Bail Bond Reference Terms Glossary

Below are commonly used bail bond industry terms:

Bail Conditions

Special conditions specified in the bail agreement, that vary depending on the type of bail bond and any restrictions imposed by the court. Some common bail conditions that may be specified are regular check-ins with bail agency, limited travel restrictions, continued employment and any court required drug counseling classes and or treatments.

The three conditions that are common to all bail bonds are:

  1. Obligation to appear to all court dates until the case is resolved.
  2. Pay all bail premium payments and fees.
  3. Notify the bail bonds company of any changes in residence address, phone number and place of employment with 72 hours.

The Bail conditions are put in place to ensure the defendant appears in court. If a person violates the conditions of bail, the defendant may be arrested and taken back to the jail or court where they face having to be bonded out of jail again.

Bail Bond Premium

The bail bond premium is the non-refundable fee paid to the bail agency in exchange for their services. Most states including California set the bail premium at 10%. For example, a $50,000 bond would require a $5,000 bail premium be paid to the bail bondsman for the bond posting and subsequent release of the defendant. Bail bond premiums can be paid in form or cash, checks, money orders, bank wire transfers, credit cards, debit cards, PayPal and Bitcoin.

However, Federal and immigrations bonds generally cost between 15-20%. Discounts on the bail premium are available in some states such as California and vary depending the case circumstances and bail company involved.

It is important to note that the bail bond premium is not refunded, regardless of the outcome of the case. For example, if a bond is posted and the defendant appears to all court dates the bail company keeps the bail premium. A common question that often arises is:

“What if I bond out of jail and charges are not filed, do I get my bail premium refunded?”

Answer: No, once the bond has been posted no refunds are given. The bail bondsman has earned the money regardless of if the district attorney decides to file charges or not.

Keep in mind that paying a bail bondsman is much more affordable and easier than paying the bond yourself.

Bail Agreements

The bail agreement is a contract between the bail bondsman and the defendant. This agreement outlines the legal obligations concerning the defendant and court appearances as well as payment plans and fees as well as legal disclosures required by the state of California or other governing jurisdiction. The standard bail agreement contracts are typically issued by the surety company and regulated by the state. This is why they often look very similar to each other between the various bail agencies operating in the district. Mr Nice Guy Bail Bonds now uses an online program called RightSignature allowing clients to complete and sign all agreements electronically without the need to scan, email or fax. This allows the client to use a mobile device or computer to complete all forms and contracts as well as the ability to submit payments using credit cards, debit cards, PayPal and Bitcoin.


The indemnitor is a person or persons (indemnitors) that sign an indemnitor agreement in order to secure the release of an inmate or defendant. A simply way to think of an indemnitor is similar to a co-signer. The indemnitor can be an adult that knows the defendant and is willing to assume the legal and financial liability if the person being bonded out disappears and the bond is forfeited. Another term for an indemnitor is a guarantor. The indemnitor is responsible for defendant’s appearance to court dates and is usually the person who pays the bail premium and puts down collateral for the bond.

Indemnitor Agreement

This is a contract between indemnitor and the bail agent. This contract will include the required legal forms pursuant to the local judicial branches. In addition, the indemnitor agreement will include all contact information for the indemnitor, bail bond information including bond amount, court date, charges, and fees for the bond and court location. This agreement will also include any conditions of the bond, collateral and signatures of those involved. Indemnitor agreements are the most important piece of the bail bond process, be sure to carefully review before signing and please feel free to ask us about any questions or concerns you may have.


Bail is the process of releasing a person from jail prior to being sentenced with conditions in place to provide public safety and guarantee the defendant appears to court at the specified time. Money bail has existed in the United States since before the founding of the nation and dates back to the early New England colonies. As of today, only two nations on the planet still use the system of money bail which is the United States and the Philippines. The basic reason bail is needed is that the courts do not comply with the federal law requiring a speedy trial.

Bail Bond

Classically defined as a formal legal agreement between the defendant and the court, or between the defendant and the surety company (bail agent acting on behalf). The purpose of the legal arraignment being to assure that the defendant will appear to the court appears each and every time until the case has reached a resolution. Bail bonds are also referred to as appearance bonds and can be separated into various categories including: federal, immigration and appearance bonds (state specific).

Bail Bondsman

Also known as a bail agent is a commercial licensed and bonded professional who guarantees a defendants appearance before the court by posting a bond as collateral to the court and promising to pay this bond amount should the defendant not appear as promised. Individual states license bail bondsman and regulate the industry accordingly.

Surety Bonds

The surety company is like a combination of a bank and an insurance company. The surety company puts up the actually money for the bond and in return, they charge the bail agency a percentage of the bond amount. This fee is often one of the largest expenses for the bail bonds companies. Unlike insurance, the bail bond agency is liable to pay the entire bond amount in the event that the bond is forfeited.

Bounty Hunter

Also known as bail enforcement agent, fugitive recovery agent, skip tracer, or bail fugitive investigator. Bounty hunters are responsible for apprehending fugitives that have missed court dates. Typically in the United States, bounty hunters are hired by bail agents to locate and return wayward bail clients to their respected jail or court locations. Laws and licensing requirements for bounty hunting vary from state to state and are illegal in most other countries outside of the USA. However, bounty hunting exists all over the world and is often referred to as cross border recovery in Mexico and Canada.

Bail Skipping

A bail skip is the term often used to describe a defendant that failed to appear in court, or has fled the jurisdiction of the court. When a bail client misses a scheduled court date or fails to comply with any court mandated conditions, the court will issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest and order the bond forfeited. In the event a defendant misses his or her court date, it is of the utmost importance to communicate with the bail agent to arrange a solution. The bail agent can simply arrange another court appearance and or file a resumption of liability. If you think someone you know is or has skipped bail, please contact us as soon as possible. We are always happy to help!

Federal Bonds

Criminal cases in the United States District Courts require federal bail bonds rather than state bonds. Federal bonds have a different set of rules associated with them and the bail premiums generally are charged at 15%. Federal judges will decide the amount of the bail, rather than a bail schedule which is common to counties in California. A federal bond will also require collateral as they are generally considered to be higher risk. It is important to mention that the rules and protocol for federal bonds is much different than local bail bonds. This is why you must be sure to contact a bail agent that is experienced and trustworthy to handle a federal bond case. Contact us for experience you can trust.

Immigration Bonds

Federal bonds for arrestees being detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency or ICE for short with need what is referred to as an immigration bond. Immigration bonds are similar to federal bonds in that they will require full collateral and are charged a bail premium of 15-20%. Immigration bonds also require the defendant to appear at all court dates and require the bond to be posted through ICE using cash or through the use of a licensed bail agent experienced in immigration bonds.

Appeal Bonds

Known more commonly as a Supersedes Bond, these types of surety bonds are for courts that require the defendant delay a summary judgement or sentencing for a period of time until the appeal is completed.

Cash Bonds

Cash Bonds require the entire bail bond cost be paid in full at once in total in the form of cash, bank check or credit card (varies depending on jurisdiction). A cash bond is the alternative to a traditional bail bond where a person would post the bond themselves without the aid of a bond agent. For example, a person is being held in custody on a $25,000 bond. If they have a friend with $25,000 in cash and want to tie up the money until the case is resolved, this person could travel down to the jail, fill out the forms and hand over the $25,000. The downside is that walking around with $25,000 contains some inherent risk. If the defendant fails to appear, they could lose that $25,000. In addition, the court may ask where the funds for bond came from, are there receipts etc.…

Own Recognizance

Aka “OR” or “ROR” is a term referring to a person whom is released from jail on a promise to appear in court, bypassing the need to post a bond. Commonly phrased as “release on own recognizance”. Attorneys can request for the defendant to be released on own recognizance. Court clerks, judges, and jailers can also make recommendations for release on own recognizance rather than posting a bond.


Anything of value that is used to secure the bail bond. Collateral is often in the form of deeds and titles to real estate, cars, cash, home equity, and other property. Bail agents will retain procession of property until such time as the case has been resolved. The collateral should be returned after the bond has been exonerated. But collateral is not always needed to secure a bail bond.

Bond Exoneration

Also called discharge of bond, bond exoneration is the process of liability removal from the bond by the court. Exoneration occurs after the court determines the case has been finished, all court dates were attended by the defendant. The outcome of the case, guilty or not guilty has no effect on the bond being exonerated. Once the court has verified the exonerated bond, collateral will be returned and additional paperwork will be completed by the bond agent. Any outstanding payments are due and most be paid in order for the case to be completed by the bail bonds agent as well. This is also referred to as removing bond liabilities.

Surrender of Bail

Also named withdrawal of bail bond, the surrender of a bond is an action taken by the bail agent to return a defendant back into custody for violation of terms and conditions of bail agreement. A violation can occur if a defendant fails to appear at court, fails to check in regularly, or poses a threat to the community or commits crime while out of jail on the bond.

The law regarding the apprehension and surrender of a defendant is stated in the Supreme Court case of “Taylor vs. Taintor” cited below:

 “When bail is given, the principal is regarded as delivered to the custody of his sureties. Their dominion is a continuance of the original imprisonment. Whenever they choose to do so, they may seize him and deliver him up in their discharge; and if that cannot be done at once, they may imprison him until it can be done. They may exercise their rights in person or by agent. They may pursue him into another State; may arrest him on the Sabbath; and if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose. The seizure is not made by virtue of new process. None is needed. It is likened to the rearrest by the sheriff of an escaping prisoner.”

Rearrests and surrender of a bail client can often be avoided by contacting the bail agent as soon as a situation arises. Open communication is key and we are always here to help, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are things we can do and work together on to avoid a costly surrender of the defendant.


Usually the first court date, but not always. In some circumstances the first appearance or initial appearance court date are different than the arraignment, where the defendant is read the formal charges and asked to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest). Court rules and statutes vary depending on the local jurisdictions.

Failure to Appear (FTA)

Common terminology referring to a defendant failing to show up to court as specified in the bail agreement and or court records. FTA’s can be avoided by staying in touch with the bail agent and checking in on a regular basis. Failure to appear usually results in a bench warrant being issued and forfeiture of the bail bond. It is important to contact the bail agent regarding the FTA ASAP in order to avoid serious consequences.