What is Bail ?
Have you or a loved one ever been arrested? If so you are probably familiar with the term bail. Bail refers to the amount needed to get a person released from jail . Every county is different but the bail amount is set one of two ways. In some counties it is set through a predetermined bond schedule especially if the criminal offense is a misdemeanor. If there is no bond schedule in that county or the charge is a felony (a criminal charge that can be punished with more than a year in prison) then it is set by a judge at first appearance, usually within 24 hours of the arrest. In either situation, after the bail is set friends or family are able to post bond to have their significant other released, and It is understood that the release on bail is contingent upon the defendant or detainee returning to court each and everytime he/she is summoned to do so. There are two ways of going about obtaining bail in the state of Florida. Those two ways are as follows:
1. A Cash Bond which is the equivalent of you posting the total bail amount in cash or cashiers check at the detention facility to get your family member or friend released. (i.e. John Doe is arrested and given a $5000 dollar bond by that counties magistrate, in order to post a cash bond, some one must obtain $5000 cash, take it to the jail and arrange his release.). Many times court cases can take months or years to be resolved and in the meantime those funds are frozen with the county. If the defendant makes all his required appearances, upon disposition and total clearing of the case whomever put up this money to the court will be eligible to receive back the said money minus any fines, restitution or clerk and court associated costs. In the event the defendant fails to appear at his scheduled court appearances the person that posted the cash bond stands to lose the whole amount of bail. If some one does not have the total cash available or does not want to have the money frozen a better decision for them would be to contact a bail bondsman and arrange a surety bond.
2. A Surety Bond is obtained when you employ the services of a bail bondsman. For a fee a Bail Bondsman will use his money and assets to secure your loved ones release. The fee is regulated by the state and in the state of Florida the fee for a state bond is 10% of the total bail. For federal charges the fee is 15 % . So if John Doe was arrested and given a $5000 bond on local or state charges the bondsmans fee would be $500 dollars (10%) . The fee is not negotiable and not refundable. In addition to the 10% fee you may be required to put up some type of collateral to secure the bond. The collateral is held until the the case is cleared and the bondsman discharged of his liability. The collateral or security portion can be anything of value equivalent to the amount of the bond. In certain circumstances collateral may be negotiated depending on different factors including but not limited to the amount of the bond, ties to the community, financial stability, criminal record etc. Examples of collateral would be vehicle or vessel titles, real estate, cash, jewelry, stocks, etc. The person guaranteeing the bond is most commonly known as the indemnitor and this person will be the main contact in the event the defendant fails to show up in court.
In Florida, the state law allows the bondsman up to 60 days from the date the defendant fails to show up in court to have the situation resolved.
There is one fundamental difference between posting a Surety Bond through a Bail Bondsman and posting a Cash Bond directly through the jail . Lets say you were to post a cash bond and the defendant failed to show up, you as a civilian do not have the right to apprehend or detain the defendant in order to prevent the loss of your hard earned money. Not only could you be charged yourself with a criminal violation but you also automatically forfeit the bail money to the county. Given the same situation if you would have used a bail bondsmans services the bondsman would be actively looking for the defendant with full authority to arrest him and return him to the the custody of the county before having to meet the financial obligation to the court . When a surety agent posts a bond he is giving a voucher, a note, a promise to the court that if that particular defendant does not show up at his required hearing he will within the 60 days have him back in jail or pay the full amount of the bond. As soon as someone fails to show up in court a notice is automatically mailed out to the bondsman from the clerk advising him of the breach of the bond and the 60 day timeline . At the same time a warrant for failure to appear is issued for the defendant.
Sometimes errors in the system occur and sometimes circumstances beyond your control arise. It is common that an attorney forgets to file a form on time, a wrong or conflicting court date is given, you are in the hospital, etc. All of these can be worked out without substantial financial loss to anyone. The key is to communicate that to your bondsman so that he may make the necessary arrangements and provide proof or documents to the court. Not all issues may be able to be solved but bondsmen would rather work with you than launch a search for you .