A bail bond is a kind of written promise authorized by a defendant or sometimes by a surety. Therefore, a defendant or a surety are required to make some payment specified by the court in case, when the defendant defies the court order to appear during the proceeding related to the defendant. The main significance of a bail bond is the ability of the defendant, whose case awaits a trial, to release from custody by law enforcers. The release of the defendant becomes executable, when the defendant, his/her close friends and relatives or sometimes bail agents promise to pay a certain amount of money decided by the court depending on allegations in case the defendant defiles the court order on resuming during the trial date.
Mostly, this money paid as a bail go back to the defendant once the trial is over and on condition that the defendant appeared in all case proceedings in the court. It is worth noting that, a bail is refundable to the defendant whether he is found guilty or not of the alleged crime.
Bailing is a common practice in most countries and the United States are not an exception. However, there are some instances where bailing is not granted by some courts. These include a suspicion by the court on likelihood of a defendant to fail appearing during the date set for a trial.
Bail Agents as a Business
In most cases, defendants face challenges acquiring enough money to bail on their behalf. As a result, such defendants opt to seek assistance from bail agents on a condition that ten to twenty percent of the bail bond fee is nonrefundable. This is transferred to bail agents becoming reliable before the court in case the defendant fails to show up during the trial date in the court.
Due to the risks associated with bailing, the bail agent prevents any kind of risk by enquiring some collateral securities in the form of jewelry and written guaranties signed by creditworthy allies. In case the bail agent becomes suspicious of the defendant who is not trustworthy and reliable, he quickly withdraws his proposal to post such a bail. These agents like dealing with defendants which secure good jobs, familiar with the residents and clean record over crime.
The procedural process follows bailing between the agent and the defendant, or any other parties of interest through posting a bail in the form of a bail bond in the court where the defendant is tried. This is to confirm that the defendant will appear in the court on a certain date, when proceedings of the case related to him/her would happen. Once a bail bond is availed to the court, it is the duty of a court clerk to issue a bail ticket or an authorized document to the police in order to inform it about the completion of the bailing agreement. On receiving the bail ticket by the police, the defendant becomes free from custody. The effectiveness of the bail bond becomes void once the defendant complies with the court order by reporting during the proceedings. Other conditions that influence the validity of the bail bond are associated with the defendant’s death or if the defendant faces other charges that may lead to detention, arrest or even imprisonment (Thefreedictionary, 2011).
In order to avoid cases that happened in England before the enacting of the statute in 1272 (the statute defined kinds of offences that were legible for bailing alongside offences that were not subjective to bailing) (Metzmeier, 1996), it is necessary to have strong laws on bailing process. The application of bails has existed since time immemorial and their contribution to the criminal justice system is remarkable. In the United States, the bailing system succeeded as a result of surety bonding. The utilization of surety bonding have formed a platform for a pretrial release that has drawn attention of many writers and, hence, the coining of the phrase “community-based corrections”, published by such authors as Glick and Miller in 2008 (Krahl, 2011).
Notwithstanding rich traditions of bailing, when a defendant has to pay bails stated by judges, some commercial bail agents have turned bailing into a successful business venture. This move is approved by the American Legislative Exchange Council who has highlighted some benefits accrued by commercial bailing (American Legislative Exchange Council, 2009).
Contribution of Commercial Bail Agents
To start with, they have played an important role in assisting the court to maintain social control of a defendant. The closeness between commercial bail agents and their clients (defendants) facilitates the availability of the defendant appearing in the court, which eases court proceedings and allows avoiding cases, piling in the court due to a failure of the defendant to appear in the court.
Secondly, the presence of these commercial bail agents supplements the economy performing poorly with regard to the security. There is an increasing demand for security provision by the police that has raised a workload for law enforcers. Commercial bail agents intervene the problem by keeping the defendant at pace, hence, giving the police a chance to devote their efforts to other important matters, such as crime prevention and suppression among members of the public.
It is worth mentioning that there have been improvements of the management of cases in our courts because of commercial bail agents. They (commercial bail agents) have resolved a problematic scenario, when the court can make mistakes on the date of hearing certain cases of their clients. There is good information sharing between the bail agent and the court on various cases on the day of hearing.
In addition, the surety bonding industry resolved instances of jail overcrowding by means of the release of defendants on the bail basis. The surety bonding industry also ensures that all the defendants, which qualify a release from custody, get a bail bond.
Lastly, these commercial bonding industries earn some revenue for the state because of their daily operations. If the defendant fails to adhere to the court ruling his/her appearance in the court, the bonding agent is supposed to pay to the state.
State’s savings emanating from the commercial bailing/ surety bonding industry
Apart from money, which the government gains from commercial bail agents, there are benefits for the government. Many states are able to save taxpayers money thanks to the industry existence.
For instance, one of the counties in Florida known as PascoCounty abandoned the unsecure pretrial release program in 2007 for the reasons, associated with the burden of such a program. Luckily, the county managed to save 348,000 dollars of taxpayers’ money annually because of abandoning the pretrial release program. Although the county feared of the possibility of jail overcrowding because of the termination of pretrial release, but the situation turned out to be in favor of the county, since the analysis conducted revealed that the per capita jail occupancy was reduced to two point two percent in the preceding year.
The effectiveness of surety bonding resulted in saving taxpayers’ money. In Florida, the surety bonding company had good reputation, since it saved approximately 500 million dollars of Florida taxpayers’ money (see Table 1). Should it not have been the company, all these taxpayers’ money could have been lost because of the pretrial detention in the past three years (Krahl, 2011, 32). Moreover, this state spends around 1.8 billion dollars annually for the construction of houses for inmates. The surety bonding industry can save all these money.
Comparison of the Largest Florida Counties with the Remainder of the State Detention Cost Savings, Costs of Detention, and Detention Costs Excluding Surety Bonding
Annual Total and
Average Per Diem
Annual Total and
Annual Total and
Excluding Surety Bonding
Statewide – All
$ 404 231161
$ 6 033301
$ 27 027166
$ 33 060467
$ 277 855096
$ 92 764734
$ 112 613669
Counties in State
$ 126 346064
$ 2 383888
$ 512 113863
$ 9 662526
$ 638 459927
$ 12 046414
The Effectiveness of Bail Bonds in Assuring the Defendant’s Appearance in Court
Regardless the presence of many strategies used by courts to release defendants on bail bonds, the surety bonding proved to be the best. For instance, a block (2005) study on over 20,000 cases in California revealed that the effectiveness of surety bonding outdid other means, such as a release on recognizance (ROR) and conditional release (CR). Standards laid by the surety bonding have great impact on defendants that make them adhere to court orders. In California, one of the largest states in the US, the surety bonding by commercial bail agents has potential of saving taxpayers’ money amounting from approximately 1.3 to 10 million dollars as a result of ROR and CR.
The surety bonding increases the likelihood of the defendant to appear in the court for several reasons. According to Helland and Tabarrok, the public supported commercial bailing as opposed to the pretrial release of defendants. The public’s opinion reflects the means of reducing this burden, since the pretrial release get funding from its own money. It is clear that the unsecured pretrial release has many disadvantages in its operation in comparison with the commercial bailing. Their conclusion was that the commercial bailing was safer and the public had no expenses to incur (Helland and Tabarrok, 2004).
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