If you bail someone out of jail are you liable for them?
Bail is financial assurance for the court that a person charged for a crime will return to court if released. If you or someone you know has been released on bail they have three choices. First, they can pay the bail on their own. They can remain in jail, or they can hire a bail bondsman to pay the bail for them.
If you have bailed another person out of jail you have either paid the entire bail amount on your own to the custodial agency to cover the entire amount of the bail, or you have contacted a bail bondsman and negotiated to have them make the bail payment for you. If you chose the latter, the company generally will require you to pay them approximately 10% of the bail money up front. This money will not be returned to you, regardless of whether or not the defendant reappears in court as required.
What happens if the bailed defendant does not appear in court?
Now if you paid the bail on your own and the defendant fails to show up to the court for all scheduled court appearances, you will simply lose the money you provided for their bail. If, however, you negotiated with a bail bondsman to pay the bail and the defendant does not appear in court, the bondsman will lose the bail money they paid on behalf of your friend or family member.
Finally, you can expect that they will hire a "bounty hunter" to come and find the defendant. Consider also, not only are bounty hunters experts at tracking fugitives, it is also a criminal offense to "jump bail" so the defendant will be charged with additional criminal charges.
So are you responsible for someone you bail out of jail? Not in any real legal sense of the word. It is up to them to make it to court to all of their scheduled court appearances. They may also have other requirements from the court including:
- Staying clean and sober
- Obeying all laws
- Maintaining employment
- Staying away from known criminals
- Taking anger management classes for violent offenses
- Talking to the court about any other obligations they might have
- Not talking to people about their case or contacting the victim of a case
- Not talking to the investigators or prosecutors without having their lawyer present
- Obligations you may have to the defendant
If you have bailed a close friend or family member out of jail you do not have legal responsibilities for them, but as mentioned above, you may lose any money you posted for their bail or paid to a bail bondsman if they do not appear in court. You may, however, have emotional responsibilities. Keeping in touch with the defendant, encouraging them to make good choices and making sure they appear in court when required may simply be things we should all do for a good friend or family member who is in trouble.
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