What is a Surety Bail Bond?

The surety bail bond is a performance bond issued by a bail agency, on behalf of the defendant, as a guarantee that the offender will appear in court at the ordered date and time. The defendant pays the agent a fee (no more than the maximum percentage of the bail amount set by government regulation) in exchange for its financial strength to extend surety credit.

The bond company offers a standing security agreement with district court officials to post an irrevocable “blanket” bond, which covers the bail cost if any of their defendants do not appear.  The agreements are verified and certified by insurance companies, and eliminate the need to deposit actual cash or property for each suspect – thereby speeding along the release process.

The surety bail bond is popular in American courts where bail amounts are set higher than the poor can usually afford to pay. Bail agents offer these defendants a way to win their release until trial, allowing them to go home to their jobs and families, as well as to retain counsel and work on their own defense.  Because these suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, excessively high bail without access to surety bail bonds would create a violation of their Habeas Corpus rights.

Obligations of a Co-Signer

Usually a friend or family member is required to co-sign (indemnify) the bond and sometimes to provide collateral in the form of additional cash or property. The indemnitor would additionally be required to assist the agent in locating the defendant if they fail to appear.  The co-signer’s collateral would also be at risk, if the defendant is not able to be located and the bail is forfeited.

If the defendant fails to appear, the bail agency is authorized by the court to locate, arrest and bring their client to the judge’s bench. If the offender cannot be found, or the bail is forfeited, the bonding company will file an insurance claim or pursue the principal or their co-signer to recover its losses.

Why Choose a Surety Bail Bond Instead of Paying Cash?

 Here are a few good reasons you should use a surety bail bond, rather than just paying the bail all cash:

 1.      When paid up front, the court is now sure that it can collect at          least this amount in fines and court costs, based on your    demonstrated “ability to pay.”  Costs are substantially higher when cash bail is paid than when a surety bond is utilized.

2.      The defendant may now have difficulty getting a court appointed      legal defense – because, if you can pay for your bail in cash,          then you can probably also afford a lawyer.  Though it won’t    necessarily disqualify you from having a public defender, you can          count on any bail funds left over from court costs and fines going      to repay your court appointed defense.

3.      In most states, the courts cannot forfeit a surety bail bond for          any reason other than the defendant failing to appear.  If you         pay the bail in cash, and there are other terms or conditions to         the bail order, you may lose your money if any of them are        violated.

Once the bail bond has served its purpose of assuring the defendant’s attendance, the surety is exonerated (and the co-signer is released from their indemnity); this can be when the case is terminated or when the offender is returned to custody.  Much like car insurance payments, a bond premium is not refundable, since it pays the company for taking the risk that you will perform in accordance with the bail obligation. 

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