.
Innocent, Guilty, Etc.
If your relative is found innocent, all monies are refunded to the people who put up bond money. This is the ONLY instance in which you might get a partial refund from what you gave the bond agent. Guilty verdicts only render some of the bail bond money back to the agent, usually ten percent, maybe more, while the courts take a cut of about three percent. No contest with house arrest is typically handled in the same way as a guilty verdict.