What Happens To You When You Can't Post Bail or Get a Bail Bondsman?

You never thought it would happen to you but it has: You’ve been arrested and now have to post bail to avoid sleeping in a prison. For the uninformed, bail is merely an agreement set forth with the court that ensures you will return when it’s time for your court date. Unfortunately, bail can be expensive, especially if you’re not very financially well enough, and if this is case, you should know that there are options.



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Know the Crime and Know the Bail

Crimes typically come with a specific bail amount; you’re going to pay more for possession than you would for simply being a drunken idiot on a Friday night. If you’re unable to post bail, then you should know precisely how much you actually owe, lest you’re compelled to pay more. Excessive bail is not an option thanks to the Eighth Amount, so in this situation, knowledge is power. While it’s probably not probable that you know the proper bail amounts for every conceivable crime, you can always request to look them up to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.

Try Bargaining

While the laws are rather rigid, it is possible to argue a case for financial hardship and successfully request that your bail be lowered. This varies from state to state and depends entirely on the people you deal with and whether or not there’s time during the arraignment, but it’s entirely possible to have your bail lowered to an amount that is more amenable to your current financial situation. But what if it can’t or won’t be lowered?

Bail Bondsman Are Your Friends

It’s time to turn to a bail bondsman. Operating twenty-four hours a day, a bail bondsman is your best friend during your particularly unfortunate time of need. If you can’t pay your bail, a bail bondsman will pay the entire amount needed to set you free on bail, as well as charge you a fee (this varies but it usually around 10% of the total bail cost). As a result, the bondsman, who is typically available whenever you might need him, will secure your bail and allow you to leave prison. It doesn’t end there, though. A bondsman is also responsible for ensuring that you return to court when you’re supposed to. If you don’t, then they can hire a bounty hunter who will track you down to ensure that you do return to court and pay the necessary fees.

How About that Watch?

Don’t have the cash on hand but happen to have a very nice Rolex? Bail is often around $100-500, with the price going up for more serious offenses, so in some cases, you can offer collateral to take the place of cold hard cash. Unfortunately, the collateral often has to be upwards of 150-200% of the total bail, meaning that you might have to put up your house or car to have a bail bondsman pay the bail. This obviously varies from place to place, so you should always make sure to discuss ALL your options before doing anything rash.

You’re Free to Go....

For many people, finding oneself in a situation where you need to post bail is a one time event. It’s your first offense, and you haven’t had so much as a speeding ticket on your record, so there’s a pretty good chance that the court will let you go on your own recognizance. If you have a job that you need to attend, familial obligations such as young children, or are simply not deemed a flight risk, then all you have to do is affirm you’ll return for the court date as well as promise not to partake in any other illegal activity.

In the end, the courts aren’t necessarily evil, and this if you find yourself in a horrible situation for a minor offense, you’re more than likely to be released without having to post bail. If you’re unfortunate enough to require it, however, then make sure you’re aware of all the possible options made available to you.

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Posted on September 11, 2012 at 9:00 AM