Over ten million arrests were made in 2016. There’s a chance that at some point, a family member or friend may need your help.
Depending on the severity of the crime, a judge may require a defendant or their loved ones to post bail.
But what is bail, anyway? And do you get the bail money back, or is it a form of court fee?
Keep reading to have your burning questions about bail answered.
What is Bail and How Does it Work?
Bail is a certain amount of money required to “bail” a person out of jail. Typically, a judge sets a bail amount that correlates to the severity of the crime committed. The amount increases with crime severity so that when the defendant is released from jail, they have a strong incentive to come back to court.
Therefore, bail money has a catch: the court holds onto the money until you successfully attend all of your court dates.
Once the bail amount is revealed, there are three options. The defendant can choose to stay in jail until their court dates, they can pay for bail out of pocket (either cash or a property bond), or they can use bail bonds.
Bail bonds are a common way for families and defendants to post bail since it requires less of a financial burden. With bail bonds, you pay a bail bond company a premium and/or provide collateral, but you do not have to post the entire bail amount yourself.
Do you Get Bail Money Back?
There are two scenarios that determine whether you will receive your bail money back.
1. The Defendant Shows up to Court
Bail money is a form of guarantee to the courts that, after you’ve left jail, you’ll return to attend all of your court dates. If the defendant shows up to all of their court dates, including possible sentencing, then you will receive your bail money back regardless of whether they are found guilty or not guilty. This refund includes both cash and property bonds.
If you used a bail bond, you will not receive a refund for the premium you were charged.
2. The Defendant Does not Show up to Court
If the defendant misses court or “skips town,” the bail (cash or property) does not get returned. The court will then keep the money either you or your loved ones loaned to the court.
You will also not get your bail money back if the defendant is arrested again after being released on bail.
If you used bail bonds instead, you now owe the full bail amount in addition to the premium you were charged.
Bailing a family member or friend out of jail can be an expensive undertaking. However, you’ll be glad to know that you do get bail money back from the court so long as the defendant shows up to all of their court dates and possible sentencing.