Bail money is a court-ordered fee used to grant the temporary release of a suspect. This money may be given to the court as a form of collateral or insurance against the suspect returning for court dates or trial. If the suspect appears as agreed, bail money may be repaid regardless of the trial outcome.
A court can choose to set bail based on a variety of factors. If a suspect is arrested but not charged before the legal amount of custody expires, bail money may be paid to release the suspect until required again by police. After a suspect is charged, a court may set bail that allows the suspect to be released prior to or during the trial. In some cases, such as for standard, first-offense crimes like drunk driving or vandalism, bail may be available immediately following arrest.
There are several ways to obtain bail money in order to secure the release of a suspect. Some people choose simply to pay the bail money with available funds, which may be easier if the amount of bail is low. If a person cannot afford to pay the bail money, he or she has the option of contacting a bail bondsman. Bondsmen take collateral, such as liens on property or a percentage of the total amount of bail, in return for paying bail money. If a suspect does not maintain the terms of the bail, a bondsman can seize or foreclose property or keep the percentage paid.
For people with good credit, another means of obtaining bail money is a personal loan. It is important to note that an outside party can pay bail for a suspect, if the suspect does not have the money him or herself. Personal loans can be granted from banks or loan companies, but may take considerable time to process paperwork and be dispersed. While waiting for a loan to process, the suspect will likely have to remain in jail.
The amount of bail money required is usually set by the court and dependent on circumstances. Repeat offenders, those who have committed violent or dangerous crimes, and those with a poor history of showing up for court appearances will likely have a much higher bail or not be granted a bail order at all. Some courts have a bail schedule that sets general bail terms for certain crimes, but the judge is usually given discretion to raise or lower the scheduled amount depending on extenuating circumstances.