A court bond is a pledge from someone who has been accused of a crime that he or she will show up in court if released. Often, the bond is backed up with a financial payment which stands as surety; if the accused fails to show up in court, the money will be forfeit. In other cases, the accused can be released “on your own recognizance,” with no need to submit money to back the pledge.
The court will not always offer court bond as an option. If it is believed that the accused is a flight risk or poses a threat to the safety of the community, she or he will be detained until the trial. In some cases, the concerns are just the opposite, and the court is concerned that an accused may be in danger if he or she is released, and thus the accused in held in jail for safety.
When people are asked to pay money to back their pledge that they will return to court, they usually cannot afford the sum on their own. They may turn to a bail bondsman, a third party who enters a court bond on behalf of the accused. The bondsman pledges that if the accused does not return for the trial, the bondsman will pay the court. Bondsmen may accept assets or cash as a deposit from the accused and if the accused does attempt to evade court, the bondsman will try very hard to track down the accused and recover the monies paid to the court.
The judge sets the amount of the court bond, if money is required. In some regions there are limits which are designed to prevent the court from setting entirely unreasonable amounts. The judge considers the nature of the crime and what is known about the accused. Sometimes the amount may be a token which can be easily paid out of pocket, and in other cases it is very high and designed to act as an incentive to ensure that the accused will return to court.
If someone is able to post his or her own court bond, the money will be returned by the court when the accused returns for the trial. However, if a bail bondsman is retained to cover the court bond, the bondsman will require a fee for the service. The amount of the fee is usually based on a percentage of the overall court bond.