When someone is arrested they have a bail hearing. The bail hearing is where the defense lawyer pleads to the judge to set a bail amount for the defendant. Unless the defendant is violent or a flight risk, they usually receive bail. The bail amount is the amount of money that the defendant has to pay to go home until his or her trial. If the defendant can’t afford the bail amount, he or she can have a loved one go to a bail bondsman to pay a small percentage and co-sign for the bail. If someone has asked you to be a co-signer for his or her bail, make sure that you know exactly what your responsibilities are before you agree.
Responsibilities of Co-Signing a Bail Bond
If you are considering being a co-signer on a bail bond, make sure it is someone that you know well and trust to make responsible choices. This is because co-signing a bond makes you responsible for the defendant. Your signature promises the court that he or she will show up to all of the court appearances. You have to pay a percentage of the bond to the bondsman when you sign the paperwork. The percentage varies by bondsman, but it is usually about 10% of the total bond. Depending on the cost of the bond, you might have to use collateral too. Common types of bail bond collateral include:
- Land deed
- Property bond
If you don’t have collateral to offer, or you aren’t comfortable with putting any of your possessions in jeopardy, you can look around for a no-collateral bond.
Risks of Co-Signing a Bail Bond
The significant risks are why you want to make sure you trust the person that you are bailing out of jail. Although you are only paying a small percentage of bond to post bail, you are liable for the entire bail amount if the person you are bailing out of jail doesn’t show up for his or her court appearances. If the defendant does show, you will never have to pay any other amount. Once the sentencing is finished, your contract will be finished as well.
If the defendant hides and you become responsible for the entire bond, you will personally owe the money to the bail bondsman. If you offered collateral when you posted bail, then you will lose your collateral if you can’t afford the bail amount.
Rights of Co-Signing a Bail Bond
If you decide to co-sign a bail bond, that doesn’t mean you are stuck putting up with the defendant if he or she turns back to illegal activity or treats you badly. First, you can make requests before ever signing the bond. You have the right to request that the defendant first receives a mental evaluation, a drug evaluation, or even goes through a treatment program before signing the promissory note at the bail bond office. This will give you the peace of mind that you aren’t bailing someone out with an untreated mental illness or drug addiction.
Next , if you sign the papers and post the bond, but the defendant turns right back to illegal activities or makes you uncomfortable in any way, you can cancel the bond. Call the bail bond company and let them know what is going on. Ask to have the bond canceled and the defendant sent back to jail. Someone will arrest the defendant, and you won’t be liable for the bail money any longer; however, the percentage that you paid may be non-refundable
Bail bonds are a wonderful way to bring loved ones home from jail until their trial date without having to pay the entire bail amount. However, the risks are so high for the co-signer, you don’t want to bail out just anyone. If you trust the person to show up to the court dates, the risk is worth the reward. Call local bail bonds to find out their percentage rates and if they require collateral. For more information on posting bail, you can check out this page.