Bailing Out: How Bail Bonds Work

The goal for most people who are arrested is to get out or stay out of jail. For many people that can be accomplished very soon after arrest, at least for the short term. While criminal charges are pending, a person is innocent until proven guilty but his or her freedom is still constrained. The bail process allows a person to be free from confinement before the case is decided. Many people are released on a PTA (Promise to Appear), which requires nothing but a promise to appear for all court events. People who are not released on a PTA are given a bond. The bond is what must be posted, usually money, in order to secure release. Bond may be posted by the defendant or another person, or by a professional surety, known as a bondsman or bail bond agent. If the bond is cash-only, it cannot be posted by a professional.

High bonds are bad news for most defendants.

The bail process starts with the arrest. The police may set (based on their department policies) a bond or release a person on a PTA. The bond may be posted at that time and the arrested person can go home. If the person cannot make bond, he or she remains in custody until Arraignment which occurs on the next court day. The defendant can argue bond at arraignment and the judge can modify or maintain the original bond. The bond can be posted at court or at the jail after it is set. If the defendant cannot post bond, he or she is committed to the custody of corrections and will remain in jail until the bond is posted, terminated or the case concludes. Even after conviction, one can remain out on bond pending sentencing or appeal.

No discussion about bail is complete without bail jumping. Bond is essentially collateral or attending court. When a person out on bail misses court, the bond can be forfeited. Failure to appear (FTA) in Connecticut is an additional criminal charge–an additional misdemeanor if the defendant fails to appear for a misdemeanor and a felony if that person fails to appear for a felony. When a person fails to appear, the court usually issues a bench warrant which allows the defendant to be re-arrested and brought back to court. A bench warrant may however be vacated in certain circumstances. If a defendant used a professional surety, the surety is able to track down and apprehend the defendant. That is where bail enforcement agents come in. Bail enforcement agents (commonly known as bounty hunters even though not all bounty hunters are licensed bail enforcement agents) are professionals hired by sureties to apprehend people who jump their bail.

You were probably expecting Dog the Bounty Hunter. I give you Steve McQueen.

If you are arrested or know of a warrant, it is best to contact an attorney to help guide you through the criminal and bail processes.

Chris DeMatteo is an attorney and the sole member of DeMatteo Legal Solutions at 2911 Dixwell Ave., Ste. B10, Hamden, CT. Call (203) 691-6594 or visit the office website. Attorney DeMatteo represents clients in criminal, juvenile and civil matters in all of Connecticut's courts.

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