What is the Difference Between Bail and Bond?

Bail is cash paid to the court by a defendant to secure their release from jail.
Bounty hunters are commonly called upon by bail bondsmen to track down fugitives.
When a person is arrested, a judge frequently issues a bail amount to be paid pending a court appearance.
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  • Written By: Lori Smith
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 05 August 2015
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The difference between bail and bond is in the method in which an individual pays, or secures, an amount of money — set by a court — in order to be released from jail. Bail is the total fee paid, in cash, to the court for a defendant’s release while awaiting trial. Bond is a type of credit, or insurance policy, purchased from a bail bondsman, who posts the money on behalf of the accused. At the conclusion of a trial, the entire bail amount is returned, while a bond fee is forfeited, usually 10% of the original amount.

When a suspect is arrested, a judge frequently issues a bail amount, or a fee that the defendant can pay to the court for his or her temporary release from jail, pending a court appearance. The price the judge sets for bail is predicated on the seriousness of crime, and, in the United States, it can be several thousand dollars. If the defendant is able to pay bail, he or she is released and required to return to court for a trial. If he or she fails to appear as scheduled, an arrest warrant is normally issued and the entire bail amount is forfeited to the court.


For those who do not have the means to post bail, the services of a bail bondsman are usually necessary. A bond is basically an insurance policy that guarantees the full amount of the bail to the court, if the individual flees or fails to appear for trial. Bail bondsmen usually require some sort of collateral in case the defendant does not return for the hearing. In that situation, the bondsmen can use it to recover some of the money. Collateral may include material property, such as a home, car, or anything else of value.

A bail bondsman usually charges a non-refundable fee of between 10% and 20% of the full bail amount. For example, if the judge sets bail at $20,000 US Dollars (USD), the individual must pay between $2,000 and $4,000 USD, depending on the bondsman's chosen percentage. In cases in which the defendant is considered a high flight risk, the bail bondsman may deny the bond altogether.

Both bail and bond are designed to secure a court appearance by the defendant. Once the trial is over, regardless of the verdict, the money that was paid for bail is returned in full. If bond was arranged, then the debt is considered settled, and the bondsman keeps the fee.

The bail and bond process varies by jurisdiction. There are some that do not allow bail bondsmen to work for profit, thereby eliminating that option for those who are incarcerated there. In such locations, if the defendant is unable to post bail, his only alternative is to remain in jail until the trial.

The consequences for jumping bail, or not showing up to a court hearing, are very similar to the differences between bail and bond. If bail was posted, the entire amount paid is lost and the court orders a warrant for the arrest of the absconder. If bond was posted, the court gets its money from the bail bondsman and issues the arrest warrant. The bondsman then typically hires a bounty hunter to find the individual, and deliver him to the court. In this way, the bondsman can avoid paying the full bond amount because the defendant has failed to appear.


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Post 1

If I wanted to bail someone out on a 20,000 dollar bail and I would really only pay $2,000, what can I put as a down payment and then what would my payments be each month?

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