All bail bonds issued in California are a form of surety bond. Bail bond companies issue them on behalf of arrestees to assure courts that defendants will show up for their court dates. Once successfully posted, law enforcement releases arrestees from jail, granting them temporary freedom until their trial.
The difference between a regular bond and a surety bond has to do with the number of parties. In a regular bail situation (where the defendant pays the full bail amount in cash), there are two parties: the defendant and the court. But with a surety bond for bail, there are three parties: the defendant, the court, and the bail bondsman.
Insurance underwriters sometimes assist bail bondsmen to determine the risk posed by a particular client, similar to how they might help vehicle insurers evaluate the risks posed by a driver. They need help determining the risk they face so that they can charge a suitable fee.
How Do Surety Bonds For Bail Work?
In surety underwriting, a qualified expert called an underwriter determines whether a bond can be issued and how much the defendant should pay for it. In most cases, surety underwriters look at the bond applicants’ financial history. In legal matters, they look at their legal history, too.
Bail bondsmen use the surety underwriting process for bonds when they consider the defendant to be high risk. Usually, this occurs if there is a history of claims against the bond.
For instance, a defendant with a criminal record or a history of skipping court may be at a higher risk of missing their court appearance this time around. Bail bondsmen use underwriters to assess the risk they face to determine the price of the bond. (The higher the risk, the more expensive the bond, something we discuss below).
In some cases, bail bondsmen do not have to use the underwriting process. Instead, they can go to notary publics or other pre-approved professionals to determine the premium.
In a typical scenario, law enforcement posts the bail amount. If the arrestee cannot provide this payment in cash, they must apply for a bail bond.
If they receive the bond, the bail bond company pays the bail on their behalf in exchange for guaranteeing they will appear at their court date.
From this stage, the process can go in one of two directions. If the defendant appears in court at the correct time and date then:
- The court will exonerate the bail bond, paying back the bail bondsman for the bail fees paid on behalf of the arrestee
- The bail bondsman will receive a certificate of discharge; a written statement from the courts that the bail bondsman has discharged its obligation to the courts
However, if the defendant doesn’t show up to court, then:
- The bail bond company forfeits the value of the bond
- The bail bondsman receives a summary judgment against them
- The bail bondsman must go through a civil process to try to recoup losses
In some cases, courts will grant extensions or dismissal of the case. In either case, the surety bond company will receive a certificate of discharge bond and then complete the court process.
How Much Do Surety Bonds Cost?
How much surety bonds cost depends on the risk posed by the defendant. If the defendant is low risk, then bail bondsmen may issue a surety bond for bail instantly at a set price. However, if they view the bond as high risk, then it means that there is an increased chance that a claim will be made against the bond.
In California, for instance, low-risk broker bonds are issued immediately at $100 for 2-year terms. Contractor license bonds require a review of the applicant’s credit history and bond amount. Fees can be as low as $99 in this case.
Various underwriting factors determine the price of a surety bond for bail. Underwriters first examine the case itself. They identify the legal action involved, the level of guarantee the surety is being asked to provide, and the type of hazards it faces.
Next, they look at the applicant, asking things like, “what is the financial condition of the applicant?” and, “why is the applicant involved in the case?” “Does the applicant have an attorney?”
Lastly, they look at risk factors. These include past applicant hazards, such as bad credit, bankruptcies, and so on.
Importantly, a surety is not an insurance policy. The surety firm pays the price of the bond but the principal (i.e. the defendant) remains responsible for the debt. For instance, if a defendant skips court, the bail bondsman will not receive payment. They are then within their rights to pursue the defendant for debts owed.
To protect themselves from defendants failing to show up at court, bail bondsmen may ask the defendant for collateral. If they do not fulfill their obligations under the law and courts refuse to pay back the original amount, bail bondsmen can sell this collateral to recoup their losses.
Bail bondsmen also reduce the risk they face by hiring bounty hunters. These trained professionals retrieve defendants in advance of their court date if the bail bondsman is worried that there is a risk of a no-show.
Who Can Issue Surety Bonds For Bail?
In California, only licensed bail agents can underwrite and issue surety bonds for bail. Therefore, any representatives of licensed surety insurance companies must have official recognition before issuing these bonds.
Consulting with professionals is the best way to determine how much a surety bond for bail will cost in California. There are many different forms of surety bonds in the state, so determining which is best can be challenging.
We can contact courts and law enforcement for you to determine the amount of the bond. This way, you can get a suitable bond at the best price.