Frequently Asked Questions

To familiarize yourself with bail bonds and related information, please browse through the frequently asked questions below.

What is bail?

Bail is the temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial; made through a money payment or property which is given as surety that a person released from custody will return at an appointed time. Shall the accused person not appear at trial, the money from bail can be seized and forfeited by the court.

What is a bail bond?

The accused person can leave jail until their court date if they are able to make bail. Since not all individuals can come up with the full bail amount, many chose to get a bail bond through a bondsman or bail bonding agency. A bail bond covers the bail needed to get the accused person out of jail. The bail bond usually comes at a charge of 10% to the accused person or individual who is bailing out the accused. The bondsman pays the full amount to the court, and gets the entire amount back if the accused person shows up to their court dates. The risk of the accused person not showing up is accounted for in the 10% fee the bondsmen charge. If the accused person shows up to all their court dates, the bondsman receives back the full amount. The accused person who took out the bail bond does not get their 10% back. The 10% bail bond fee is taken in as profit for the bail bond agency in this case.

What are some bail bonds statistics and trends?

  • 80% of jailed New Yorkers can’t afford $1,000 in bail on small misdemeanor chargers.
  • Those who can’t obtain a bail bond are 90% likely to plead guilty.
  • Only 40% plead guilty if they can afford a bail bond.
  • Those that can’t afford a bail bond spend an average of 15 days in jail.
  • With a bail bond, 88% get their case dismissed or resolved without a criminal record.
  • Only 38% see their case dismissed or resolved with no record if they can’t afford the bail bond.

To see more information and a nice visual, take a look at our Bail Bonds Infographic with Data and Statistics.

What is a Bail Recovery Agent?

Bail Recovery Agents are also known as bounty hunters. If the accused person does not show up to court, the Bail Recovery Agent tries to track down the accused person. Once tracked down, they ensure the accused person appears on their court dates. If the accused person does not show up to court, the Bail Bond company risks losing the money it put down to release the individual from jail. Bail Recovery Agents are legally allowed to track down their “clients” in order to ensure they appear in court.

Can I get my bail money back?

Yes, you can normally get your bail money back no matter if you are convicted or acquitted of your charges. This applies if you pay for the entire bail and do not use a bail bond. If you get a bail bond, the bondsmen will get their full amount back, but you can not get back the 10% premium that is charged.

Why should I get a bail bond if I have the money readily available?

First of all, depending on your crime, your bail might be significantly higher than what you have available to spend. In the case your bail is not high and you can pay for it, it sometimes makes more sense to take out a bail bond so you can use your money for other needs. The fee for a bail bond is normally 10%, which is not an outrageous amount. It often makes more sense to have sufficient funds in your bank account than to risk taking out a lot of cash and not have enough to support yourself.

Is there any way I can get the 10% back from the bail bond agency?

No. This is the service fee the agency charges; it is called Premium. Bail bondsmen take on risk and have to do a variety of things to make this work. The 10% fee is simply a way for them to stay in business. It can not be refunded.

Do I have to use a bail bondsman?

No, anyone can technically “bail you out.” You can bail yourself out, or you can use a friend, family member, or anyone else who has the funds and is willing to bail you out.

What is a Property Bond?

Instead of using cash as bail, one can use property to bail out an individual. Property bonds are not allowed in all states. Check your state’s laws before pursuing this option. Property bonds can be useful in cases where cash is not an option. Regular bail bonds still require a 10% premium payment, which in some cases may still be too much for those who are cash poor. A property bond utilizes the equity people have in their house, commercial building, or vacation home to assure the court the accused person will be present on their scheduled court date(s). If the accused individual does not appear in front of court, then the property is at risk of being in the court’s hands. Property bonds are a good way of making bail if an individual has equity in their property but very little or no cash.

How to start a bail bonds business?

Starting a bail bondsman company is an attractive investment considering the increasing demand for bail bonds (5% annual growth), as well as the low rate of risk you may take when it comes to defaulting or defendants not showing up on their court date. A bail bondsman in New York who handled his business well saw as little as 1% of his defendants not show up to court. We have a great guide that shows you exactly how to start your own bail bond business successfully – click here!

A bail bonds business earns roughly 10% on every transaction which is non-refundable to the borrower. If the defendant does not show to court, the bail bondsman has to pay the bond to the court. In order to make this a viable business, bondsmen proactively set agreements for collateral in case the defendant does not show for court. The collateral often comes in the form of cars, cash, or property. As a bail bonds business, you need to protect yourself and have strong agreements in place that will provide security in case the defendant does not show. Some bail bondsmen even have their defendants visit them on a weekly basis to sign in and ensure things are still on track. If a person is missing prior to the court date, the bondsman can then proactively seek out help from friend, family, and whoever signed for the collateral to ensure there are no surprises on the court date.

Laws and regulations vary by state and it’s important to review your state’s terms. Typically, the bail bonds business needs to have $50,000 of assets to write bonds, or enough value in property to ensure they can pay out on the bonds in case the defendant doesn’t show. The great thing is that bonds don’t need to be paid to the court upon the defendants release from jail, instead the sum is typically paid out only if the defendant does not show to court. Certain states may have requirements around apprenticeship working for an existing bail bonds business, and/or Continuing Education Credits prior to obtaining a license. The education typically consists of 8-20 hours of state accredited bail bondsman instruction, upon which you can then apply for the license. To get the full, step-by-step instructions, including how to start and advertise your bail bonds business, you need to read out detailed guide; it’s a must-read for anyone wanting to start a bail bonds business – click here.

What is a bounty hunter and what do they do?

A bounty hunter is hired by a bail bondsman to locate and arrest a person who does not show to court as agreed in their bail bond agreement. Bounty hunters are sometimes referred to as bail recovery agents. When a person doesn’t show to court, the bail bondsman is responsible for the full bail bond amount. A bounty hunter must wait for the bail bondsman to give the order before being able to go after any individual. It feels like a western movie, and while some states have strict rules and licensing requirements to become a bounty hunter, the basics remain wild in nature. The bounty hunter usually starts by talking with family and friends to determine where the individual may be. Bounty hunters stake out at relevant locations in hope of seeing the criminal or fugitive. Bounty hunters are allowed to enter the house of the fugitive to make the arrest but are not allowed to enter any other homes without a warrant. A bounty hunter may spend anywhere from a few hours to weeks or months trying to locate the fugitive. A bounty hunter’s salary or rate for hire is usually 10% of the bail bond, but can be much higher if the person is known to be difficult to locate. Upon arrest, the bounty hunter returns the fugitive to the bail bondsman and/or court or jail.

Is a bail bondsman the same as a bounty hunter?

No, a bail bondsman hires the bounty hunter to locate and arrest the criminal/fugitive. It’s possible that a bail bonds business has their own bounty hunter on staff, but typically these two jobs function separately, but in close partnership. The bail bondsman’s goal is to never have to use a bounty hunter. The goal for bail bonds companies is to charge their 10% fee and see the individual show up in court. When a person doesn’t show to court, it creates a risk for the bondsman where they need to pay out the full bail bond. The bounty hunter charges the bail bondsman 10% to locate the fugitive. 9 out of 10 fugitives are located and arrested.

When does a bounty hunter come after me?

A bounty hunter is never activated as long as you show up to court on your court date. It’s business as usual between you and the bail bondsman if you make your court date – the bondsman makes 10% and you are free until your trial. If you do not show to court, and don’t have a valid reason and pre-arranged plan with the bondsman and court, you risk being chased down by a bounty hounter. No bail bondsman is going to accept their full loss on the bail bond, and since they only need to pay 10% to the bounty hunter, there is very little reason for them to allow you to roam free as a fugitive. Show up to court and avoid the risk and further legal complication.

What if I don’t have money for bail?

Many people get stuck in a situation where they cannot afford the 10% bail bond fee. In that case, even a bail bond may not be financially possible. Let’s assume your bail bond is set at $10,000. This means you have to come up with $1,000 for your 10% of the bail bond. You will not get this money back so it presents a real financial burden. You can choose to stay in jail until your court date and avoid incurring any costs. The issue with that is that you may lose your job or school eligibility which would further set you back long term. It’s vital to obtain the financial resources to be released to avoid further damage to ones career or whatever daily responsibilities they may hold in their life. There are three general options for those that cannot afford the 10% bail bond fee.

  • Ask a friend or loved one to borrow the money to cover the fee. This can present it’s own problems if you are unable to pay them back.
  • Look into bail funds to sponsor you and cover your 10% bail bond fee at no charge. Charitable bail funds are limited to certain states although more are introduced on a regular basis due to the sheer need. Visit our page on bail reform for a list of charities that you can reach out to and to learn more about the growing pain and need for bail bond changes so nobody is left behind.
  • Obtain a loan to cover you in the short term and allow you to make payments. Our page on bail bond financing and emergency loans will guide you through the application process. Our financing form is below if you want to access it quickly and apply for bail loan help.