Home Blog Bail Bonds What Happens When You Sign a Bond for Someone? Responsibilities and Risks Post Image

July 11, 2024  |  Posted by jesse  |  Bail Bonds

Signing a bond for someone else is common practice in California and the U.S. It provides surety to the bail bondsman – an agency that provides funds to pay the bail set by the judge. 

But is it something you should do personally?

That’s the topic of this post. We assess the impact of signing a bond and your legal and financial obligations as a co-signer. You will learn what to consider and whether any alternatives might be more appropriate. 

The Impact Of Signing A Bond For Someone Else: Responsibilities And Risk

When you sign a bond for someone else, you inherit the responsibility associated with it. If the defendant doesn’t attend court or breaks their bail conditions, you’re on the hook for the money. 

For this reason, co-signing a bail bond isn’t a decision you should take lightly. It has the potential to damage you financially long-term. 

As a co-signer, you have three main responsibilities: 

  1. The financial obligation – You must pay the full bail amount if the defendant doesn’t show up in court either with cash or by selling assets, like your home. 
  2. Ensuring court attendance – You must also guarantee the defendant goes to court on the right dates and take steps to ensure they attend. For example, you should immediately tell the bail bondsman if they flee, providing information on their likely whereabouts. You must also arrange transport to the court if they don’t have their own. 
  3. Ensuring release conditions – You must ensure they obey bail conditions, including curfews and wearing electronic tracking devices. 

As you can imagine, the risks of becoming a co-signer are substantial. And some can have severe long-term ramifications for your long-term quality of life. 

For example, financial strain is a significant concern. Unless you are exceptionally wealthy, forfeited bail is costly. Bail bond agents may demand you repay the full sum, which could be upwards of $100,000 in some cases. 

You also risk damaging your relationship with the defendant. If you co-sign their bail bond and they abscond, you could lose them as a part of your life. 

Therefore, always understand the risks before becoming a co-signer. Check the defendant knows their responsibilities and obligations to you. Don’t sign anything if you don’t trust them or think their past behavior might cause you to lose money. 

Your Legal And Financial Obligations As A Bond Co-Signer

The legal and financial obligations of a bond co-signer are extensive. Therefore, always take time to understand them in full before signing any paperwork. 

Legal responsibilities include: 

  • Signing an agreement with the bail bond agent agreeing to repay the bail amount if the defendant doesn’t meet their obligations
  • Understanding that there are limited legal options to reverse the agreement once you sign. (You can change your mind about being a co-signer, but the defendant must return to jail or remain there if they are already there)

These legal responsibilities exist to protect the judicial process and the bail bond agent. Without them, the option to become a co-signer wouldn’t exist. 

Financial responsibilities for co-signers are more extensive and include: 

  • Agreeing to become jointly and severally liable if there are other co-signers (meaning you are liable for the full amount if it remains unpaid after bail forfeiture)
  • Understanding the risk to your credit score if you fail to pay a bond or non-refundable fee credit installments
  • Paying the non-refundable fee
  • Agreeing to put up collateral, such as your home, to guarantee payment

Reputable bail bond agents like Balboa Bail Bonds explain your financial responsibilities before you sign. You will learn about what cash and collateral you must use and the conditions for liens against you being removed. 

Considerations Before Co-Signing A Bond

So, what considerations should you make before co-signing a bond? 

Is It Affordable?

First, consider whether you can afford to co-sign the bail bond. What would happen to your life if you lost a lot of money, say $50,000? 

If you can afford that sort of loss, great – go ahead and help the defendant. But if it would leave you materially poorer, you might want to think twice. 

Do You Trust The Defendant?

It’s also vital you trust the defendant. After all, your finances are at their mercy. 

Ask yourself whether you believe they will attend court and observe the other bail conditions set by the judge. Think about whether they skipped hearings before (and the consequences of doing so). 

Will It Strain Your Relationship? 

You should also ask whether co-signing will strain your relationship. Can you forgive them if you lose money? 

Many family members believe their relationship can survive events like these. But when vast sums of money are on the line, it’s not always clear-cut. 

Are You Ready To Deal With Unpleasant Legal Consequences? 

Finally, ask yourself if you are ready to deal with unpleasant legal consequences if the defendant breaks their bail conditions. Can you bear facing legal action by the bail agent? 

Alternatives To Signing A Bond

The most obvious alternative to co-signing a bond is to get the defendant to do it themselves. If they have cash, they can usually purchase a bail bond alone. 

If they don’t have sufficient cash, you could recommend they take out a credit agreement with a third party with a relationship to the bail agent. These arrangements reduce the upfront cost and let them pay over installments before the trial. 

Another option is to suggest a secured bond. These let the defendant secure a bail bond by using their home (or other valuable assets) as surety. If they break bail conditions, bail agents can recover their losses by selling this property. 

Wrapping Up

Ultimately, signing a bond for someone shifts responsibility for obeying bail conditions from them onto you. Suddenly, you are on the hook financially and legally if they don’t show up to court. 

Therefore, it is something you should consider carefully. Only cosign a bail bond if you think it is safe and trust the defendant. Don’t take unnecessary risks and always explore alternative options if available. 

To learn more, talk to Balboa Bail Bonds today.