If you are unlucky enough to be arrested for any offence, you will be held at a detention facility until either your court case has been heard or you have been bailed. You have a constitutional right to the presumption of innocence until you are found guilty, but you can still be detained.
Because the legal process can be quite lengthy, and because the courts have to hear some many cases, it may not be possible to set a trial date until some considerable time in the future. The bail system was established to avoid keeping innocent people in jail for prolonged periods leading up to trial.
Bail is granted in exchange for a financial amount that is paid or pledged to the court. When the trial date arrives, the defendant must appear in court at the appointed time. If he or she fails to show up, the bail money may be forfeited. An arrest warrant will be issued against the defendant, who will technically have become a fugitive.
Bail bond companies provide a service whereby they pledge to pay the bail amount if the defendant fails to appear. Because the amount of money needed for bail can be very high, many individuals would find it difficult to come up with the cash themselves, and instead will enter into a contract with a bail bond company. Most bail bond companies will need the defendant, or somebody willing to support the defendant, to put up some collateral to secure the bail bond. This is an important consideration, and defendants who fail to appear in court can jeopardize the property and financial status of their bail guarantors.
In general, the more serious the crime, the higher the bail amount will be. For very serious crimes, a judge may set bail at millions of dollars, which is way beyond what any bail bond company is likely to agree to pay.
If a bail hearing is set to take place before a judge, the defendant can have a lawyer to represent him or her at the hearing. The district attorney may oppose the granting of bail. Bail can be refused if the judge thinks the defendant will try to flee, or that the defendant may try to contact witnesses in the case.
If the defendant does not turn up in court in the trial date, a bail bond company will be given a short grace period to try to locate the defendant and bring him or her to justice. Additionally, a warrant will be issued for the arrest of the defendant. If the defendant raised the bail money privately, the money will be forfeited. One of the biggest problems bail absconders face is that they will most likely be unable to arrange bail again. This could mean spending a long time in jail while waiting for a rescheduled court hearing.
If a bail bond company cannot produce the defendant within the grace period, it has to pay the court the amount secured by the bail bond. The company will then take action against the bail guarantors to recover the amount paid and the bond fees. You should never become a bail guarantor unless you have complete trust in the character of the defendant.
Bond fees are usually 10% of the amount of money bonded. Each state fixes the percentage level of bail fees, and it is illegal for companies to charge more than this level. Since bail amounts could be set at thousands of dollars, many bail bond companies now facilitate payment of their fees by installments. To avail of this, the defendant normally has to take a loan for the amount of the bail bond fees from a finance company, and repay the loan monthly over the agreed loan period.