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The Five Types of Bail

Bail, another word for “release,” is a simple concept.  When someone is accused of a crime and arrested, a judge will sometimes allow them to make a deposit to assure that he or she appears in court to face charges.  There are many types of bail, some used more than others.  In this post, we will look at the five most common types of bail.

Cash Bail

Cash bail is an extremely simple concept.  Once a judge has set a bail amount, the defendant will have the opportunity to pay that amount in full.  Depending on the jurisdiction, the court will accept cash, checks, or credit cards.  Based on the severity of the crime, the amount of bail can be significant.  Nearly 20% of all defendants do not appear in court after posting bail, so large financial commitments provide huge incentives to meet the commitment.

Surety Bond

A surety bond, also known as a bail bond is one of the most common methods of bail.  When a judge sets bail, many defendants cannot afford the total amount.  They will typically turn to a bail bondsman.  A bail bond agency will provide the full amount of bail, securing the defendant’s release.  The defendant (or more typically, a friend or close family member) will pay a percentage of the total bail amount (usually 10%) as well as offer collateral to the agency for this service.

If a defendant “skips bail,” not appearing in court, the bail agency is at risk of losing their deposit.  They will often hire bounty hunters to find those who have skipped bail, ensuring that they do not lose their bond.

Cite Out

In the case of misdemeanor or summary offenses, often an officer will not arrest the defendant at all.  They’ll simply issue a citation, requiring the defendant’s appearance in court.

Personal Recognizance

When some minor offenses occur, a judge may choose to release a suspect with the assurance that he or she will show up to court on his or her own volition.  This is known as “personal recognizance,” and usually only offered in cases of minor, nonviolent crimes, involving a person who is unlikely to flee.

Property Bonds

In some cases, a suspect will be offered a property bond.  This gives the court a legal claim on the defendant’s estate equal to the amount of bail.  If the accused fails to show up for their scheduled court appearance, the court can foreclose on this property, allowing them to collect the forfeited bail.

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