When a friend or family member has been arrested, they may turn to you for help in posting their bail. If you agree to help them, you will have the option to either pay the full bail amount directly to the court or jail, or to use the services of a licensed bail bondsman.
But be careful and fully consider the impact of signing a bail bond contract. When you sign a contract with a bail bond company, you become known as the indemnitor. This means that you are assuming responsibility to the court and the bailsman. The contract is a legally binding document.
As the signer or co-signer of the contract, you are taking responsibility for the defendant to show up for each required court appearance. In most cases where the defendant fails to appear, it is a simple situation such as car trouble. Situations such as these can generally be resolved easily with a simple phone call.
There are rare cases where the defendant decides not to go to court. If you have any reason to believe that the defendant will evade court, do yourself a favor and do not bail them out. Simply missing court is easy to deal with, but in cases where the defendant “goes on the run,” the headache, heartache and financial liability can be overwhelming.
It is important for you to understand the bail bonds process and your responsibilities as an indemnitor before you enter into a bail bond contract on someone else’s behalf. As signer you are responsible for the defendant’s appearance at court. If the defendant willfully fails to appear in court, you are responsible to help the bondsman get the defendant back into court or jail.
If it becomes necessary for the bail bond agent to apprehend the defendant because they refuse to go to court, the agent will use the services of a fugitive recovery person, or “bounty hunter.” In these circumstances, you as the indemnitor will be liable for paying any additional expenses that come from hiring a bounty hunter.
In California, the bail bondsman generally has six months to locate and bring in the defendant. If the defendant is not apprehended in that time-fame, you will also be responsible for paying the full amount of the bond as well as any additional expenses and any unpaid premium. For example, if the bond for the defendant is $50,000 and the defendant fails to appear or is not brought in within the time allowed, the indemnitor will have to pay the $50,000 plus any fees the bondsman has incurred to locate the defendant.
When it comes to bailing someone out of jail, before making what could be a very costly decision, think it over carefully. If you have any reason to believe that the defendant will refuse to appear in court once they’ve been released from jail, don’t arrange bail for them.