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Bail Explained

Terms, Conditions, & Procedure

Bail & Bonds

Types of Bail

Bail Hearings

Bail Forfeiture

Bail Payment



Bail Process

Once a person is in police custody and is charged with an alleged offense (arrested), he or she will be taken to the local jail or criminal processing facility for an administrative process often referred to as booking. During this process, the police perform a series of tasks, such as:

  • Taking the arrestee’s photo

  • Recording personal information such as name, date of birth, and age

  • Taking fingerprints

  • Taking any physical possessions the arrestee has and placing them into a storage facility

  • Searching for any warrants

  • Performing a health evaluation 

  • Placing the arrestee in a detainment holding area.


Types of Bail

Many people associate bail with a specific cash amount. The general idea is that if you have the money to pay bail after you are arrested, you can get out of jail. But bail is often more complicated than that, especially when the bail amount is large. In any state or jurisdiction there may be a variety of bail types available. While some types of bail are not available in all states or situations, and some are more or less often employed than others, defendants can expect to encounter one of more of the following types of bail.

Bail Hearing

After a person’s arrest, a judge or other court officer will set the amount of bail, along with any other conditions for his or her release from jail. Factors to consider that could weigh against bail include flight risk and risk to the public of further criminal activity. Factors that might be favorable to granting bail include a lack of prior criminal history and ties to the community. Possible rulings in a bail hearing include:



Payment Options

Getting arrested is an unforgettable experience and getting out of jail is of the highest priority after someone has been incarcerated. Unfortunately, paying for a bail bond isn’t usually an easy thing to do for most. A typical bail amount in California is around $10,000 and $50,000. However, bail for serious crimes can be set at much higher rates depending upon the circumstances listed below.  Regardless of the criminal charge, bail amounts may be set based on several factors. Below are some of the most common:

  • Age

  • Criminal History

  • Education Level

  • Employment Status

  • Failure to Appear History

  • Income Level

  • Involvement in Society

  • Substance Abuse History


Bail Forfeiture

Posting bail allows a defendant to remain free pending the outcome of his trial. However, bail comes with an obligation to attend all court proceedings, and may require other conditions to be met as well. If the defendant fails to appear in court or otherwise violates the terms of the bail agreement, the court can declare the bond forfeited. What happens next is determined by state law and the reason for the forfeiture.


Bond Forfeiture Causes

Bail forfeiture refers to a legal action that demands the funds pledged as security for the accused's good behavior and court attendance be paid to the court. This might occur if a defendant misses a scheduled court appearance, for example. The length of time from when a court appearance is missed and the order for bond forfeiture depends on the jurisdiction and the nature of the crime involved. As a practical rule, however, once the defendant is recaptured, he will be returned to jail to await trial and have his bail revoked.

Required Notifications and Next Steps

Most states have laws that require the court to notify both the defendant and the surety, or guarantor, of the posted bail amount. Once that happens, whoever provided the bond that allowed the defendant to remain free generally has four options:

  • Produce the defendant

  • Provide the court with an acceptable excuse for the defendant's absence

  • Pay the forfeited bond

  • Face the consequences of failing to do any of the above

In many cases, a third-party posts the defendant's bail, whether it's a family member, friend or professional bail bondsman. When a bond forfeiture occurs, the court takes those funds, and it's up to the surety to try and recoup the money lost from the defendant. A bail bondsman may request that the court delay bail forfeiture so it can hire a bounty hunter to find the defendant who skipped bail and return him to the court. Also, the defendant can contact their bondsman and request a reinstatement letter. This letter to the judge states that the bondsman is willing to keep the defendant out on bail and re assume liability for their court appearances. A reinstatement letter will usually only cost around $200. You do not need to repay the entire bond amount again. 



A person, usually a family member or friend of the accused, who agrees to pay the full amount of the bond should the accused forfeit the bond. In bail bond contracts, the indemnitor is also referred to as the “co- signer.” 

When signing a bail bond contract, you (the indemnitor) will take on the following responsibilities:
  1. The first and foremost responsibility is that you (the indemnitor), along with the help of the bail agency, will make sure the defendant returns to every one of their court dates without fail.

  2. Should the defendant fail to return to court, you will also take on the responsibility of paying additional fees, if the bail company has to hire a fugitive recovery agent to bring the defendant back to court.

  3. Finally, if the defendant cannot be located, you (the indemnitor) will be made solely responsible to pay for the entire amount of the bail originally set by the court. If collateral was taken (such as real estate lien or pink slip) at the time of signing the contract, that will be used to pay towards the bond and will not be returned.


When someone does fail to go back to court, a judge will issue what is called a “bench warrant” for the arrest of the defendant. The bail that was originally paid will be forfeited and a recovery agent will be contacted to locate the person who ‘skipped bail.’Bail companies realize that cars break down, children get ill, and some may miss a court date because of extenuating circumstances. However, most indemnitors’ and defendants don’t realize that these issues can be easily taken care of by the bail company with just a simple phone call to them as soon as the defendant misses a court date.

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