When someone is accused of a crime and arrested, depending on the nature of the crime, a judge may set bail. The defendant or a loved one will have the opportunity to pay a deposit, ensuring that he or she will appear in court to face their charges. The amount of bail is determined by the severity of the crime, and in some cases can reach as high as $100,000 or more. As I’m sure you’re well aware, not everyone has an extra $100,000 laying around for emergencies. When this is the case, the defendant (or their family) will turn to a bail bondsman.
A bail bondsman agrees to pay the full bail amount to the court, securing the release of the defendant. In return, they charge a premium, usually 10% of the total bail amount, to the person wishing to bail the accused out. The agency processes the payment; the defendant is released, and will appear in court as required to face charges.
What happens when the accused decides to not show up for their scheduled court appearance?
Unfortunately, approximately 20% of defendants fail to appear in court. When this happens, the person who posted bail on behalf of the defendant is liable for the full amount of the bail. In most cases, that is the bail bond agency.
When this happens, a warrant is issued for the arrest of the defendant. Unfortunately, there is not adequate police presence in many communities, and these bail-skippers can hide in plain sight for a good deal of time. Sometimes, they’ll flee to another city or state. When police cannot find a defendant who has skipped bail, a bail bond agency will hire a professional bounty hunter (in more recent years, they’ve become known professionally as “bail enforcement agents”) to find him or her.
Due to the language in the bail bond contract, a defendant agrees to give up certain rights. They become legally bound to the bail bond agency, and can be apprehended and arrested by the agency or a bounty hunter hired by the agency. Bail enforcement agents act as both private detectives and police, working long hours to find and apprehend a defendant who has skipped bail.
When they’ve found the fugitive, they will arrest him, return him to the jurisdiction of the offense, and turn him over to the police. Depending on the state, they can use varying degrees of force. If you are out on bail, the fear of being apprehended by a bounty hunter should give you pause before you consider skipping town.