If you, a family member, or a loved one has been arrested, you may get the option for bail or bond. But what exactly does this mean, and does it mean you should use that option?
Understanding bail vs bond and how each works is critical. A judge may offer you this opportunity while your criminal case proceeds; however, bail and bond are often confused or used interchangeably when they have some important differences.
Differences Between Bail and Bonds
What is Bail?
Bail is money that the judge determines will be paid to the court directly for release. The bail amount is intended to ensure you return to court when required.
What is a Bail Bond?
A bail bond is a separate contract with a bail agent. A bail bond is a contractual agreement in which a licensed agent from a surety company provides a bond to the court. The bond is for the full amount of the bail in exchange for a fee. This fee is typically 10% of the bail. The agent posts bond as a guarantee of the accused’s court appearance.
With a bail bond, you can be released without having to pay the full bail amount. The bond agent ensures your court appearances. If you miss court, the agent is liable to the court for the full bail amount. As such, bond agents have the financial incentive to monitor released defendants closely.
You may also have to provide collateral like a house or car to the agent to further guarantee their compliance. Bonds provide an affordable way to avoid jail before trial. For most defendants, a bail bond is the most viable pretrial release option.
Bail vs Bonds
Bail requires paying the full amount upfront. A bond allows release by only paying a percentage fee. Only licensed agents can issue bonds. Anyone can pay bail directly if they have sufficient funds.
Bail is returned at the end of a case. Bond fees are not refunded.
Using a Bail Bonds Company
For most defendants, engaging a bail bond agent is the only realistic path to pretrial release. If using a bail bondsman, important steps include:
- Discuss charges and bail amount set with the bondsman to determine costs
- Pay the required premium and provide collateral if needed
- Review bond contract terms and conditions carefully before signing
- Provide contacts and keep the agent informed of court dates to avoid issues
- Appear on time at all court proceedings or risk bond revocation
- Get a receipt when the case concludes to recover collateral
- Reputable bail bond agents can be located through referrals or online searches. Look for longstanding agents who are properly licensed by state departments of insurance.
What Happens if You Violate Bail or Bond Conditions?
Failure to follow bail or bond requirements such as missing court dates, committing new offenses, or leaving the area can lead to serious consequences, such as some of the following:
- The court will revoke bond and issue an arrest warrant if conditions are violated
- Bondsmen can apprehend and surrender defendants who violate a bail bond contract
- Any money paid toward bail may be forfeited to the court
- Additional fines, new charges, and / or jail time for bail jumping may result
- Getting future bail or pretrial release will become more difficult
Seeking Bail Reduction or Modification
If bail seems too high for your charges, there are options to seek a bail reduction. You can try to get a modification by some of the following with the help of an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer:
- Request an affordable bail amount from the judge at your initial hearing
- File a motion for bail reduction at a later hearing after demonstrating changed circumstances
- Offer additional assurances like GPS monitoring, inpatient treatment, or house arrest
- Show inability to pay current bail or afford a bond due to poverty
Getting Financial Assistance for Bail in Pennsylvania
If bail is set at an amount that you cannot individually afford in Pennsylvania, there may be options to get financial assistance, such as:
- Community bail funds supported by donations can help low-income defendants post bail directly
- Nonprofit advocacy groups may help crowdfund bail money through online fundraising campaigns if you lack sufficient resources
- Religious institutions and other community organizations sometimes provide bail assistance as part of their charitable work
- Asking family and friends to contribute to the bail amount can help raise necessary funds if you have an extensive support network
Using Property Bonds Instead of Cash
In some cases, courts may accept real property as a bail bond instead of cash.
For example, this could involve deeding your home to the court until the case concludes and conditions are met. This spares you from needing to come up with cash upfront to make bail.
Another option is that you could provide a lien on a property you own that would transfer to the court if you do not pay the bail amount. This allows you to still live on the property unless you neglect to pay the bail amount. This specific option is ideal for people who may not otherwise have cash up front.
Let Our Team Help You with Bail or Bond
If you are in a situation where bail has been set for pending criminal charges, you do not have to go through the process alone. A Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer can help when it comes to navigating your bail and bond options. Contact us for a free consultation and find out how we can help and figure out which option is most beneficial for you.