The purpose of a bond is to secure the defendant’s appearance in court to answer to the charges alleged. The two main points taken into consideration when a judge sets the defendant’s bond are:
Is the defendant a flight risk?
Is the defendant a danger to the community?
*If the answer to both of those questions is “No” then a reasonable bond should be set to secure the defendant’s appearance in court.
Common types of bonds-
Best – Personal Recognizance (Recog Bond) – This type of bond allows the defendant out of jail for free in exchange for their promise to make all of their future court dates and to abide by the conditions set by the judge while out on bond. Usually this is reserved for traffic tickets and low level misdemeanors, however, under the right circumstances it is potentially available for even felony cases.
2nd Best – Post 10% cash – Defendant is released if a family member or friend posts 10% of the total bond amount in cash. The court holds the money in the defendant’s name until the conclusion of the case; then the money is returned.
3rd Best – Bondsman – Bondsman will charge a fee of 10% of the total bond amount to post defendant’s bond. Bondsman keeps the 10% as his fee for posting the bail and the money is NOT returned.
Should I Hire a Bail Bondsman?
Once a bond is set many courts will allow the posting of a bond by a professional bondsman or by a friend or family member posting 10% cash of the total bond. So what’s the difference?
Negatives of hiring a bondsman
- In the long run it is more expensive. Bondsman typically charge 10% of the total amount of the defendant’s bond as their fee for posting the bond. They keep this money as their profit. The problem is the defendant is still going to need a lawyer to handle the case for him. It is important to note that most jurisdictions will not provide a public defender (free lawyer) if the defendant has made bond. So they are still going to need money to hire an attorney, and remember, if you hired the bondsman you are already out at least $1,000 to start. The good news is that many jurisdictions allow 10% to be posted in cash by a family member or friend. Some jurisdictions in Missouri even set the bond to allow this 10% cash option automatically on lower level and non dangerous felonies (St. Louis County and St. Charles County are examples of this practice). Even if the court does not automatically allow the 10% cash bond, most jurisdictions will allow a lawyer to persuade them to allow the 10% cash option at an initial court appearance. This is a better option because the 10% cash is not a profit for the court. That money will sit there throughout the course of the proceedings and as long as the defendant shows up to court, that money is returned at the end of the case. Many lawyers will accept an assignment of that bond as a retainer or a portion thereof. This allows your money to work for you twice as hard. The 10% cash option allows the defendant to bond out of jail and it remains his money to use to hire an attorney. When you hire a bondsman that money is gone forever.
Positives of hiring a bondsman
- A bondsman will usually negotiate with a person on the amount of the down payment required and place the remainder due on a payment plan. Therefore the entire 10% of the total bond may not be due upfront for the bail to be posted. Imagine the defendant’s total bond amount is $10,000. 10% of $10,000 = $1,000 (fee for bondsman). However many bondsman might charge $500 upfront and allow the defendant or his family members to make payments on the remaining $500. In this example if the defendant didn’t have the entire $1,000 to post in upfront cash, then they still could hire a bondsman for less upfront to post the bond now and make payments later.
*The predicament is that the bondsman model is most helpful in larger bonds where the defendant does not have the entire 10% to post in cash, however, the higher the bond the higher the bondsman’s nonreturnable 10% fee will be. In the example of a $100,000 Bond a bondsman will profit $10,000; and you will still need to hire a lawyer. It is always financially advisable to try and collect the 10% cash and post with the court.
Contact a Lawyer
- A lawyer will be able to advise you on the procedure and practice of the particular jurisdiction. Depending on where your loved one is being held the procedure could vary slightly. A lawyer will also be able to advise on if they think the judge will allow a 10% cash bond for the type of crime alleged. An attorney will often be able to convince a judge to lower the amount of the bond, thereby saving you money upfront as well.
- NEVER trust a lawyer who guarantees he will be able to lower a bond. It is unethical to make such a promise and any lawyer who does this should not be trusted. Any honest and respected attorney will only be able to provide insight based on applying their experience in that jurisdiction to the unique facts of your case.