Knowledge is a powerful thing, and if you happen to be dealing with the bail system, you can learn a few simple things to gain that power. Just by being more familiar with certain terms and what they relate to, you’ll feel more confident in your decisions and more respected by the people that you’re dealing with, and that can be the difference between success (release) and failure (pretrial detention).
It’s true that the process seems to be complicated, and there are several steps that are taken between arrest and release, and several kinds of interactions, agreements and documents to deal with. In this article, we take a look at a few of the less well known terms and clarify what they mean and how they are used.
While it may sound like the name of a villain in a video game, the bond indemnitor (go ahead, say it in a deep, dramatic voice …) is simply someone who co-signs the bond agreement and takes a level of responsibility for the consequences of breaking the conditions of the bond. To “indemnify” means to protect another party from loss or harm, and in this situation, the bond indemnitor is protecting the bail bondsman from loss should the defendant fail to comply with the requirements of the bond / release agreement.
Bond indemnitors are usually friends or family, who can (a) provide a willingness to support the defendant and want them to gain release and (b) have a trust relationship that gives them assurances that the defendant will live up to their commitments. Basing this indemnification on such a strong relationship also increases the likelihood that the defendant will, in fact, comply with the bond agreement, since the impacts of failing to do so are considered to constitute a very high price even beyond financial terms.
The bail agreement is a formal contract established between the bail agent (bail bondsman) and the bond indemnitor (see above). This contract includes all details of the agreement made between the parties, including the name and contact details of the indemnitor, the amount of the bond, information about the charges that the defendant is facing, details of the court in which the defendant is due to appear and all associated dates and timelines.
By signing the agreement, the indemnitor assumes full responsibility for making sure that the defendant shows up at required court proceedings, and otherwise sticks to the additional requirements of the bond agreement, including interim check-ins, restrictions on travel and showing up for work. The consequences of the defendant failing to comply can lead to the defendant being re-apprehended and detained, and the indemnitor having to make good on the full bail amount, or having such value as presented in collateral seized and forfeited.
There is an up-front cost to securing a bail bond, which is typically 10% of the value of the bail amount set by the judge or bail schedule (in some states this is set by statute, in others there is some flexibility), and which is a non-refundable payment made to the bail bondsman in exchange for providing the service. This up-front cost is also known as the Premium, and while it is often required to be paid in full prior to release, there are circumstances, often related to the credit-worthiness of the bond indemnitor, where a payment plan or deferment of payment may be allowed.
Since the premium payment represents only a portion of the total bail amount for which the bail bondsman would be responsible in the event of the defendant failing to show up at court or comply with bail requirements, further financial security from the indemnitor is generally required in the form of collateral (see next section).
Most people simply do not have the “liquid” funds available (i.e. cash or cash-like resources that can be moved or transferred easily) to pay a typical bail, which is why bail bondsmen provided a valuable service to those that have reason to seek pretrial release and have other kinds of assets that can be held against the requirements of the bond agreement. While there is generally an up-front cash payment required (the premium as described above), a bond agreement allows for the remaining value of the bail to be provided in the form of collateral as security against violation of the bond agreement while remaining in it’s non-liquid form.
Common items of value that are used as collateral include title to property or vehicles, electronic equipment, jewelry or firearms (and the occasional more unusual item). Where there is the option to secure ownership through documentation (i.e. a title or deed), the asset may remain in the possession and use of the indemnitor, whereas other items are usually required to be transferred to the bail agent while the agreement is in place. In both cases, either the documentation of ownership or the items themselves are returned to the indemnitor at the successful conclusion of the bond agreement.
Note that this does depend on the outcome of the trial. By complying with the requirements of the bond agreement and showing up for all court appearances and doing everything else required of them, the bond agreement remains in good standing, and even if the defendant is ultimately found guilty and even sentenced to prison time, collateral is returned.
Forfeiture means to hand over and give up ownership of an asset or possession. Forfeiture of collateral is what occurs when a defendant does not comply with the requirements of the bail bond, and as per the agreement signed to by the indemnitor, such an outcome results in the bail bond company taking full ownership of the collateral provided, which would usually then be sold off to make up for the bail amount required from the bail bondsman by the court.
If you have questions about these or any other terms that you encounter while navigating the bail process or arranging a bail bond for a friend or family member, contact us today or call us at 410-367-2245. We are Maryland’s oldest and most trusted bail bond company.