What is Bail?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Bail is the term that is used when a tangible asset is pledged to or deposited with a court in order to allow the temporary release of an individual. Generally, the option is extended to people who have been charged with a crime that merits incarceration between the time of arrest and the date that the matter will be tried in a court of law.

After an arrest takes place, bail may be granted. Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the crime, it is possible for arrested persons to obtain bail within a few hours after entering jail. This is especially true for relatively minor offenses, and in situations where it is determined that the chances of the suspect fleeing the immediate area are very low. The actual amount of the bail can vary from a relatively small sum to an exorbitant figure that would intimidate many people. Fortunately, it is not often necessary for the court to receive the entire amount before temporarily releasing the suspect. This is due to a process that is known as bail bonding.


Bail bonds are essentially pledges to be financially responsible for the bail set by the court. Depending on the circumstances, the suspect may post a fraction of the total bail and obtain a release until the court date. In other instances, a relative or close friend may provide the money required by the court, along with a pledge on the total debt. Bail bondsmen also operate in many locations, and may act as a third party in obtaining the temporary release. Generally, the amount of money that is required by the court is around 1/10 of the total bail amount.

Once bailed out of jail, the suspect usually is expected to abide by certain restrictions until the case is heard before a judge. In many cases, travel outside the jurisdiction of the court is prohibited or only possible with the knowledge and consent of the court. The court may also require electronic monitoring or scheduled visits with law officials during the interim period. Last, the suspect agrees to attend any and all proceedings related to his or her case. Failing to comply with all the conditions set forth in the bail arrangement can lead to loss of the money, and an immediate return to a jail cell.

The specifics of bail vary from one location to another. Some countries around the world do not include provisions for posting bail in the event of an arrest, while others have complicated regulations regarding the practice. In all cases, seeking legal counsel in the event of an arrest is strongly advised.


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Post 3

The bail is $500, so is the case serious?

Post 2

As the article mentions, rules about bonds vary among jurisdictions and the terms of individual bail bonds vary. The best way to determine the rules concerning your particular bail bond is to review the paperwork you received going through the process or by calling the entity issuing the bail -- the bail bondsman or the court.

With that said, a few general points can be said about defendants out on bail who fail to meet the requirements of his or her bail (e.g., fail to appear in court). If the defendant has skipped bail but is then returned to custody via bench warrant, because the bail agent has returned the defendant to custody, or because the defendant turns him

or herself in, then the bail bond may be exonerated. Fees already paid for the bond, however, may be non-refundable.

If the defendant does not return to custody, then the bond, generally, must be paid out in full. Additional court costs may be applied as well. Again, these are general rules. Other scenarios are possible. To understand what rules apply to your particular situation refer to the paperwork you received when you signed for the bail and/or call the applicable court, public defender's office, or bail bondsman.

Post 1

If a family post's the 10% bail, and god forbid the accused does not show up for court, who is responsible for the other 90% of bail? The family or the accused? (A bail bondsman was not used)

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