What if I Cannot Afford Bail?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 31 January 2020
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If a person cannot afford bail, he or she must typically remain in jail until the crime for which he or she has been arrested has been resolved. There are bail bonds available for people who merely cannot afford to pay this expense out of pocket, but these are sometimes the only institutions that will loan money to a person for this type of expense. Many people who cannot individually afford the cost of getting out of jail must appeal to friends and family in order to raise the amount of money needed to obtain freedom. When the money absolutely cannot be raised, the person has no option but to stay in jail.

Bail is money that can be returned to a person, assuming that he or she returns to his or her trial. As such, even if someone's entire bank account must be spent on getting out of jail, a person can sometimes afford the expense because that money will eventually be returned. It is important to understand that as long as a person returns for trial, that money is not money spent but merely money pledged toward the cause.


Often, an individual must utilize bail bonds in order to get out of jail. These bonds are usually issued by special organizations that perform this specific function and loan money solely for this purpose. Finding these organizations can be accomplished online, but there are often several bondsmen located near institutions that require bail. These bondsmen usually charge a fee related to the total amount of the bail, which can itself be quite large and is usually not refundable.

When getting a bond is not an option, an individual can sometimes raise enough money to get out of jail by contacting friends and family and asking for smaller amounts of money. If someone is trustworthy and his social relations believe that the money will eventually be returned in full, it is sometimes possible to raise even large amounts of money in this way. For specific causes, it may be possible to raise bail money from strangers if the perpetrator is likable and people feel that the cause is important.

If all options have been exhausted and a person still cannot afford the price set by the court, there is nothing she can do but stay in jail until her trial, which may be many weeks away. For small non-violent crimes, many people feel that this is both a waste of resources and an unfair form of punishment, particularly if there is a chance that the person will be found innocent. In the big picture, the best thing to do if a person cannot afford his bail is to talk to anyone who will listen about the injustice of some people being able to buy pretrial freedom while poor people must stay in jail.


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