The Difference Between Bail And Bail Bonds

Although the terms bail and bail bonds are often used interchangeably, they are two very different things with diverse meanings. Bail refers to the funds paid to the court to secure a defendant’s release from jail. Either a judge or a justice of the peace defines the bail amount. If a defendant fails to appear in court, the money posted is forfeited and belongs to the court. The money acts as an incentive, as it will be returned at the end of the criminal proceedings regardless of the outcome if the defendant does show up in court.


When the entire cost of bail cannot be posted (or if the defendant doesn’t wish to post the full amount), bail bondsmen can issue a bond on behalf of the accused. The bail bond is never the entire amount and it promises that if the defendant dos not appear as scheduled, the bail will go to the court. The bail bond is returned to the bondsman if the defendant does appear.


Bail can be set anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to one million or more. The amount is often related to the particular crime committed and the perceived risk that the accused will flee before trial. For the majority of defendants, bail bondsmen act on their behalf, as very few have the assets to pay the cost in full.  The bond is a loan made by offering collateral such as a vehicle, house or stocks and bonds. The usual fee collected for issuing a bond is 10% of the total bail. This amount is refunded when the defendant makes his or her court appearance (minus court fees) and the bail company that issued the bond gets part of the money in exchange for their services.

Bail serves two important purposes within the judicial system. It avoids needless incarceration, which can be traumatic for anyone, guilty or innocent, and it allows the defendant time to prepare a defense. The idea of pre-trial release is also meant to alleviate the severe overcrowding within the prison system.


Bail and bail bonds serve our justice system as dictated by the laws set forth in our constitution.  The law of the land dictates personal rights and these must be upheld and respected no matter who is on the other end of them.

Posted by M Dee Dubroff, on January 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM