The Who, What, Where, Why & How of Bail Bonds.

Everyone seems to know that bail bonds are the standard way to get a person out of jail. And everyone seems to know that a bail bond agent is the person who goes to the jail to post the bond. But the real question seems to be, “what is a bail bond?” and the answer is not exactly straight forward, but we’ll try to explain. But first let’s answer the most important question,

“Why Use Bail Bonds to Get Someone Out of Jail?”

The answer is, “because it’s simple and fast!” Next question? Why keep your friend or family member in custody when you could pick up the phone, make a call, or submit your information on our internet site and start the process? Why go through the stress of receiving those collect calls from the person in jail who keeps asking you, “when are you going to get me of here?” Or here is the other question, “I need to get back to my job before I lose it!” Do you know that it could take only minutes of your time to get the bond approved? Now, let’s look at this question, “what is a bail bond and how does it work?” To help you better understand what bail bonds are, with all the legal mumbo-jumbo, we’ll elaborate a on a few words that you hear most often and we’ll include the definitions of those words, as well. Now here’s the short response to the first part of the question,

“What is a Bail Bond?”

A bail bond is a paper instrument, recognized by the courts, that enables a person to get out of jail. What it says to the court is the person (defendant), who is bailed out, will appear on a specific time and date (when) at a specific court, in a specific court room (where). By the way, all this information was completed and written on the bail bond when it was posted at the jail. That’s the simple part – how it really works is more complex.

The Mechanics of Bail Bonds – What’s Expected …

Immediately, upon writing a bail bond, the court is guaranteed (with that bond) the defendant will appear at all mandated times. Further, the defendant’s freedom is guaranteed while free on bond, but once a bail bond is forfeited, the complexity arises. Why? because, the pledge of that liability, now jeopardized by a forfeiture1, rests on the bail agent, or owner-agent of the bail company, who has the financial responsibility to pay money – the full amount of that bond, to the court. The court will present to the bail company a formal demand for payment and the bondsman will then turn to the signer – called the indemnitor, for payment. What becomes most interesting, at this point, is the unique position given the bail bondsman upon the initial writing of a bail bond. As soon as the defendant is released from jail the transfer of jurisdiction changes. The jail no longer has authority over the individual – he or she is technically the property of the bail bondsman.

The bail agent or bondsman now has legal authority over that defendant, which is important should a forfeiture of the bond occur. The bondsman has the right to arrest, detain or employ additional bail agents and ultimately bring that person back to jail to protect against monetary loss caused by the forfeiture.

Why Ask For Collateral?

When a bail bondsman asks for collateral or some form of security it is a precautionary measure, because of the potential liability the bail agent may incur – as in forfeiture. When the bail agent asks for security, either with a good signer, termed indemnitor, it is to protect against losses by indemnifying all parties and to ensure the completion or exoneration of the bond. There are three parties, or concerned individuals, involved in a single bail bond: the bail bondsman, the indemnitor (or signer), and the defendant. All those involved have serious concerns about freedom and financial debt. The defendant’s appearance in court has oversight from three separate and individual parties. As you can see, the complexity of a bail bond deepens.

Now Let’s Kick It Up a Notch.

Here’s the real nitty gritty of bail there are more parties involved. How about an insurance company that underwrites the bond? Yes, you guessed it – a bail bonds is like an insurance policy. First, the bail bond is a paper instrument that gives one their freedom. When it is presented to the courts, it is almost like a check that needs to be insured for its full value. When the bail bond is forfeited, it becomes a ‘bad check’ that needs to be paid or collected. And usually when people write checks they are written in good faith and have money in the bank to cover the check. The bank in turn insures your money that it is holding. As we all know, a check only becomes a bad check when there is no money.

The similarity applies to bail. When bail bonds are forfeited, they need to be paid. If the signer can’t pay and the bondman can’t pay then the insurance company is asked or demanded to pay the court. So let’s review the sequence of financial liability. It first begins with the signer, the second in line is the bail bondsman and the last to hold financial responsibility to the court is the insurance company. Of course, there are more safety measures in place, but the analysis presented is sufficient for this review.

Further, losses and forfeitures can be contested and litigated through the courts, attorneys get involved and the cost of the original bail bond escalates and the financial responsibility of the signers rise. It is a tricky equation to balance every defendant who is out on bond with a bail bond company, to make sure that forfeitures are few, and to continue making the best decision on future bonds.


The biggest concern of all bail bondsman, as well as the signers for all defendants is, “will this person go to court and therefore, not cause a forfeiture to take place?”


1 Forfeiture – something that is taken away or given up as a penalty for breaking a law or contract.          

2 Indemnitor – a person or company that covers or ensures against loss or penalty.

3 Indemnifying – the act of securing or protecting against loss or penalty.                                                  

4 Exoneration – to declare free of all blame and penalties.