The Comprehensive Guide to Bail Bonds

You know that judges sometimes allow an accused person to be temporarily released from jail until their court date arrives. In many cases, the court will order that the accused pay a sum of money (or another type of collateral) to ensure that the person will actually appear for their trial. If the accused chooses to pay bail, he or she can leave jail, consult with a lawyer, and prepare for court.

Have you ever wondered what types of bail are available and frequently ordered by US judges? And did you know that not all types of bail require money? Below is our comprehensive guide to bail bonds so you can learn everything you need to know about bail bonds.

Unsecured Bond (or Personal Recognizance)

An unsecured bail bond is a relatively simple concept: the accused signs a contract and agrees to appear in court by a certain date. This type of bail is given to people that the court feels confident will appear in court. For example, defendants with a first offense for a minor crime can obtain this type of bail. Unsecured bonds do not require upfront cash because the contract serves as collateral.

Of course, if the accused doesn’t appear at his or her court date a bench warrant would occur.

Cash Bond

This bond is the type you hear about most often. A cash bond requires that the defendant pay a sum of money before being released. The cash serves as collateral until the accused appears in court, at which time the money is returned to the defendant. In many courts, checks, credit card payments, and money orders are also accepted.

If the defendant skips bail-if the defendant doesn’t show up for his or her trial-the cash bond is forfeit and the court issues a warrant for the accused’s arrest. If the judge determines that the accused is likely to run for it or is dangerous, he or she will set the cash bond at an extremely expensive amount so that it is impossible for the defendant to pay it. This high expense keeps the defendant in jail until the trial.

Surety Bond

Also known as a contract bond, a surety bond is issued by a judge if the defendant cannot afford to pay a cash bond. In this case, the defendant can contract a bail bond agent who pledges to pay the bond in full if the defendant doesn’t appear in court. The bondsman charges a certain amount of the bail amount, which the defendant or family members are obligated to pay in exchange for the bondsman’s services.

Family members, friends, or even the defendant will provide a signature bond or collateral (usually in the form of property, like a car or the title to a home) that the bondsman holds until the service charge has been paid. If the accused fails to appear in court, the bondsman usually seeks help from a bounty hunter to find the defendant.

Release on Citation

A citation release is a common type of bond-but one that doesn’t require the accused to go jail at all. Instead, the police officer will write a citation that tells the accused to appear in court-just like when you get a traffic ticket for speeding.

This type of bond is usually given to low-flight risk, first-time offenders so that police officers can focus their time and resources on finding more dangerous offenders. However, like an unsecured bond, if the accused doesn’t appear in court, there can be serious legal repercussions, such as an issued arrest warrant.

Property Bond

A property bond is similar to a cash bond, but with some obvious differences. This bond uses property of some sort as collateral, instead of a cash amount. The court usually offers this kind of bond to a defendant who does not have the means to pay a cash bond.

When property is offered as collateral, the court places a claim, or a lien, on the property. If the defendant doesn’t arrive for the trial, the court can possess the property to cover the bail amount. As the property in this situation is almost always the property of a friend or loved one, those who offer their property as collateral should be extremely careful.

Immigration Bond

If the accused is an illegal alien, the court will issue an immigration bond. There are two types of immigration bonds: voluntary departure bonds, in which case the detainee may leave the country within a certain amount of time, and a delivery bond, which essentially acts as a cash or surety bond. This bind type allows the defendant to consult with an immigration lawyer before the hearing.


To learn more about bail bonds, speak with your local bail bondsman, who can answer any questions you have. If you have been detained and need help to post bail, contact your bondsman immediately.