Common Questions about Commercial Bail...

How does Bail Work?

Bail are the terms imposed upon a person that such person must meet in order to be released from jail pending trial. This may involve setting a financial condition (an amount of bail) in addition to setting non-financial conditions (for example, turn in your passport). Bail bond agents typically have a very large interest in criminal justice reform as well.

When a person is arrested, bail will be set for that person by a judge. In many cases, bail is set by a fixed bail schedule. Terms of bail may include non-financial or financial terms. When no financial bail is set upon a person, the bail is called a recognizance release, which is also known as an OR (own recognizance) bond or a PR (personal recognizance bond). If a financial condition is ordered, the person.

What about effectiveness and cost?

Two important benefits of surety bail are its effectiveness and the fact that it operates at no cost to the counties and communities it serves. In fact, the surety bail industry is responsible for guaranteeing to the courts over $16 Billion in liability along with the management and supervision of over 2,000,000 defendants released each year.

There have been a multitude of academic, government and private studies done on the topic of pretrial release. Each and every study done has shown similar results. When it comes to guaranteeing appearance at court, surety bail outperforms every form of public sector pretrial release and own recognizance release as well. Check out our resource library to see many of these studies.

Beyond its effectiveness, one of the most compelling aspects of surety bail is that it not only lacks direct costs to local governments but because it helps mitigate costs to the system when defendants fail to appear. In fact, in rare cases where defendants don’t show up for court, because their release was financially guaranteed through a surety bond, the courts and communities are compensated for the full amount of the bond. Additionally, bail agents pay premium taxes to the state/county for each bond they write. So by providing a $0 operational cost benefit to the community, along with a positive cash flow potential through premium taxes, licensing fees and forfeiture payments, surety bail is one of the smartest and most cost effective tools for counties to utilize in their criminal justice systems.

Another way to look at the cost savings that surety bail provides to a community is by looking at the costs of the alternative methods of release. In 2013, Dr. Robert Morris of the University of Texas at Dallas conducted a study of ALL pretrial releases in Dallas, Texas over a year period. In his analysis he determined that when a defendant missed a court date, that there was a cost to the county for all the resources that were put in place for that case that now have gone to waste. That cost was determined to be $1,775 per defendant each time they failed to appear. Based on that conclusion and based on the failure to appear rates calculated in the study, Dr. Morris found that the surety bail industry saved Dallas County over $11 million by getting defendants to court.

How about Supervision and Monitoring?

OIf the financial incentives and safety net provided by surety bail is to be replaced with state-based supervision, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. The first is the cost of such systems. The District of Columbia for example spends $60 million annually on running their system. In addition, it is important to realize that someone must pay for the supervision and monitoring services if the defendant is unable to pay.

Second, is effectiveness. Do such programs work better than a financial condition of bail? If you click through our resources tab, what you will discover is that surety bail is the most effective and cost effective form of release. It reduced fugitive rates, and it substantially decreases the amount of time that fugitives are at large. Does that mean everyone should be on a financial condition of bail—of course not.

Third, government programs that supervise defendants, the vast majority of which are run not by law enforcement, lack the power to arrest or threaten to arrest the defendant if the defendant fails to appear. In addition, there is no third-party who has co-signed the bond like in the vast majority of surety bonds. Thus, surety bonds offer back-end accountability that supervision does not. Monitoring someone and supervising them is great, until they violate. The question then becomes, how do we respond to that, and in the case of government supervision the file gets shuffled over to the police to deal with that defendant whereas a surety bail agent will get that person back in court or suffer a financial penalty.

Finally, supervision programs may unnecessarily ensnare defendants in conditions that they cannot meet. A drug addict cannot simply quit cold turkey because they were ordered to do so. If a government program monitors them and they violate their bond condition of sobriety, they may then face additional charges.