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How Bail Works

Once a person is arrested, they are taken to a city or county jail for booking/processing. This process can take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours (depending on the jail). Upon completion of booking, bail will be set according to the offense this person is being charged with. 

Posting bail typically is done using one of two methods:

  1. The most economical and common way is to contact a Licensed Bail Agent and arrange to post a Bail Bond. 
    • For an agent to post a Bail Bond for your loved one, two items are typically required; first the  premium and secondly, some form of collateral.
    • In California the premium is 10% of the set bail, (for example, if bail is set at $25000, the premium would be $2500), and is considered earned once the defendant is released on said bond and at that time is non-refundable.
    • Collateral is something for the Bail Agent to hold until the defendant has finished all required appearances with the court, at which time it would be returned.  Collateral is essential to provide risk protection for the agency. 
    • Collateral is usually one of four things: cash, cars, real estate, and in some cases the signature of someone who qualifies to be financially responsible to secure the bond.

  2. The second way is for the defendant or someone other than the defendant to post cash bail at the jail. 
    • This dollar amount is 100% of the set bail for the defendant's offense. For example, if the set bail is $25000, then $25000 cash will need to be posted. 
    • When the defendant has fulfilled all of his/her obligations by appearing in court on all matters until the case is resolved, the cash posted for his/her release will then be returned to the party who posted it.

Posting a bail bond involves a contractual undertaking guaranteed by a bail agency, surety and the indemnitor (usually a relative or close friend). The bail bond is a financial guarantee to the court that the defendant will appear in court each and every time the court orders him/her to do so.

For this service, the bail agent charges a premium for the service (10% of the full bail amount, it is a standard fee set by the California licensed Surety Companies and the California Department of Insurance) In addition, the bail agency may require physical collateral, the signing of a bail bond agreement (contract), or both, depending on the individual circumstances. Often times a defendant can be bailed out of jail with only the signature of a responsible indemnitor.

After an agreement is reached between the bail agent and the indemnitor and all fees are paid, the bail agent physically posts a bail bond for the full bail amount with the jail or court. The defendant will be released on bail and upon release given a date, time and location to appear in court.

It is very important the indemnitor feels confident that the defendant is going to appear for each and every court appearance until the bail bond is exonerated. The indemnitor is responsible for the full amount of the bail and any and all other expenses if the court should forfeit this bond.

Review our Glossary of Terms and the list of Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If you don't see your questions answered, feel free to contact us.


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