Bail Bonds Essential Guide: What Is Bail Bond And How Do Bail Bonds Work?

When a friend or loved one gets arrested, the last thing you want is to get caught up in a bunch of legal words and phrases. Sadly, many people don’t think about bail until someone they care about winds up in that situation. This can make things pretty confusing for the person who got arrested and their family and friends who want to lend a hand.

Bail might seem tricky, but it doesn’t need to be!

Moreover, bail is a refundable payment that lets a person accused of a crime leave jail until their court date. This payment acts as a guarantee that they’ll come back for their trial or other legal hearings. Whether a case allows for bail or not depends on:

  • Where it’s being handled
  • The nature of the crime
  • Whether the court thinks the person might try to escape

The Process Starts Once The Arrest Is Made

After the arrest, the person gets taken to jail and processed. As part of this:

  • They undergo a search
  • Get fingerprinted
  • Have their photo taken
  • Their address gets noted down.

Also, they have to hand over any personal stuff they have on them, like:

  • Cellphones
  • Wallets
  • Money
  • Anything valuable.

The defendant will go to court for a bail hearing so the judge can look at the details of the case. They then decide if to let the person out of jail, set bail, or deny bail altogether. For instance, for smaller crimes or misdemeanors, bail might be set at around $100-500. But the bail amount can climb into the tens of thousands or even millions of dollars for more serious offences. In cases of really serious crimes, like murder, the judge might opt to keep the accused person in jail until their trial.

What’s The Difference Between Bail And Bonds?

People often use them interchangeably, but bail and a bail bond aren’t the same.

  • Bail represents the full amount of money a court requires to release a defendant, often a substantial sum that’s hard to come up with all at once. For example, if the bail is set at $15,000, the person needs to pay this amount in cash.
  • In contrast, a bail bond costs just a fraction of the bail amount, usually about 10%. To get a bail bond, the defendant turns to a local bail bondsman, also called a bail agent, who acquires the bond. Typically, this bond would cost around $1,500, which is the only amount the defendant needs to pay. Additionally, the bondsman secures collateral, like property or jewelry, to cover the remaining bail amount.

How Do Bail Bonds Work?

After a while, the defendant will receive a hearing date and a specified bail amount. Further, it becomes their responsibility, along with the support of friends or family, to secure their release between the arrest and court appearances. Also, a local bail bondsman can step in as a third party to assist in this procedure.

Once the bail bondsman posts bail, the primary concern is ensuring the accused attends all required court dates. If the accused decides to skip bail, the bondsman takes on the role of a bounty hunter. He will be tracking down the accused and returning them to court. Typically, there’s a limited time frame during which the accused can be brought back to court. Moreover, it lets the bail money be refunded to the bondsman. The bounty hunter’s goal is to locate and return the accused within this grace period.

If the accused fails to return and skips bail, the money posted by the bail bonds agency goes to the courts. The collateral provided as security for the bail bond is then taken by the agency from the friend or family member who acted on behalf of the accused. It underscores the crucial importance of the defendant appearing in court and the collective effort to guarantee compliance with the necessary legal procedures.

Besides, people who have been arrested and can’t afford bail must stay in jail until their court hearing. Many would want to get out of jail quickly to:

  • Keep their jobs.
  • Take care of their kids.
  • Get ready for court without added stress.

All the court preparation can drag on for weeks or months, so it makes sense that people don’t want to put their lives on hold.

What Is A Collateral In Bond Bail?

​​Usually, defendants are required to provide collateral to their bail bondsman as a way to cover the entire bail amount. This decreases the chance of the indicted not showing up for future court appearances. For instance, if the bail is set at $5,000, the defendant pays the 10% premium, which is $500, to the bail bondsman. Additionally, they offer collateral that equals the full bond amount. For example, this collateral might be a used car valued at around $5,000. Further, the collateral serves as a safeguard for the bail bond company. Why? Because they’re responsible for paying the entire bail amount to the court on behalf of the accused.

It’s essential to note that collateral only comes into play if the accused fails to visit the court. If the indicted complies, meaning they attend all court hearings and dates, there’s no risk to the bail bonds company. The collateral to secure the bail will be returned when the accused arrives for their final court hearing.

The Different Types Of Bail

There are four main types of bail. Besides, the first one, surety bail, is the same as explained above.

Recognizance Bail

A “release on one’s recognizance” is a decision made by a court to allow a person facing criminal charges to stay free until their trial without the need to pay bail. It’s sometimes referred to as “O.R.,” “R.O.R.,” or judicial public bail. In some states, for instance, the option for release on one’s recognizance states that “any person who has been arrested for, or charged with, an offense other than a capital offense may be released on his or her recognizance by a court or magistrate who could release a defendant from custody upon the defendant giving bail.”

Moreover, those most likely to be considered for this type of release are individuals:

  • Deeply rooted in their community
  • Holding regular employment
  • Those who have the prosecutor’s recommendation

The nature of the alleged crime can also be a factor, and this form of release is frequently granted for:

  • Minor offenses
  • Technical violations
  • Individuals with a clean criminal history demonstrating stability.

Cash Bail

Cash bail means the defendant or a co-signer pays the bail amount in cash directly to the court. The bail amount returns to the payer at the conclusion of the case if the defendant attends all scheduled court appearances.

Property bail

Normally, bonds are settled with cash. In some cases, you can use property to bail someone out of jail. Because most bond agencies charge a percentage of the premium payment for their services, those with limited cash might still struggle to cover that fee. In such situations, a property bond can serve as an alternative to cash.

When a property bond is used, it means the bond is backed by the pledge of unencumbered equity in real estate located within the same state. To be accepted as a bond, the property equity generally needs to be at least 1.5 times the bail amount. Moreover, here are some common types of properties that are frequently used for property bonds:

  • Personal homes
  • Commercial buildings
  • Vacation homes

Cite Out

Certain individuals are released through a citation. Further, the arresting officer cites them for a criminal offense, and the individual is required to appear in court as instructed. Failure to do so can result in additional penalties, such as fines, arrest, and potential jail time.

These “cite outs,” as they’re occasionally referred to, are primarily for minor infractions, not serious crimes.

Immigration Bond

Lastly, immigration bail bonds are cash bonds that you pay directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the Immigration Court. These bonds serve as a guarantee that the person will show up for their Immigration Court hearings and fulfill their Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requirements.

As long as the immigrant meets their DHS obligations and the deportation or removal proceedings conclude, the bond money is refunded to the person who posted the cash bond.

The Process Of Getting A Bail Bond

Step 1: Contact a bail bonds agent.

If you or a loved one gets arrested and you lack the funds or assets for bail, it’s time to get in touch with a bail bonds agent. Besides, be sure to have the following information:

  • The full name of the arrested person.
  • The specific jail they’re held in.
  • Their booking or report number.
  • The charges they’re facing.
  • Any additional details you can provide about the arrest.

Step 2: Handle the paperwork.

To secure the services of the bail bond agent, you’ll need to sign some documents. Normally, this involves:

  • Paying the agent a fee
  • Often, a percentage of the total bail amount
  • Providing collateral for the bond

Step 3: Post bail.

The bail bonds agent will meet you at the jail to post the bail for the release of you or your individual.

Step 4: Release from jail.

Depending on the jail’s congestion in your area, the process of posting bail can range from half an hour to a few hours.

Because arrests can occur anytime, bail bond agencies mostly operate around the clock. In numerous cases, the companies manage payments and paperwork electronically, which can speed up the process. The paperwork essentially serves as a contract between the person posting bail and confirms they comprehend their responsibility for ensuring the defendant attends all court proceedings.

Also, it outlines the collateral provided to secure the defendant’s appearance and details the associated fees. When reaching out to a bail agent, provide:

  • The full name of the defendant
  • Their booking number
  • The charges they’re facing
  • Jail’s location

The bail agent then initiates the process to release the defendant from jail. During this process, the bail bondsman receives the court date, a receipt, and all relevant paperwork from the jail. This would equip them with the necessary information to stay updated on the case. However, the duration of this procedure can vary, depending on jail protocols and how busy it is.

A Little About The Bail Hearing

A bail hearing is the court’s session where the bail amount is determined. During this hearing, the judge reviews:

  • The case’s particulars
  • The nature of the alleged crimes

In multiple jurisdictions, there are established bail schedules that jails publicly post. These schedules outline the fixed bail amounts based on the sort of crime. Defendants can pay these predetermined amounts directly to the jail before a formal bail hearing. These jailhouse bail schedules are non-negotiable.

During a bail hearing, judges set the bail amount, which usually occurs at the suspect’s initial appearance following their arrest. Further, judges generally make consistent decisions based on the nature of the crime. Factors taken into account include:

  • Whether the offense was drug-related
  • Violent or nonviolent
  • The defendant’s character and criminal history

The judge also evaluates whether releasing the defendant while awaiting their court date poses a risk to society.

Although defendants aren’t required to have an attorney to post bail, having a criminal defense lawyer can be advantageous during a bail hearing. At this hearing, both the defense and the prosecutor can discuss bail with the judge. Also, a criminal defense attorney can present bail-related factors. And in certain situations, they may attempt to secure a reduction in bail.

When Bounty Hunters Come Into Action?

Bail bond agents can enlist bounty hunters to track down and return a defendant to authorities. Bounty hunters receive a portion of the bond amount only if they successfully capture and return the defendant. Unfortunately, they receive nothing if they fail. Moreover, qualifications for becoming a bounty hunter are minimally regulated. They might have state-level requirements such as:

  • A clean criminal record
  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Registering with local police
  • Providing character references.

Similarly, neither the federal government nor most states impose strict laws governing the actions of bounty hunters. Motivated by their fee, some bounty hunters may overstep boundaries, resorting to violence and causing harm to the defendant and others. Now:

  • Victims may have grounds to sue the bounty hunter for their injuries.
  • The companies that employ them may also face indirect liability.

These claims fall within personal injury law, and a court could award compensatory damages. Victims may receive compensation for medical expenses related to their injuries and the emotional distress endured. (It’s worth noting that sometimes, the sufferer is not the defendant who failed to appear but an innocent bystander).

Suing a government entity for harm caused by a bounty hunter may be less successful. Courts generally hold that the government is not accountable for the actions of a bounty hunter hired by a private bail bond company. Why? Because the government aims to prevent the bail bond company from losing money rather than assisting the prosecution or the courts in securing justice. In other words, the government does not owe a duty to someone injured by a bounty hunter. Further, this stands in contrast to civil rights claims brought against police officers who use excessive force as they act with governmental authority.

Local Licensing Requirements For A Bail Bondsman

There are two types of bail bondsmen in Virginia:

  • Surety bail bond agents
  • Property bail bond agents

Below are the specific prerequisites for each! To obtain a license as either a property or surety bail bondsman, an individual must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Have successfully passed the bail bondsman exam mandated by the Board.


The following individuals are not eligible for licensure as surety or property bail bondsmen and cannot work as agents for a bail bondsman:

  • Those convicted of a felony within the Commonwealth, any other state, or the United States without a pardon or civil rights restoration,
  • Employees of local or regional jails, sheriff’s offices, or state or local police departments,
  • Employees of an attorney for the Commonwealth’s office,
  • Employees of the Department of Corrections, Department of Criminal Justice Services, or a local community corrections agency, and
  • Spouses or individuals residing in the same household as those mentioned in this section.

These do not limit the licensed bail bondsman’s ability to employ or contract with a licensed bail enforcement agent authorized to operate in the Commonwealth.

Licensing Procedure for Surety Bondsmen

Before obtaining a surety bail bondsman license, each applicant must:

  • Present evidence of current licensure as a property and casualty insurance agent, validated by the State Corporation Commission.
  • Provide copies of all qualifying powers of attorney to be used for issuing surety bonds.

Any surety bail bondsman license issued under this regulation will immediately expire if the licensee’s property and casualty insurance agent license is terminated. Further, reapplication for a surety bail bondsman license can only occur after the individual obtains a new property and casualty insurance agent license.

Licensing Procedure for Property Bondsmen

Moreover, before being granted a property bail bondsman license, each applicant must complete the following steps:

  • Present evidence of collateral amounting to $200,000 for their bonds and $200,000 for the bonds of each of their agents. Any collateral not in the form of real estate, cash, or certificates of deposit issued by an FDIC-insured financial institution requires specific approval from the Department before it can be used as collateral. If real estate is collateral, it must be within the Commonwealth. Additionally, along with the property bail bondsman, the applicant must submit to the Department:
  • A true copy of the current real estate tax assessment or a current appraisal indicating the fair market value of the real estate.
  • Also, a new appraisal if, at the Department’s discretion, it is ordered for good cause prior to certification.
  • An affidavit from the property bail bondsman applicant to the best of their knowledge, specifying the equity in the real estate and the amounts owed under any obligations secured by liens or similar encumbrances against the real estate. It must include any outstanding taxes as of the submission date.

Your collateral can also consist of cash or certificates of deposit. However, you must provide verification of the amounts and the names of the financial institutions where they are held.

Selecting a bail bond agency

A licensed bail bondsman is an expert when it comes to handling the bail process, and they can guide you through it. They assist in:

  • Determining the bail amount for a family member or friend
  • Physically going to jail to post bail
  • keeping track of all the court dates the defendant must attend

Bail bondsmen possess in-depth knowledge of this process. While they cannot provide legal advice regarding the criminal case, they can explain every aspect of the bail bonds process.

Numerous companies are available, but not all of them are trustworthy. If you’re using their services for the first time, verify their credentials. Moreover, it’s advisable to choose a company that can answer your questions accurately and confidently. In your quest for the right bail bondsman, ensure they:

  • Hold a full license
  • Possess extensive experience in handling court appearances and bail hearings

The sooner you find the right bail agent, the sooner you can secure the release of your friend or loved one.


How long does it take to secure release from jail?

There are two categories of jails:

  • City jails – under the jurisdiction of city police departments.
  • County jails – are administered by the county sheriff’s office.

Once a defendant goes through the booking process at a city jail (including fingerprinting, photographs, and warrant checks), the typical timeframe for release on bail ranges from 15 minutes to 1 hour.

For defendants booked into a county jail, the typical wait for release on bail usually spans from 2 to 6 hours.

What portion of the premium can I expect to receive back?

Usually, the 10 percent premium is fully earned once the bail bond is posted with a jail or court. This is the standard practice that allows bail agents and their surety companies to generate income. This, in turn, covers their operational expenses and guarantees they can meet their financial obligations.

What is the meaning of a combined bond type?

As the name suggests, a combined bond represents a blend of two bond types: surety and cash bond. In this arrangement, surety and cash elements come into play to secure the defendant’s release from custody. Further, this combined approach allows for a more flexible and adaptable approach to meet a given case’s specific requirements and circumstances.

What does the term “unrestricted” mean in the context of bail?

When we refer to an “unrestricted” bail type, we are essentially talking about an unsecured bail bond. This means that the defendant is not required:

  • To provide collateral
  • To pay a specific amount upfront to secure their release from custody.

Instead, they are released based on a promise to appear in court as mandated. It’s a form of bond that offers greater freedom to the defendant, as they do not need to provide tangible assets as security.

How can you check for warrants online?

If you have reason to suspect there might be a warrant issued for your arrest, you can search for arrest warrants online. Various third-party websites offer comprehensive background checks, and arrest warrant reports that cover a wide geographical area. This way, you can gather valuable information about your specific warrant. This will include the following:

  • It’s status
  • Additional details
  • Any associated legal proceedings

This process allows you to proactively address the situation and take appropriate actions if needed.

Is it possible for bail bond agencies to conduct warrant checks?

Bail bond agencies have the capability to access real-time information directly from the court system. It enables them to provide valuable details concerning bail, warrants, and other pertinent information that is crucial for facilitating the release of individuals from jail. This timely access to court data allows bail bond agencies to effectively assist clients in navigating the legal process. Also, it helps in addressing any outstanding warrants that may affect their cases.

What does the term “flight risk” mean?

In the process of determining whether to grant bail, the primary concern for a judge is assessing whether the defendant poses a flight risk. A flight risk refers to an individual who is inclined to leave the country, state, or county. It is done in an attempt to evade prosecution for the charges brought against them. Additionally, this consideration plays a pivotal role in the judge’s decision regarding bail. This directly relates to the likelihood of the defendant absconding to avoid facing legal consequences for their alleged offenses.

When can you expect back the collateral?

If everything goes smoothly, collateral is back with you once the court concludes all proceedings related to the defendant’s case or cases. By this time, the judge would exonerate the associated bail bond or bonds. Besides, the return of collateral is contingent upon the settlement of all applicable fees and charges.

In simpler terms, once the legal matters are resolved, collateral can be returned to the parties involved. This ensures that collateral is held until its purpose has been fulfilled, safeguarding the interests of both the bail bond agency and the parties who provided the collateral.

Is it possible to travel out of state while on a bail bond?

If the court grants permission for you to leave the state, remember that you also need approval from the local bail bondsman. Your arrangement with them involves a contractual obligation. It might restrict your ability to depart from your state until your court case concludes.

Review the specific terms and conditions outlined in your agreement to fully understand any travel restrictions. Obtaining both court and bail bondsman consent is critical in compliance with the terms of your bail bond and avoid potential legal repercussions.

Why consider obtaining a bail bond even if you can afford bail?

Opting for a bail bondsman’s services offers distinct advantages, even if you have the financial means to cover the full bail amount. One key benefit is that you avoid tying up your personal funds in bail, preserving your hard-earned money for other important expenses.

Moreover, in the unfortunate event that the accused does not appear in court as required, a bail bondsman possesses the expertise, resources, and experience to track them down and facilitate their return to court. Pursuing this on your own can be a daunting, time-consuming, and emotionally taxing endeavor. In contrast, a bail agent can efficiently locate the defendant, maintaining that you don’t incur financial losses due to the defendant’s failure to appear in court.

Get Onboard With Ron Owens Bail Bonds

We, as bail bondsmen, fully comprehend the anxiety that can accompany receiving a call from a friend or family member in need of posting bail. This often marks a period of crisis and emotional upheaval for many individuals. Consequently, our utmost commitment is to assist you in comprehending the necessary steps in the bail process and expeditiously securing the bail for your loved one.

At Ron Owens Bail Bonds, we take pride in extending our support through free and non-binding bail consultations. These are available around the clock, along with assistance that is accessible at any time of day or night.

Feel free to reach out to us immediately for guidance and support during this challenging time!