A Lawyer Explains How Bail and Bonds Work

By Jonathan Dameron, Esq.

How does cash bail work? Cash bail is the amount of money an individual must pay to be released from jail. It is assurance that the defendant will abide by specific conditions and return to court when required. A judge will determine the amount of bail set and is restricted from requiring “excessive bail,” but the judge has wide discretion. The judge mainly considers: (1) ensuring the individual’s appearance at court, (2) the seriousness of the charge, and (3) any prior criminal record. At a bail hearing, the judge decides if the defendant should be released, if bail should be set, what amount, and any other conditions of release.

How do bonds work? You can pay bail using cash or credit card, a bail bond, or other valuable assets (like a car). A bond is posted on behalf of a defendant, usually by a bail bond company. If you fail to show up to court or violate the conditions of release, you forfeit the amount that you, or someone else, paid on your behalf. A standard bail bond requires the Defendant to pay the court a deposit of 10% of the stated bond amount. At the close of the case, 90% of the 10% deposit will be refunded unless you fail to appear. If you are found Not Guilty, or the charges are dismissed, you receive 100% of your deposit back. If you fail to appear, a warrant will also be issued for your arrest. A Cash or Surety Bond allows a defendant to either pay the total amount of the bond to the court or hire and pay a bondsman to post a "surety bond" that assures that you will show up for court. If you go through a bondsman, you are often required to offer collateral as security and pay a premium for the loan. If you post a surety bond, you receive nothing back once the case is concluded. If you post a cash bond, you will receive your money back after any administrative fees, court costs, and fines are deducted.

Are they the same thing? No. A bond is used to post bail for a defendant to be released.

What if I’ve been arrested but don’t have any money? Do I have any options, or will I have to stay in jail until my trial? If you are released on your “Own Recognizance,” you do not need to post bail. You may be released after you agree to return to court and abide by the conditions of the release. A judge will consider many factors in whether they will require. If you do not have any money and are not given a personal bond, you may want to reach out to family or friends before considering a bail bond company. If you cannot come up with the amount set by the judge, you will have to stay in jail until your trial.

BIOGRAPHY: The attorney

Jonathan P. Dameron is a 1986 graduate from Northern Kentucky University. He went on to law school at Chase, graduated in 1991, and has been an attorney for thirty years. His practice includes criminal defense, domestic relations, and landlord-tenant law. In his spare time, Jon is a rock and roll star by the name of Jonny Dee.

A Lawyer Explains... is a collaboration between the Hamilton County Law Library and the Cincinnati Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service. The information provided in this blog is not legal advice.