If you are familiar with the American criminal justice system, you have likely heard of bail, as well as bail bonds. These bonds play an integral role in the bail system, but also often result in people losing their livelihoods and their freedom. But what exactly is a bail bond, and why would you even want to get one?
“Bail” is a practice that has existed since before the United States was even a country. Put simply, when a person goes before a criminal court and gets formally accused of a crime, a criminal court judge may decide to release someone instead of holding them in jail to await their trial. While a judge can choose to let them go for free, they can also require the criminal defendant to leave a certain amount of money or property with the court in order to secure their freedom. This practice is known as bail, and the money or property they leave behind is known as the “collateral” of the bail.
The idea is that, normally, if someone does everything they are supposed to, they get the collateral they put up for the bail back at the end of the criminal process (which may mean being exonerated, pleading guilty, or being convicted of a crime at trial). However, when someone violates the terms of their bail (usually by being rearrested or by failing to show up for court), the collateral of the bail gets forfeited to the court. By creating the threat of a major financial loss, bail is intended to encourage people to stay out of trouble and come back to court, especially if they would otherwise have an incentive to flee the charges against them.
What Does a Bail Bond Do?
A bail bond is meant to be a solution of sorts for people who cannot otherwise afford their bail. A bail bondsman will put up the bond as the collateral for a person’s bail, typically in exchange for five percent of the bond’s value. This allows a person to stay out of jail without needing to put up the high price of bail by themselves. This can, theoretically, make bail “affordable” for people who otherwise might need to stay in jail due to lacking the money to cover their bail.
What if You Violate Bail?
Bail bondsmen are not in their business out of the goodness of their own hearts. If someone violates their bail with a bail bond, not only do they need to worry about going to jail for violating the terms of their bail, but they also become liable for the full cost of the bail bond. This means that a relatively cheap option for satisfying bail can suddenly become much more expensive if you violate the terms of your bail agreement.
Bail in New York
Bail used to be substantially more common in New York, especially for misdemeanor offenses. Now, however, bail is prohibited for nearly all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. This means that most people do not need to worry about covering the cost of bail. However, anyone who does fit into the narrow category of cases where bail still applies may need to worry about the costs, legal and financial, that they incur when they get a bail bond.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal offense, you will need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and work to get the best possible outcome for your matter. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.