If a friend or family member calls you from jail looking for help to get out, your first instinct is probably to say yes and offer to do anything you can for them. It’s only natural to want to help someone you love to get out of an unfortunate situation. But before you help someone get out of jail, it’s important to understand exactly how to bail someone out of jail and what you are committing to when you sign your name on a bond for someone else. If you do not understand what you are signing, you can end up liable for more than you realize. Due to the risks involved, you should be cautious about who you help with this process. Bonding out a friend or family member who has an issue with addiction, is a gang member or is otherwise unmotivated to work with the system can end in heartache and the loss of your assets.

How Do Bail Bonds Work?

BondingĀ someone out of jail allows them to be released from custody until they are called for trial on the offense they are accused of committing. In exchange for this freedom, an amount of money is paid to the court. This helps to guarantee the person will not leave town or commit any other crimes before the trial date comes.

The first thing to understand is that your friend or family member may not be able to get out right away, or at all. In order to have release approved and an amount set, the accused person has to appear in front of a judge. If the arrest happens over a weekend or a holiday, the person will have to wait until court is back in session before having an amount set.

Even once a defendant appears in front of the judge, he can be denied bond for a variety of reasons. For example, if the person is a repeat offender, has committed a particularly severe crime or does not live locally, the judge may choose to keep them in jail instead of granting bond. If he is intoxicated or uncooperative with the judge, the bond can be denied. In other cases, bond is given, but the amount is too high for friends and family to raise right away.

Once the amount and conditions of bond are given by the judge, you can work with a bonds company to get your loved one released from jail. The bonds company will also look over your loved one’s history to see if they are a high risk. In most cases, you will have to pay ten percent of the total bond amount and the bondsman will pay the rest to the court. Some bonds companies only accept cash payment, while others will allow you to pay by credit card, or by offering up a piece of property that is worth the equivalent amount, like a car or property title. Be cautious if you choose to take this route, because you are risking ownership of the property when you use it to take out a bond.

After the bond is signed and the person is released from jail, your involvement is not over. The person may have to show up to check in with the bail bond company and sign the bond paperwork after release. He still must show up for court appearances and be tried for the offense. If he does not show up, you will lose the amount you paid or the property signed over for the bond, and a warrant is likely to be issued for his re-arrest. It’s in your best interest to make sure your loved one appears in court and stays on the right side of the law until the court date.

This is where you may have to make a difficult choice. If you know your loved one does not intend to go to court, you can contact the bond company to request your name be taken off the bond. With the bond revoked, your loved one will likely have to return to jail, unless someone else is willing to sign for them.

Understanding how the bond process works before you begin trying to help someone will help you be ready for any outcome. Working with an experienced bonds company will also help make the process easier to navigate. An experienced bondsman can guide you through the forms you need to fill out and what to expect once the forms are done.