How Bail Works
is a procedure by which a Judge or a Magistrate sets at liberty one who
been arrested or imprisoned, upon receipt of security to ensure the
prisoner's later appearance in court for further proceedings. Release
custody is ordinarily affected by posting a sum of money, or a bond,
originally bail included the delivery of other forms of property, such
to real estate. The principal use of bail in modern legal systems is to
the freedom, pending trial, of one arrested and charged with a criminal
purposes of bail pending trial in criminal cases are to avoid inflicting
punishment upon an innocent person (who may be acquitted at trial) and
encourage the unhampered preparation of his defense.
amount of bail is generally set in relation to the gravity of the
charged, although some magistrates take into account other factors, such
strength of the evidence, the character of the accused, and his
ability to secure bail. Failure to consider financial ability has
much controversy in recent years, for bail requirements may discriminate
against poor people and certain minority groups who are thus deprived of
equal opportunity to secure their freedom pending trial. Some courts now
special consideration to indigent accused persons who, because of their
community standing and past history, are considered likely to appear in
A few jurisdictions make it a separate criminal offense to forfeit bail
of appearing as required.
How does bail work?
an individual is arrested for a crime, typically that person will be
taken to a
local law enforcement station for booking, prior to incarceration in a
lockup or county jail. Once arrested and booked, the defendant has
options for release pending the conclusion of his or her case. Bail is
to guarantee the appearance of a defendant in court at the time the
What are the release options if someone is arrested?
are five basic release options available. The five options are:
Bail - Cash bail means a person must
give the court the total amount of the bail in cash. The cash will be
the court until the defendant appears to all of his/her court cases and
case is concluded. Full cash bonds provide a powerful incentive for the
defendant to appear in court. If the defendant appears for all of
scheduled court appearances, the cash bail should be returned in full.
Bond - An alternative to cash bail is a
surety bond. This process involves a contractual undertaking guaranteed
admitted insurance company having adequate assets to satisfy the face
the bond. The bail agent guarantees to the court that they will pay the
forfeiture if a defendant fails to appear for their scheduled court
appearances. The bail agent’s guarantee is made through a surety company
by pledging property owned by the bail agent.
this service, the defendant is charged a premium. Prior to the posting
surety bond, the defendant, friend or relative must contact a licensed
agent. Once a bail agent is contacted, an interview or appointment will
involving the family and friends of a defendant cosigning the bond, as
through the acceptance of collateral, the bail agent can be reasonably
that the defendant released on a surety bond will appear to all of
this procedure is completed, the bail agent will post a bond for the
amount, financially guaranteeing the defendants return to court as
money on the line, the bail agent has a financial interest in
bailees, and ensuring that they appear in court each end every time the
orders them to appear. If the defendant does not appear in court
bail agent has time and the financial incentive to find the defendant
him/her to court.
Bond - In rare cases an individual may be released by posting a property
with the court. With a property bond, the court records a lien on the
to secure the bail amount. If the defendant fails to appear in court as
scheduled, the court may foreclose on the property to obtain the
on Personal (Own) Recognizance (P.R.) - Another method of release,
trial, is through a county or law enforcement administered pre-trial
program. Usually, the employees of these programs interview defendants
custody and make recommendations to the court regarding the release of
individuals on their own recognizance (i.e., without any financial
insure the defendants return).
interview process is often conducted over the telephone, usually with
inquiry into the defendant’s background. The interview process attempts
determine whether the detainee is likely to appear in court. There is
no verification of information provided by the defendant. Since no
property or bond is posted to secure the defendants appearance in court,
faces no personal economic hardship from the conscious decision not to
on Citation (Cite Out) - This procedure
involves the issuance of a citation by the arresting officer to the
informing the arrestee that he/she must appear in court at an appointed
"Cite Out" usually occurs immediately after an individual is
arrested. As a consequence of the failure to follow complete booking
procedures, the true identity and background of most individuals
citation is never established. This results in the release of numerous
arrestees who may have outstanding bench warrants pending or who may
significant danger to society.
in those cases involving "Cite Outs", the arrestee may never be
placed in custody. Like the Own Recognizance (O.R.) release, the
appearance in court depends exclusively on the integrity of the
voluntarily returning to court as ordered by the court.
How much does a bail bond (surety bond) cost?
Colorado, the bail premium (fee) is 15% or $50 minimum. Typically for
$5,000 or larger we charge 10% of the full bail amount with approved
For example, if the bail amount is $10,000, the premium charged is
detention facilities charge bonding, booking, or filing fees of $5-$50
How much of the premium will I get back?
the premium is fully earned once the bail bond is posted with a jail or
That is how bail agents and their surety companies make their money and
When will collateral be returned?
is usually returned when the court finishes with the defendants case(s),
exonerating the bail bond(s), and when all fees have been paid. You must
deliver bond release documents to Bonding Agent.
How long does it take to get released from jail?
typically takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour to be released on
bail in a
Municipal or City Jail. If a defendant is booked into a county jail it
usually takes anywhere from 2 to 8 hours to be released on bail.
Excerpts from the Criteria for Setting Bail in Colorado
16-4-105: 16-4-105. Selection by judge of the amount of bail and type of
In determining the amount of bail and the type of bond to be furnished
defendant, the judge fixing the same shall consider and be governed by
The amount of bail shall not be oppressive;
When a person is charged with an offense punishable by fine only, the
bail shall not exceed the amount of the maximum penalty;
The defendant's employment status and history and his financial
The nature and extent of his family relationships;
His past and present residences;
His character and reputation;
Identity of persons who agree to assist him in attending court at the
The nature of the offense presently charged and the apparent probability
conviction and the likely sentence;
The defendant's prior criminal record, if any, and, if he previously has
released pending trial, whether he appeared as required;
Any facts indicating the possibility of violations of law if the
released without restrictions;
Any facts indicating likelihood that there will be an intimidation or
harassment of possible witnesses by the defendant;
Any other facts tending to indicate that the defendant has strong ties
community and is not likely to flee the jurisdiction;
Unless the district attorney consents, no person shall be released on
recognizance if he is presently at liberty on another bond of any kind
another criminal action involving a felony or a class 1 misdemeanor;
Unless the district attorney consents, no person shall be released on
recognizance if he has a record of conviction of a class 1 misdemeanor
two years, or a felony within five years, prior to the release hearing
Some Tips on Bail Bonding Agents:
Make sure you only deal with a licensed bail agent. Ask to see the
license and identification prior to any bail transaction.
Make sure the bail agent charges you only legal rates not to exceed 15%
minimum per bond plus bonding, booking, and filing fees required by the
and or detention facility. Any additional charges should be itemized and
explained to your satisfaction.
Make sure you are given itemized receipts for all charges.
Make sure you are given copies of all signed contracts and agreements.
If financing is provided, make sure you understand the terms of the
agreement prior to signing and be sure you are given copies of anything
Make sure the bail agent you contract with will be available to you
bail bond has been posted. Part of what you pay for is service. Any
professional bail agent will be available for questions or concerns
the entire process.