The Ultimate Guide to Posting a Bond in a Criminal Case
As often happens, when one is arrested, the court will impose release conditions before letting them out of jail. If the court orders the payment of a bond, the person will remain in custody until the bond is posted with the jail or court. Although the process is not overly complicated, the mechanism to post the bond can be daunting to someone inexperienced in actually posting a bond. So, please consider the following information, and hopefully you can guide your client’s appropriately.
Discover the Amount of the Bond
When arrested, the defendant must be brought before a judge within 24 hours for their initial appearance. At the IA, the court will set the release conditions. You can contact the IA court, contact the jail holding the person, or by asking the detained person what amount the court ordered. In some cases, the arresting officer may have the information. And, if arrested on a warrant, the bond amount may be attached to the warrant.
Determine the Type of Bond Required
Depending on the court order, you may need to post cash, property or a combination. The type of bond can usually be obtained from the same sources noted above. In Arizona, most bonds must be “secured.” That means that bond is either paid in full or with collateral sufficient to satisfy the bond.
Posting the Bond in person
You will need to contact the holding facility to determine where you can post the bond. Normally it will be at the jail. It may be at the court. Some facilities will only take cash, others may only take certified funds or credit cards. You should contact them before obtaining the funds so that you will have the correct form of payment available. If posting cash, the transaction is simple. Provide the cash to the facility. The Maricopa County jails refuse to take large bills.
Please note that if providing a large amount of cash, the facility may keep the funds, but not apply the funds for the bond until the source of funds is proven to be legal. If by credit card or certified funds, make the appropriate payment. In all cases, keep all records and receipts. The bond will not be returned in most cases until the person’s case is completed or otherwise ordered released by the court. The bond will be returned to the person who posted the bond, not the person who provided money or collateral for the bond. This could take several months.
Using a Bonding Company/Bail Bondsman
If using a bail agent or bondsman, please remember they come in all shapes and sizes. Using a bail bondsman comes with a price tag. Normally the bonding company’s non-refundable fee is 10 percent of the required bond. For example, if the bond is $100,000, your fee for going through the bondsman will cost $10,000 and require you post collateral with them for the difference. When signing the contract with the bonding company, they will have their own requirements. Often they require the defendant to remain in contact with them telephonically or in person a specific number of times a week. They may require drug testing, employment and/or a residence they can visit. Each company has its own requirements.
You must make sure the bonding company has a good reputation and is well respected. Obtain recommendations from defense attorneys, the jail or the courts. Please try to find a bonding company that has requirements you can satisfy. If using collateral such as a vehicle or home, you may have additional concerns or issues. They bonding company may wish to physically possess the vehicle, others may just want to hold the title.
Check the Better Business Bureau or online review sites to determine if the company has good references. Depending on where you reside they may have an online presence. Bonding companies are regulated and that information should be available. Inquire about how long they have been in business and the experience they have with the actual court the matter is pending in.
Using a Vehicle or Home as Collateral for a Bond
Vehicles are a little easier because the value will be easier to determine. The bonding company will frequently demand they hold the title and the vehicle. They may also have storage fees. Get all of their fees and costs in writing. If using a home as collateral, the bonding company may require you to obtain an appraisal of the property at your cost. If they accept the property, they will put a lien on the property to secure their interests. They will file a release of the lien upon the court order releasing the bond at the end of the case. You will need to make sure the release is actually filed.
Sidestepping the Bail Bond Company
If you have the collateral, obtain a bank loan using the collateral. You will avoid the 10 percent bond company fee. And, if obtaining the bank loan as a home equity line, the interest may be tax deductible. If using a credit card for the cash advance, your overall fees may be less than the 10 percent bond company fee. As with using a home as collateral, it may take time to obtain the home loan or bank issued credit line. But before trying to do it on your own, using a bonding company will normally allow you to post the bond in significantly shorter time.
Losing the Bond
The purpose of posting bond is to require the arrested person to put their money where their mouth is. The bond is their promise to appear for all court purposes. If they fail to appear, the court can forfeit all or part of the posted bond. If the bonding company posted the bond, they will be required to pay the bond. They will then either try to locate and return the person to the court in order to try and recover their bond OR they may begin legal action to seize the collateral (your home or car) you used to support the fund.
If you have the ability to personally pay the entire bond, do so. You will save yourself the bondsman’s fee. But the alternative of using a bail bond company is that they do have the experience to post the bond and do so quickly and efficiently. Once the bond is posted, it still takes time for the person to be processed out of jail. Be patient. Just make sure that all personal property is returned to the released person and not damaged. If something is missing or broken, file a claim immediately with the jail.