Co-Signing for a Bail Bond

Written by our Subject Matter Experts

Co-Sign Bail Bond

Before you co-sign on a bail bond, you should make yourself aware of what it means to be a cosigner, as well as the liabilities, risk, and requirements that come with co-signing.

Our bail experts have compiled everything you need to know:


  • Who can cosign on a bail bond?
  • What are the application requirements to co-sign a bail bond?
  • How bail forfeiture can impact you
  • How long you are tied to the bail bond if you co-sign
  • When will collateral be freed after co-signing for bail
  • … and more expert tips and advice from an actual bondsman

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What is co-signing on a bail bond?

A bail bondsman will almost always require a defendant to have one or more co-signers on their bond. For many bondsmen, the co-signer is just as important as the 10% bail bond premium that they will collect from the bond.

The reason a co-signer is so important is that a co-signer is an Indemnitor. An Indemnitor is someone who assumes the responsibility, the risk, and the potential costs related to apprehending the defendant if they fail to appear in court.

Even when someone has their own money to pay for their bond, a bondsman will most likely require the defendant to find one or more co-signers to sign the bond as an added assurance that the defendant will appear in court.

Who can co-sign on a bail bond?

Co-signers are usually relatives, close friends, business partners, employers, or spouses. Some bondsmen are stricter than others when it comes to selecting a co-signer. Most bondsmen require that the co-signer have a full-time job or own real property in the same state as where the bond is being posted.

Some bondsman, but not all, don’t like to use girlfriends or boyfriends as co-signers, because in the event of a break-up, it can cause all sorts of problems for the parties involved. However, this is not a policy carried by all bondsmen across the board.

Bail bond cosigner application requirements

As a co-signer, what should you bring with you to meet all application requirements? If you agree to co-sign on someone’s bond, you should always bring a valid identification card or driver’s license.

Other items often required from co-signers include:

  • Proof of employment (usually 2 or more consecutive pay-stubs; paper or electronic)
  • Proof of ownership (not always required, but if a bondsman wants to see the deed to property or a vehicle title, you should bring it with you)
  • Picture I.D. (as stated before)
  • Form of payment for the bail bond premium (cash, credit card, or any other arrangement)
  • Collateral (only if any collateral was required or requested by the bail bondsman)

What risk do I take on as a cosigner on a bail bond?

A co-signer is an Indemnitor. An Indemnitor is someone who assumes the risk associated with the bond and must later indemnify, or cover, the parties that lose out when a defendant doesn’t appear for court.

Indemnify means “to make whole again.” That means if a defendant skips court on a $2,500 bond, the co-signer, or Indemnitor, will have to make the courts “whole again” by paying the full bond amount of $2,500 on the defendant’s behalf.

As a co-signer on a bail bond, you are assuming the risk that the court is taking by allowing the defendant to go free while awaiting trial. Because this can be a high level of risk, many bail bondsmen require reliable and responsible co-signers for each bond.

What is bail bond forfeiture?

A bail bond can be placed into forfeiture when a defendant fails to appear at a required court date. When this happens, a “show-cause” is issued by that court and is served or mailed to the defendant, the bail bondsman, and sometimes the co-signer. This show-cause document will provide a single court date for all of these parties to attend.

The purpose of a show-cause hearing is to have the defendant, bondsman, or co-signer have a chance to show cause, if any exists, as to why the bond amount shouldn’t be forfeited. If the bail bondsman or his agents have apprehended the defendant and surrendered him into the custody of the jail, then the bond will not be forfeited.

What happens if someone jumps bail and you’re the cosigner?

If the defendant is still a fugitive, the bond will go into forfeiture and each party will be given a certain period of time (typically around 150 days) to locate the defendant or have them turn themselves in before the bond amount will be due. This is why it is in the best interests of the co-signer to help the bail bondsman and his bail enforcement agents locate the fugitive if the co-signer knows how to find them or knows someone who does.

How long am I a co-signer on the bail bond?

As a co-signer, your responsibility lasts until the entirety of the court case, and any appeals of that case, are finished. This means the bond is in effect until a final disposition is reached.

A commonly asked question is whether a co-signer is responsible for the defendant making all of their court dates, or just the first court date that is listed on the defendant’s release papers. As stated above, a co-signer is responsible for the defendant’s appearance at all of the necessary dates until the case is completed, including any appeals.

Can a co-signer revoke or be removed from a bail bond?

In some cases, yes, a co-signer can ask to be removed from a bail bond early if certain criteria are met or bond conditions are broken. The criteria are up to each particular bondsman and no single rule applies.

Most bondsmen will require the co-signer to pay an early cancellation fee and will require the defendant to find a replacement co-signer of equal standing. A co-signer can also be required to pay for any bounty hunting fees that are accrued in the apprehension of the defendant.

When do I get my collateral back if I co-signed on a bail bond?

If you set aside collateral with a bail bonding agency during the pendency of a trial, there are regulations set by each state that regulate when the collateral shall be returned.

For example, in North Carolina, collateral must be returned within 15 days after the exoneration of the case, regardless of the outcome of the case. The 15-day window is set because every defendant has 10 days to appeal his case after a verdict is reached.

If the bondsman returned the collateral too soon and the defendant decided to appeal the case, then the bondsman would have given up his primary form of “insurance” against the possibility of a failure to appear by the defendant.

Collateral must be returned much sooner if the bond is revoked and the bondsman or his agents put the defendant back in jail. As an example, in North Carolina, if a defendant is surrendered back to jail prior to the final outcome of his case, collateral must be returned within 72 hours.

Since the bondsman has been exonerated from the bond, he has no further use for the collateral and is required to return it as quickly as possible.

Bail bond without a co-signer

When working with a bail bondsman, it’s very rare that a co-signer will not be required. Two options to consider that don’t require a co-signer are: 1) Release on Own Recognizance, and 2) Personal Property and Collateral.

If the judge believes you are a low flight risk, and you had a minor charge, you may have the option to be released on Own Recognizance (OR) or Personal Recognizance (PR). You won’t need to pay a fee and you simply sign documents promising to appear for your court cases, plus any other stipulations set by the judge.

The second option involves personal property to be used as collateral. Some bondsmen will bail you out if you had a minor charge, and if they can see that you have a history of holding a stable job, a reliable income stream, and personal collateral to help them cover the bail amount in case you skip bail or run into issues attending court dates. This option is rare but is technically possible if you show proof of having enough assets in your name that can be used to cover any risks the bondsman takes on.

It can be extremely stressful when you or your loved one ends up in jail, and not knowing how bail bonds work can add on an extra element of frustration. We have created a simple guide to help you understand exactly how bail works, both at the national level and within your state.

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

Can I get my bail money back?

How much does bail cost for different crimes?

When you post bail, what happens to the money?

Can I get my 10% fee back?

Our guide on bail bonds amounts is comprehensive, showing bail amounts you may see for various charges, both felonies and misdemeanors. How much bail is set to can vary based on jurisdiction, criminal history, and input from the judge. Bail Bonds Network's research focuses on all these factors to help you prepare.
Do you have a loved one who needs to be bailed out of jail but is located in another state? Learn how to bail someone out from another state. Our expertly written guide will help you understand how you can use a bail bondsman to work across state lines via transfer bonds and other means to ensure your loved one is bailed out quickly even if they were arrested in a different state from where you live.
Before you co-sign on a bail bond, you should make yourself aware of what it means to be a cosigner, as well as the liabilities, risk, and requirements that come with co-signing. Our bail experts have compiled everything you need to know, dealing with important items like who can cosign, what application requirements are necessary, how bail forfeiture can impact you, how long you are tied to the bail bond, and when your collateral will finally be freed.

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.

What does a bounty hunter do?

Is a bail bondsman the same as a bounty hunter?

When does a bounty hunter come after me?

We are the trusted source for bail bonds, as well as financial help and guidance when you cannot afford to pay for the bail bond fee. Every day, we are contacted by great people who simply want to get their loved one out of jail. Read our guide to learn more about all your options, including bail emergency loans, and bail charities who often bail out low income individuals for free.

Our Team of Subject Matter Experts

We dedicate ourselves to providing information that is accurate and expertly written in order to assist individuals through a difficult time. Our staff at Bail Bonds Network is highly educated, having obtained prestigious degrees in law, business, accounting, and finance. Our editorial staff includes professional lawyers, bail bondsmen, and lending experts who understand local jurisdictions and intricacies of legal matters dealing with bail bonds.

Adi Dzebic
MBA, Research & Marketing
Owner of Bail Bonds Network, specializing in quality content research, analyzing bail bondsmen that are featured on our website, and general content contributions that are verified by our expert panel.
Matt C. Pinsker
Criminal Defense Attorney

An award-winning criminal defense attorney. He previously served as a state and federal prosecutor and magistrate, making his content contributions extremely relevant on legal and bail related topics.

Fred Shanks
Licensed Bail Bondsman
Fred Shanks is a licensed bail bondsman and the owner of Apex Bail Bonds. Fred is our bail expert who reviews and contributes to our content to ensure we have accurate and complete bail information.
Zlatan Dzebic
Finance / Lending Specialist
Zlatan's experience in credit and lending is vital since many important factors, such as credit history, over-leveraging, and predatory loan options can have a long term impacts when looking for financial assistance.