How Bail Bonds Work
Most people are unfamiliar with the bail bond process and how bail bonds works. Bail is a guarantee the arrestee will appear in court for the alleged criminal charges. Bail is accepted in several forms; cash bail, bail bonds, and check. The bail amount will determine which of these options for bail will be available to you. The larger the bail amount, the more likely you will need to use the services of a bail bonds company. Thus, the bail bond company generally charges 10% of the total amount due on the bail for their service. The person attempting to have the arrestee released from jail is usually a friend or family member and they are typically the ones signing for the arrestee’s release. The Indemnitor (co-signer) then signs a contract agreeing to pay the total amount of the bail bond, if the arrestee fails to appear in court . The bail bond company in return guarantees to the court that the arrestee will appear for the alleged crime and posts the bail bond. Once the arrestee (defendant) appears and completes their scheduled court appearances, the bail bond company and the co-signer are released from the obligation of the bond amount. Thus, the bail bond is exonerated by the court at sentencing, regardless if the defendant was found guilty, not guilty, or case is dismissed. Remember, the bail bond is an “appearance bond”, we only guarantee the defendant’s presence in court, not the outcome of the criminal case.
But what if the defendant fails to fulfill their obligation to the court and “skips bail” by not appearing in court? In this case scenario, the bail bond would be forfeited by the court and a bench warrant would be issued for the defendant’s arrest. There are two possible outcomes at this point, either get the defendant back into court or pay the total amount of bail on the bail bond. The co-signer is not only responsible for the total amount of bail, but also obligated to pay investigation fees, attorney fees, and court costs related to locating, apprehending, and surrendering the fugitive defendant to the authorities. The surety bail bond agreement signed by the co-signer will have provide all of the aforementioned information.
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186 Day Grace Period
When a bail bond is forfeited upon the defendant’s failure to appear (FTA), the court clerk will mail a “Notice of Forfeiture” to the surety (insurance) company and bail bond company who issued the bail bond for the defendant. Under California law, and pursuant to California Pena Code Section 1305, the defendant must appear in court within the 186 days from the date of forfeiture to avoid having to pay the total bail amount. If the defendant does not appear in court within the prescribed time, the court will enter a summary judgment against the surety and bail bond company, requiring the total bail bond amount be paid. At this point, the co-signer will have to pay the total amount of the bail bond to the bail bond company. If collateral was used to secure the bail bond, then the bail bond company will take any actions necessary against the collateral for any incurred losses.
Furthermore, once the entry of summary judgement is executed by the county of jurisdiction, the total bail amount must be paid, regardless if the defendant appears or doesn’t appear in court after the judgment. This obviously doesn’t release the defendant from the underlying criminal allegations and the warrant will stand until the defendant voluntarily appears in court or he/she is apprehended by the authorities.