In California, bail bonds have been regulated by the California Department of Insurance (CDI) since the Bail Bond Regulatory Act in 1937. The CDI sets the premium bail bond rates, which are currently 10% of the bail amount. For example, if bail is set at $20,000, the bail bond premium would be $2,000.
The bail bond premium is non-refundable, even if the defendant is ultimately found not guilty or if the charges are dropped. The bail bond company may also charge additional fees like collateral or an investigation fee.
What Are Bail Bond Companies?
Bail bond companies, also called surety companies, are in the business of posting bail for criminal defendants. If you can’t afford to post bail, a bail bond company can help you get out of jail while waiting for your court hearing. Bail bond companies are regulated by the state in which they operate and must be licensed by the state insurance department.
Benefits of Using a Bail Bond Company
There are some benefits of using a bail bond company rather than trying to post bail on your own.
- The significant benefit is that you don’t need to come up with the entire bail amount. Bail bond companies typically only require a 10% down payment to post bail, making the process much more affordable.
- Bail bond companies will typically help you navigate the complex legal process and can provide you with information and resources that you may not have access to on your own.
- If the defendant fails to appear for their court date, the bail bond company will be responsible for paying the full bail amount. This means that you will not be on the hook for the entire amount if the defendant does not show up.
How Do Bail Bonds Work in California?
Arrest and Booking
If you are arrested in California, you will typically be taken to the county jail in which you were arrested. You will then be booked and processed, including your mugshot and fingerprints taken. Make sure to know what to do during your arrest.
If your family doesn’t know you’ve been arrested, you should contact them as soon as possible so they can start getting you out of jail. The sooner they know, the sooner they can begin the bail bond process.
After you have been booked, you will have a bail hearing in front of a judge within 48 hours. The judge will review the facts of your case and set a bail amount based on your crime, your criminal history, and if you are considered a flight risk.
Flight risk means that the judge believes you will likely skip town and not show up for your court date. If they think you are a flight risk, the judge may ask you to pay a higher bail amount or deny bail altogether.
Your family will need to come up with the money to post bail and get you out of jail.
If you don’t have enough money, you can contact a reputable California bail bond company. So, if your bail is set at $20,000, you would only need to come up with $2,000 to get out of jail.
The bail bond company will post the bail on your behalf, and you will be released from jail until your court date. You must note that you are still responsible for showing up to your court date, even if you have posted bail.
Failure to appear for your court date makes the bail bond company be responsible for paying the full bail amount and may take legal action against you to get their money back.
Release from Jail Temporarily
As soon as you post bail, you will be released from jail until your court date. However, this doesn’t mean that your case is over. It simply means that you are free until your day in court.
It is essential to show up for all of your court dates, as failure to do so can lead to a warrant being issued for your arrest and may result in you forfeiting the bail amount.
What Happens at the End of My Case?
If you show up for all of your court appearances and are found not guilty, or if the charges against you are dropped, you will be released from your bail bond and don’t need to pay the bail bond company.
If you are found guilty, or if you plead guilty, you will be sentenced by the judge and responsible for paying the bail bond company and any other fines or penalties that are imposed.
What to Look for in a California Bail Bonds Company?
When you are looking for a bail bond company, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. Here are some factors to consider:
Ensure that the bail bond company you’re dealing with is licensed in California. You can check the bail bond company’s licensing status with the California Department of Insurance.
See if the bail bond company has a good reputation in the community. You can ask around to see if anyone you know has used their services before, or you can read online reviews.
Be sure you are aware of all the fees that the bail bond company charges. In addition to the 10% premium, you may also be responsible for additional costs, such as an investigation fee or collateral.
Some bail bond companies offer discounts for certain groups, such as seniors, military members, or AAA members. Ask about any discounts they can provide.
Check to see if the Better Business Bureau accredits the bail bond company. This is a good indicator of whether the company is reputable and trustworthy.
What to Do if a Bail Bond Company Has Violations?
If you find that a bail bond company has violations, you should contact the California Department of Insurance to file a complaint. In addition, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
Here are the possible bail agents’ violations:
- Charging more than the legally allowed 10% premium
- Not being properly licensed
- Failing to post bail
- Failing to return collateral
- Failing to appear in court on the defendant’s behalf
- Filing false or misleading advertising
- Engaging in unfair business practices
A bail bond is one way to get out of jail temporarily until your court date. You are obligated to show up to all of your court dates. But if you fail to do so, the bail bond company may take legal action against you.
When looking for a bail bond company, check their licensing status, reputation, fees, discounts, and accreditation. You must also be aware of the possible violations that bail bond companies can commit.