A bail bond is an agreement between a defendant and a bail bondsman in which the bondsman agrees to pay the defendant’s bail in exchange for a fee (typically 10% of the bail amount) and a guarantee that the defendant will show up for court. Essentially, a bail bond is a loan from a bail bondsman to a defendant, allowing the defendant to be freed in exchange for a fee and repayment after the defendant’s legal responsibilities are settled.
By posting a defendant’s bail, the bondsman is assuming the responsibility that the individual will show up to their court dates. Once the bail is paid, the defendant is released. If a defendant completes all their legal responsibilities, the court returns the bail money to the bail bondsman and the deal is done. If the defendant does not show, the court keeps the bail money and the bondsman is out of luck.
When a defendant jumps bail it is the bail bondsman’s responsibility to track them down and bring them to court. In many states, bondsmen are allowed to hire private investigators or bounty hunters to track down customers who have skipped out on their bail.
In order to protect the bail bondsman, the defendant or a co-signer has to offer collateral as part of the bond agreement. If the defendant fails to show for a court date, the court keeps the bail money but the bail bondsman gets reimbursed with the collateral. Usually, bondsmen prefer to involve family or friends as co-signers because it makes the defendant feel morally obligated to get that person off the hook.
In order to cut down the tedious process of filing many bond agreements with the courts, bondsmen typically have a standing relationship with the court and a bank, allowing the bondsman to post bail for several defendants at a time without having to actually possess the money to back all their bails, this is called a blanket bond.
The bond system is basically a line of credit extended from the bank to the bondsman, to the defendant who pays the court in order to allow the defendant to be freed while awaiting trial.