A bail bondsman is an agent for an insurance company who specializes in providing bail bonds for people charged with crimes. By posting bail, the bail bondman guarantees to the court that the defendant will appear in court each and every time the judge requires them to. Bail bondsmen are usually found close to the local courthouse and jail. If a bail bondsman has reason to believe a person he bailed out is about to flee, he may revoke the bond and surrender his client to jail.
If the defendant disappears and fails to appear in court (skips bail), the bond money will be forfeited unless the defendant is found and returned. If the defendant is located and arrested by the bail agent the cosigner is responsible for all expenses the bail agent incurs while looking for the defendant.
By common law, the bondsman may arrest the defendant who has failed to appear at any time and in any place. This arrest is legally considered a continuation of the original custody similar to the rearrest of an escaped prisoner by the Sheriff. The Bail Agent may use forcible entry and is not required to have a warrant or court order. State laws governing bail bondsmen vary, so local laws should be consulted.
Bond vs. Bail
When criminal defendants are released from prison, some are "bonded out" while others are "bailed out." If you consume enough criminal news, the two terms start to look interchangeable, as though they both mean the same thing.
While they both have the same effect -- temporary freedom -- they're actually different. The difference between bond and bail is a subtle one, but it ultimately comes down to the source of the money. Who and what is securing the defendant's freedom?
As you likely know, bail is the monetary amount a defendant must pay to secure his release. If he fails to appear at a specified time, he forfeits that amount.
If the defendant or his family pays bail, he's been bailed out of jail. But many criminal defendants don't have the funds to make bail. This is where bonds come in.
Bonds are bail monies paid by a bail bond company. The defendant secures a loan with collateral, such as a car or house. He also pays a set fee, usually 10% of the bail amount.
The bail bondsman then pays the court a portion of the bail monies and guarantees that the rest will be paid if the defendant disappears. Courts accept this as assurance because the defendant loses his property if he flees.
Some states will also allow defendants to post their own property bond, which allows them to avoid using a bail bond company.
There's also this strange thing called a signature bond. The defendant makes a written promise to appear in court. If he fails to appear, he pays the court a set amount of money. This is reserved for low-level offenders who pose no flight risk.
So you see, there is a difference between bond and bail. Defendants who immediately secure their release with money are bailed out. Defendants who secure their release with collateral (property or a promise to pay) are bonded out. If you need help with bail or a bond, talk to a criminal defense attorney in your area.