Your good friend, or maybe it’s a relative, has just been arrested, and they are asking you to post bail for them. Naturally, you want to do everything you can to help. If you don’t have the money to put up the entire bail amount, you may consider using the services of a bail bonding agency. That can be a good choice, but be sure you understand how the process works. Here are some things you need to know before signing your name to a bail bond contract.


The bail bondsman will charge a non-refundable fee

When you contract with a bail bondsman, they will pay the entire amount of the bail to the court so that your friend can be released. But that service isn’t free. Some people have the idea that if their friend shows up for all court appearances, the entire bail amount will be refunded once the trial is over. That’s not always true, and it’s definitely not the case when you use a bail bond agency. The bondsman will charge a non-refundable fee of about 10 percent of the total bail amount. If bail is set at $50,000, for example, having a bail bondsman put up that amount will cost you about $5,000. That money will not be refunded no matter how your friend’s case turns out.


If your friend skips bail, you may be legally responsible to pay the entire bail amount

Before you sign a bail bond agreement on your friend’s behalf, you should examine the contract carefully. You’ll see that it contains a provision that makes you (as the signer) responsible to insure that the defendant shows up for all court appearances. If your friend fails to do so, you can find yourself legally on the hook, not just for the bail bondsman’s fee, but for that plus the entire amount of the bail.


That’s why before paying out bail on your friend’s behalf, the bail bondsman will require you to put up collateral to insure that, if necessary, you can pay the entire amount of the bail. It may be the title to your car or house, or anything else you own that could be sold to pay off the bail amount.


Be careful!


Be aware that if a judge declares the bail forfeited because the defendant failed to comply with the court’s requirements, the bail bond agency will take action against you to recover the entire amount they put up, plus their fee. So, if you have any doubts at all about whether your friend might skip bail, don’t sign the agreement! Many parents have lost their home because they signed to bail out a child who then failed to show up in court when required.


Signing your name to a bail bond agreement to help get someone out of jail can be a wonderful statement of committed friendship. But by doing so you are taking a very serious legal obligation upon yourself. If your friend cares more about his or her freedom than about you, it could cost you much more than you anticipated.


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