Most people who only have a laypersons understanding of the court system are surprised to discover that bail money paid towards a defendant’s release is not a fee, but rather a form of collateral that is returned to the payer once the defendant’s legal responsibilities are satisfied.
The goal of the bail system is to be able to release harmless defendants so they can resume their lives as their case is handled. In order to assure themselves that the defendant will return for their court dates, the court sets a bail amount, and keeps that money until the defendant’s case is finished.
As long as the defendant complies with all the courts demands and stipulations, the court gives the bail money back whether the defendant is found guilty or innocent. If they are found guilty a small percentage charge will be taken out of the bail money.
What will not be returned is the fee charged by a bail bondsman if the defendant has entered into a bail bond agreement. Defendants who do not have the means to post their full bail amount can come to terms with a bail bondsman who will post the full bail amount in exchange for a nonrefundable fee. Typically, a bail bondsman will charge 10% of the bail amount.
While this agreement might sound strange, for many defendants it will certainly be easier to come up with $2,000, for example, instead of the $20,000 the judge has assigned as bail. So, the defendant loses out on $2,000 they pay for a bail bond, but get released as their trial plays out.
If a bail bondsman is paying the bail on a defendant’s behalf, the bail money will be returned to the bondsman and not the defendant. Unfortunately, even if the defendant is found innocent, if they were released by a bail bondsman, the bondsman keeps the 10% fee paid by the defendant for the bail bond.
Once the judge has heard the case, and has made the final verdict, he should issue a return of bail money as part of the sentencing process. It could take up to seven weeks for bail money to be returned after a case has been concluded.
To get bail money back if it has not been returned after two months of the court case being settled, call the court where the case was tried. Further Reading