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Frequently Asked Questions About Bail

Q: What is Bail?

A: Traditionally, bail is some form of property deposited or pledged to a court to persuade it to release a suspect from jail, on the understanding that the suspect will return for trial or forfeit the bail (and possibly be brought up on charges of the crime of failure to appear). More recently, it usually refers to a bail bonds.

Q: When is Bail Required?

A: When someone is arrested on a criminal charge they may be held for trial, unless they furnish the required bail as ordered by the court.

Q: What is a Cash Bond?

A: To be released on cash bail, an individual must post with the court the total amount of the bail, in cash, to secure his or her return to court on an appointed date, and thereafter until the case is concluded. Full cash bonds provide a powerful incentive for defendants to appear at trial. If the defendant shows up for his/her scheduled court appearances, the cash is returned to him/her. If s/he fails to appear, the cash bond is forfeited to the court.

Q: What is a Surety Bond?

A: An alternative to cash bail is the posting of a surety bond. This process involves a contractual undertaking guaranteed by an admitted insurance company having adequate assets to satisfy the face value of the bond. The bail agent guarantees to the court that they will pay the bond forfeiture if a defendant fails to appear for their scheduled court appearances. The bail agents guarantee is made through a surety company and/or by the pledge of property owned by the agent.

Q: What is a Property Bond?

A: In rare cases an individual may obtain release from custody by means of posting a property bond with the court. Here the court records a lien on property, to secure the bail amount. If the arrestee subsequently fails to appear at the scheduled court date, the court may institute foreclosure proceedings against the property to obtain the forfeited bail amount. Some Bonding Company’s also use property bonds in lieu of surety bonds although this is becoming more unusual.

Q: How do I get My Friend out of Jail when bail has been ordered?
A: There are 2 different sources of bail bonds:

If you have cash for the full bail amount, you can go directly to the court and pay the court clerk. In this case, the defendant gets all the money back if they appear as promised to the court hearings unless the court, at the time of setting the bond, states that part of the cash can be applied to legal financial obligations. Typically, after the bail is exonerated the court will return the money to the individual who posted the cash bail.

The most common option is to contact a bail bond agency. Bail bond agencies charge a fee for their services. Only a person holding a bail bond agent license issued by Washington State Department of Licensing may sell or negotiate a bail bond. You have a right to ask to see the agent’s license. Your local telephone book may have bail bond agencies advertised. When shopping, be sure to look for bail bond agencies that have their license number and street address in their advertisements.

Q: When do I get my premium back from the bail bond company?

A: Typically, the premium is earned on your release by the bail bonds company, and is not returned.

Q: What is collateral and how does it apply to Bail Bonds?

A: The person who pays for the bail bond premium or places collateral in trust with the bail bond agent is called the indemnitor. Depending upon the cost of the bail bond, you may be required to give the bail bond agent collateral in addition to the premium. Bail bond agency requirements will vary on collateral requirements. Your collateral can be in the form of cash, car, or property titles or other items of value. The bail bond agent will hold the collateral in trust until the bond is exonerated. Exonerated means that the person arrested, (the defendant), has appeared in court as required. Exoneration of the bond does not necessarily dismiss the charges against the defendant.

Q: What happens when my friend does not show up for court?

A: If the defendant fails to appear at the court appointment. the bond amount becomes payable and is forfeited as a penalty. You as the indemnitor may lose your collateral in addition to reimbursement of reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by the bail agent caused by a breach of bail agreement. These would include travel expenses, guard fees, telephone calls, and associated costs necessary to have the person re-arrested for failing to appear in court. It’s very important to read and fully understand the responsibilities set forth in the bond agreement, including forfeiture of the bond amount and reimbursement of associated costs. This is particularly true when title to real property has been provided as collateral. You may find yourself in a position where your car or home is taken from you.

The bail bond agency may use the services of bail enforcement agents who by law have the authority to enter your home or place of business without a search warrant in search of the fugitive (defendant).

Q: Can I use my Electronic Benefits Card at the ATM at the Bail Bonds Company?

A: No. Bail Bonds Companies are required (as of January 1, 2012) pursuant to RCW 74.08.580 to disable the ability of ATM’s and point of sales machines located on their business premises from accepting electronic benefit cards.

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