Updated: Dec 17, 2019
If someone you know has been arrested, it's important to understand what bail is and what happens next. While every state's system is a little different, the following overview will give you an idea of what to expect.
When is bail set? If the person has been booked (photographed, fingerprinted, etc.), the next step will usually be an arraignment. This is when a judge sets bail if the arrestee is not released under his or her own recognizance, which means they promise to return to court without paying bail. For certain charges, some states allow people to pay bail immediately after booking.
How much will it cost? The Eighth Amendment states that "excessive bail shall not be required," and the amount is often predetermined by schedules that outline bail amounts for particular charges.
It will usually cost 10 percent of the total bail amount to get someone out of jail, and this money goes to a private bail bond agent. This agent pays the entire amount of the bail with the promise that the arrested person will keep all future court appearances.
Other options include property bonds (using real estate as collateral) and public bail bonds in states where private bail bonds are illegal. If the person is a flight risk or is accused of a particularly serious crime, bail can be denied.
Can you get bail money back? If the person attends all court dates and complies with the conditions imposed, whoever paid the bail gets a refund. If a bail bond agent paid the bail, the money is released back to them. It's important to know that you are not refunded the fee that you paid the agent.
The bail process can be complicated and confusing, but a competent defense attorney can help you navigate the court system.