Of course, averages can be deceiving. A simple example shows why. If one person has $100 and nine others have nothing, the average amount of money that each person in this example has is $10. Obviously, saying that each person in this group of ten has an average of $10 each is fairly meaningless.
This is why we use the “median” instead of the “average” in situations like this. The median is the number for which there as many people above that value as below.
In contrast to the average household savings figure above, the median household savings amount is just under $12,000. This is still a pretty good amount of money for a lot of people, but remember, this means that half of all American households have LESS than this, and for many, the number is $0 (or significantly less).
Compare this to typical bail amounts required for release. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, median bail is around $10,000, with significant variance based on the charges.
This means that, for a pretty substantial proportion of the population, the best case scenario is that having to post bail would basically wipe out their life savings.
It is important to note that posted bail gets refunded at the end of a trial, as long as the defendant shows up to all required hearings, and that the money provided for bail is not identified as proceeds from drug-related activities or other criminal acts.
Posting the full amount of bail as set by the judge or the relevant bail schedule is referred to as posting a cash bond or cash bail. Where this option is available, it offers the lowest cost method of securing pretrial release. But the availability of this option is often where this breaks down.
If the best case scenario is that a family will see their entire life savings set aside and help by the criminal justice system while court actions proceed, what happens of that family has a need for those funds in the meantime? It should be noted that criminal trials can take a significant amount of time, sometimes years, during which the bail money is simply unavailable to that family.
Cash bail is, on the surface, a viable option for only a subset of people. Bail bonds provide one of the only realistic options for many families who rely on the presence and paycheck of an individual caught up in an arrest, perhaps mistakenly.
Cash bail may provide the lowest cost option from a purely financial perspective. But savings, for those that have them, are generally built up over many years and through significant hard work and sacrifice. To simply transfer that money to a government account, potentially for years, while waiting on the wheels of the justice system to turn, becomes a very expensive option for so many reasons beyond the merely financial.
If the roof leaks while that money is tied up in bail, do the repairs get put off, or does the family take out a high interest loan to cover these costs? Do kids delay their studies, or does the family forego a trip to visit family due to unavailability of savings?
There are genuine issues to be resolved in America’s criminal justice system, the use of bail for release being one of them. In the meantime, a bail bond secured through a reputable bail bonds company is often the best, and sometimes the only, option available to people facing the most difficult time of their lives.
Fred Frank Bail Bonds is Maryland’s oldest, and most trusted, bail bonds company. Explore your options today by calling us at 410-367-2245.