Whether or not you’re facing a situation that involves possible jail time, it is still important to have a real understanding of how the American legal system works. By the time you need the knowledge, it may already be too late to do the research required to get the answers you’re interested in.

Not feeling confused by various terms such as “bail” or “bondsman” can be extremely helpful if you ever end up in a situation where you or a loved one is facing the very real prospect of jail time.

To help people get a firmer grasp of how the legal system works, our team here at ABC Bail Bonds has gathered some helpful information about what bail is, and where the money goes.

By arming people with information about how the bail system works, and how they can get the money back, we hope there will be less hesitation and confusion when thinking about working with a company – like ours – to avoid spending time waiting for a trial date stuck in a jail cell.

What IS “Bail” Exactly?

Practically everyone has heard the phrase “getting bailed out” or “posting bail” at one point or another in their lives. Most people will likely understand that in a broad sense, this implies that someone made a payment to help a friend or family member get released from jail. What they may not know is that the amount owed for bail is based on the severity of the crime, and in some cases, a judge may be the one who makes a final decision on the exact amount.

From the court’s point of view, bail is a security measure that is put in place to feel more confident that a person who is released will be sure to return for their court date. If a person who is released on bail does not show up for their assigned court date, then their bail money is forfeit. This also means that the money is returned to those who do show up as expected.

There are quite a few factors involved when determining bail for a person, the severity of the crime, their criminal record, their potential to try and escape justice by leaving the city or the country, and the possibility that they are a threat to the public are all taken into consideration by a judge.

For individuals who cannot pay the full amount of bail, or who cannot get the support of friends and family to cover those costs, their best choice is to work with a bail bondsman. In exchange for posting the full bail amount, a bail bondsman will typically require a flat percentage as payment for the service.

So, What Happens to Bail Money?

Once bail has been paid into the legal system, a few things happen. First, a release from prison is processed, and an agreement is established that the person will appear in court on a specified date. The bail money is secured by the court system, and if all goes according to plan, then it is promptly returned within a couple of weeks following the court date.

That is, of course, the way it is supposed to work. If a person decides not to show up for their assigned court date or misses the court date for unexpected reasons, or if they simply decide to start running to escape further punishment, then their bail money is forfeit. This means that the entire amount is kept by the court system.

The best policy when dealing with the American legal system is, to be honest, straightforward, and above all, don’t play games. In addition to keeping all bail money if a court date is missed, an arrest warrant will typically be issued.

For situations where a bail bondsman was involved, extra incentives will be in place to make certain that an individual appears on time to their court date. Because the bail company was the group responsible for the total amount of bail owed to the court, they are the ones who stand to lose the most if an individual fails to make their assigned court date.

For situations like this, it is not uncommon for a bounty hunter or other representative of the bail company to be sent out to find the individual, and do whatever is legally possible to get back the money they owe.