Typically, a bail amount is set by the local court jurisdiction following the arrest of a defendant. This is to allow the defendant to be released from custody until his or her judicial proceedings begin. In many cases, trials can begin weeks or months after an initial arrest. This means that, if not for bail, many people (some of whom might be innocent) would have to wait in jail until that time. This is an issue for many reasons:
- It could present serious financial hardship because the defendant wouldn’t be able to work for that period of time.
- Beyond that, he or she would be missing out on daily life- family, holidays and other events.
- Bail money acts as a way to assure the judge and prosecution that the defendant will appear for trial.
A family member, a close friend, or sometimes the defendant will contact a bail agent to arrange for the posting of the bail bond. The family member or friend that is guaranteeing the bond, also known as the indemnitor or co-signer, will complete paperwork and pay the premium, which is a percentage of the bond amount. By signing the paperwork, the indemnitor is guaranteeing that he or she will pay the full amount of the bond if the defendant fails to appear in court.
A judge will usually set the bail amount, taking into account the county schedule and particular details of the case. When you pay a percentage of this, sometimes the bail agent will require collateral to secure the guarantee of the bond and ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. Collateral is anything of value that is pledged to secure the bond, such as cash, property, jewelry, etc. Upon complete resolution of the defendant’s case and payment of all premiums in full, the collateral is returned.