What is Bail?

by Karren Kenney on Apr. 17, 2020


Summary: The importance of understanding what bail is in a criminal case.

What is Bail?

Bail is a scheduled amount of money that a defendant must pay to the court in order to be released from jail after initially being arrested. Bail serves as a means to ensure that a defendant in a case is present in all future court proceedings, and does not flee the area after being released from jail. In any given case, after a defendant posts bail, it is expected that they return to court on certain dates and at the conclusion of court proceedings, the bail money will be returned to the defendant. However, if they fail to attend court, their bail money will subsequently forfeited. 

How is Bail Set?

Despite bail schedules in place, a judge overseeing a defendant’s case has the final say in setting what their bail is. Based on certain factors in a case, including a defendant's prior record and current allegations waged against them, a judge can reduce or increase bail. As a general rule of thumb, bail increases in cost depending on the severity of the crimes committed and the amount of counts indicted against a defendant. 

How to Pay for Bail? 

Once bail is set, there are three ways in which a defendant can pay the cost of posting bail. 

1. Paying Cash- If the defendant finds that the amount of money at which bail is set to be affordable from their own financial portfolio, they may issue a check, money order, cashier’s check, or pay entirely by cash, to post bail on their own. Additionally, if the defendant personally does not have the funds to bail themselves out of jail, but a family member or friend willing to pay their bail does, the defendant can also have that individual pay their bail as well. It should be noted, however, that if the court finds that the money used to post bail was obtained through illegal means, a defendant’s release will be delayed until a hearing is set to determine whether the money was obtained legally or not. If the former is the case, then the court will accept the bail payment and the defendant will be released, however, if the latter occurs, the court will deny the payment and possibly raise bail even further for the illegal attempt.   

2. Paying Through a Bail Bond- The most common way people post bail today is through a bail bondsman or a bail agent. Paying for bail on bond has a bail agent or bail company pay for your bail in exchange for a percentage of what the bail costs. For example, if John is trying to bail out on bond and his bail is $50,000, he may hire a bail agent to bail him out who charges the California maximum bail bond percentage of 10%, so John would owe the bail agent $5,000, but be out of jail. If John fails to show up to court proceedings, the bail agent loses the $50,000 that they posted for John, and will hold John financially liable for that cost. However, if John does attend all court proceedings, the bail agent receives the $50,000 back at the end of sentencing or dismissal, and John would have only owed the agent the $5,000.   

3. Paying Through a Property Bond- This the least common method of paying for a bail bond because it requires the defendant, or someone close enough with the defendant, to put up their housing property in lien for the bond. What this means is that if the defendant fails to show up to court proceedings, the court has the right to wage foreclosure initiatives on the property that posted bail. While this bond is available, it is rarely used because of the magnitude of the possible repercussions that could occur should the defendant not appear in court. 

Does Everyone Get Bail? 

Not everyone is given a bail amount or even a possibility to bail out of jail. There is a way that a defendant may not have to pay any bail at all and may be released from jail on what is known as their own recognizance. When a defendant is released on their own recognizance, the defendant demonstrates to the court that they are likely enough to return to court and will not flee the area, essentially making a promise to the court indicating their imminent return. On the other hand, if a crime indicates that the defendant might pose a physical danger to society because he or she committed a dangerous crime of violence, the judge may be inclined to deny bail entirely. Once again, bail is largely dependent upon a judge considering all factors in a case and whether bail should be set, denied, or removed completely. 

Bail Help  

Bail is a critical part of being charged with a crime and should be handled by the right bail agent and attorney team to get you out as quickly as possible. The criminal attorneys at Kenney Legal Defense have contacts with bail agents throughout Southern California that offer affordable bail rates that can get you released from jail in a timely manner. If you know someone that has been arrested and is need of a bail agent or attorney to represent them, contact 

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