Is Bail Bond Money Returned?
A common question asked by people during the bail bonds process is when they can expect their money to be returned. Sometimes they will call their bondsman after the defendant’s case is over to let them know the charges have been dropped or to indicate the defendant made all of their court appearances. “The defendant took care of what they needed to take care of”, they’ll say, “and I’m wondering when I will get my refund.”
To answer this question it’s best to first explain the difference between bail and bail bonds.
Bail is a monetary amount set by the court that, if posted in full, allows the defendant to be released from custody pending their court date. The average bail in California is about $25,000 which means to “post bail” you’d need to take that full amount to the jail, in the form of cash or cashier’s check. The court system assumes whoever posted that money will want it back eventually, and as long as the defendant makes all their necessary court appearances the money will be refunded in full, to the person who posted it, at the end of the case.
Most people don’t have immediate access to such large sums of money. This is where the bail bonds companies come in. Everyone who works in the field of bail is required to be licensed by the California Department of Insurance. That having been said, you can think of a bail bond in a similar way as you do any other insurance policy. The biggest difference is whereas an automobile or homeowners policy insures an item against damage, a bail bond insures the behavior of the defendant. Namely, it’s insures they will appear in court when required. Jails allow bail bonds to be purchased in lieu of cash bail.
The cost to purchase California bail bonds is 10% of the defendant’s total bail amount. This means if someone’s bail has been set at $25,000 you can expect to pay a bondsman $2,500 to purchase a bond. The biggest difference between bail and bail bonds is that while bail money is returned to the person who posted it at the end of the defendant’s case, the money you pay to a bondsman is a fee. It is not something you will get back.
Again, a bail bond is ultimately an insurance policy. Much as the premium you pay to your auto insurer is not refunded at the end of the year if you do not get into any accidents or receive any tickets, the premium you pay to a bondsman is not refunded even if the defendant goes to court.
If you have further questions about how bail works or what differentiates bail from bail bonds, be sure to ask the bondsman you’re working with prior to signing any paperwork. This will help ensure you’re fully understanding of what you’re signing, what responsibilities you take on when you sign a bail bonds contract and what you can expect once the case is over.