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Bond vs Bail: Understanding the Key Differences and Which is Right for You

Posted on Jun 7th, 2024 by Jesse Kleis 90 Views

Bond vs Bail: Understanding the Key Differences and Which is Right for You

Some commentators use the terms “bond” and “bail” interchangeably or in the same phrase, like “bail bond,” which can be confusing. What counts as a bond, and what counts as bail isn’t always clear. 

Fortunately, this post is here to help. We go through the differences between “bonds” and “bail” so you know where you stand. Feeling confused about your options when you or a loved one is in jail isn’t always a nice experience!

Bond vs Bail: Understanding the Difference

The difference between a bail and a “bail bond” or “bond” is quite straightforward. It hinges on who you pay to secure release from jail. 

If you pay the court directly, it is bail. If you hand money to a bail bondsman, it is a bond. 

Bail 

Bail is money paid to the court under penalty of forfeiture to ensure you attend your hearings and fulfill your legal obligations. If you succeed, the court will return the money to you (regardless of the verdict or sentence).

If you don’t fulfill your bail-related obligations, courts will deny you access to the money (usually sending it to pay for public services). As such, you can’t recover it (except under exceptional circumstances).

If you are confused, consider bail a refundable deposit you pay the court. If you do what they ask, they will return the money. It’s not a fee or a penalty for any criminal activities. 

Bonds

By contrast, the bail bondsman pays bail to the court under a bond in exchange for a non-refundable fee for their services.

Bail bondsmen take a risk when they pay bail on your behalf because you might not adhere to court requirements, risking forfeiture of the bail. For this reason, agents will often ask for collateral and co-signers. This arrangement lets them recover the funds if you skip court and the bail bondsman can’t retrieve you. 

The upfront fee they request covers this risk and pays for additional services, like returning you to court. Bail agents can arrest defendants if they miss trial dates and send them reminders. 

Decoding the Distinction: Bond vs Bail

Modern culture doesn’t use the term “bond” much outside financial markets, which is often why people get unstuck. Bonds also sound like relationships with people close to us, not something you use to get out of jail, adding to the confusion. 

The reason it’s called a bond in this instance is because, like a government bond, it is a contract that involves an obligation of one party to another. When a government sells bonds, it must pay investors back with interest. Likewise, when you get a bail bond, you owe the bail bondsman attendance in court. Otherwise, you forfeit the bail and may have to sell collateral (such as your house) to cover the costs. 

A bond essentially means you are “bound” to the bail agent. You have an obligation to them and the court to attend trial hearings. 

How Much Does Bail Cost? 

How much bail costs depends on the California Bail Schedule. Judges use this document to determine what they should charge for your release from jail. 

Unfortunately, these figures can be extreme. Bail in the state can range from $5,000 to $100,000+, depending on the circumstances. 

Bail amounts will be lower if it is your first time being charged. However, it depends on the charges against you. If they are serious (such as manslaughter), judges may ask for higher bail amounts, or deny you the right to bail entirely. 

Paying less is also possible if your so-called “flight risk” is low. If there is only a small chance you will leave the state because of work or family, judges may reduce the premium they apply to the base bail amount. 

Previously attending court hearings on time can also help. Judges review your case history to see whether you showed up. If you did, that also helps your case. 

How Much Does A Bond Cost? 

California limits the cost of bonds to 10% of the bail amount by law. Therefore, whatever you pay must be under this figure. 

For example, if the bail is $20,000, the bond will cost a maximum of $2,000. Sometimes, discounts are available for military veterans, trade union members, and other special groups. Always speak to the bail agent to see if you qualify. 

Also, watch out for sale prices. Bail agents sometimes reduce the cost of bail bonds around Christmas or Thanksgiving to provide defendants with jail-time festive cheer. 

Bonds can be expensive to pay upfront (because of the sheer cost of the bail), but there are ways to reduce this. One method is to spread the purchase out using credit. Most agents work with lenders and can provide low-interest loans you can pay off over several months. For example, if it is six months until your court date, you might be able to return to work and use your wages to repay the creditor. 

If you want to take out a loan, it helps to have a good credit score. However, it isn’t essential. Even those with low ratings can still obtain the needed finance to get out of jail. 

Wrapping Up

In summary, the difference between bail and a bond is significant. Bail is what you pay to the court from funds in your accounts (which they return to you after your trial concludes, provided you follow their conditions). Bonds are a much cheaper non-refundable option where a bail agent pays the bail on your behalf. 

Most defendants opt for bonds because they are less expensive. It’s hard to find $50,000 lying around in cash, but it is much easier to pay $5,000 or spread the cost with an installment plan. 

You can speak to our bail agents today to learn more about our services and how they might benefit you. You may find that getting a bond is the better option.  

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About The Author

Jesse Kleis is a seasoned California Bail Agent, boasting over a decade of comprehensive experience in the bail industry. He earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Sociology from California State University. In addition to his work as a bail agent, Jesse is also an active Sociology Instructor, furthering his commitment to professional education.

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For faster service please call: 844-400-2245 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you or a loved one has been arrested and need to be bailed out quickly and confidentially. Or if you simply have questions regarding bail, an arrest, or inmate information please do not hesitate to call or fill out our contact us form. We are available 24/7 for all of your bail needs. 


For faster service please call: 844-400-2245 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you or a loved one has been arrested and need to be bailed out quickly and confidentially. Or if you simply have questions regarding bail, an arrest, or inmate information please do not hesitate to call or fill out our contact us form. We are available 24/7 for all of your bail needs.