We’ve talked before on this site about how you can save money when you have to hire a personal injury attorney to help you deal with being the victim of an accident or other situation. But what if you are the person who is at fault? And what if you’re the one who gets arrested?
In the UK, if you get arrested, one of the very first things that happens is the determination of bail. There are two basic types of bail: pre and post-charge bail. In both cases, whether you are allowed to leave (aka “on bail”) is up to the officer in charge of the case.
In the US, bail doesn’t become an issue until after you have been formally charged with a crime. Once you’ve been charged with an offense, you are held in custody until your arraignment hearing—at which time a judge will usually set bail or decide if you should be held in custody until your trial.
There are different types of bonds for bail. In every case, the idea is simple: you pay a “premium” (usually 10%), and the company posts the rest of your bail amount. You don’t get this premium back after your court date, but it’s extremely useful if you can’t afford posting the entire amount of bail yourself.
Some jails have a pre-determined schedule of bail rates for common crimes. If you are desperate to not spend the night in jail waiting for your arraignment, you can pay that bail and be released until your arraignment.
Bail that is set by a judge is typically much higher than the scheduled bail rates at a jail. This is because a lot of judges will use high bail rates as a way to keep a defendant in custody until a trial is over. If you can’t pay bail out of your own pocket, you can hire a bail bondsman to pay your bail for you and then pay back your bondsman later—with fees and interest of course.
This is because, in the US, the bail bondsman’s business is for profit, which means that you have to be careful. There are a lot of scam artists out there who will charge exorbitant fees and set up ridiculous pay schedules because they want to get as much money out of you as possible. To avoid losing your shirt to an unfair bail bondsman, make sure you take the following steps:
1. Only deal with bail bondsmen you seek out. If someone approaches you, that’s a red flag.
2. Compare at least five different bondsmen rates—these rates should be consistent. If someone is ridiculously high or low, that’s a red flag.
3. At every meeting, ask to see the bondsman’s state identification and certification. If they cannot produce a state issued bondsman ID (or hedge), that’s a red flag.
4. Bail bondsmen are meant to know the system but not be a part of it. Any law enforcement or court official who offers to act as your bondsman shouldn’t be trusted.
5. Any legitimate bondsman will immediately show you his or her license as well as a government website that will explain the entire bail bonds system to you.
Remember to trust your gut! The last thing you want is for your desperation (or your family’s desperation) to put you in a position to go bankrupt or wind back up in court for defaulting on your agreement!