How Does Bail Work? An FAQ

While many people are familiar with the basic concept of bail, many people still have questions about how the bail process works. It's common for people who have never been arrested to be unclear on the details of how bail works.

How does bail work?

People who are arrested for serious crimes are generally taken to jail to await their court date. Once in jail, they're faced with two choices: either wait for the court date in jail, or pay bail and wait for the court date at home. Bail is money that the court takes from a person in exchange for the privilege of leaving the jail. When the person shows up at their court date, the money is returned. If the person does not show up at court, he or she loses the money paid for bail.   

How much does bail cost?

The amount that the court charges for bail will depend on the crime committed. Specific crimes have standard bail amounts. However, judges may change the amount charged for bail during the bail hearing. Judges may raise the bail amount for people who are considered to be a "flight risk," and may lower the amount for people who are first-time offenders and people who claim financial hardship. The decision to raise or lower bail is left to the discretion of the judge.

What can you do if you can't afford bail?

If you can't afford bail, you may ask the judge to lower the bail amount, depending on the nature of the crime. If you can't convince the judge to lower the bail amount, then you can still get out of jail with a bail bond.

How does a bail bond work?

Bail bonds are loans made to people who have been arrested. For a fee (which usually amounts to a percentage of the total bail cost), the bail is paid. When the arrested person shows up in court, the money is returned to the bail bond office. Bail bonds enable people who cannot afford bail to get out of jail for a much smaller dollar amount.

How can you get a bail bond?

Bail bonds are acquired either in person at a bail bond office or over the phone. Usually, the bond is acquired by a loved one or friend of the person in prison. After the bail amount is approved, the money is sent to the prison and the arrested person is released.

For more information about how you can get a bail bond in your area, contact a reputable bail bond office (such as and speak to a customer service representative who can help you through the process.