Judge gavel and money on brown wooden table concept

Your friend or loved one has been arrested and wants you to bail him out. Bail is the cash amount that must be paid for him to get released while waiting for his court dates.

Many states allow you to pay a bonding company a non-refundable fee (typically 10 – 20 percent of the total bail amount) to put the cash up for the bail and your loved one is released. For states that do not allow bonding companies, you can pay the entire bail amount (which is refundable under certain circumstances).

There are five things you should know before bailing someone out of jail.

1. You Will Not Get Back What You Put In

If you go through a bonding company, you will pay a premium or a fee, and administrative costs that will not be refunded to you. Typically, the fee will be 10 percent of the total bail amount. For example, if the bail is set at $5,000, you will pay a non-refundable $500 plus any administrative cost.

Paying the entire cash amount avoids the 10 percent fee but some states allow for court fees, fines and victim restitution to be subtracted from full cash bail amounts prior to any refund. This means that even if your loved one shows up to every court date, your refund can be significantly reduced or even eliminated if he is ultimately found guilty.  Paying the full amount also ties your money up, sometimes for many months, before you can get anything back.

If you want to protect your cash from paying your loved one’s court fees, etc. and your state allows bond companies, you can use a bondsman, pay the 10 percent to get him out of jail and not risk your money with the court.

2. Missed Court Dates Equal Big Problems

Bonding company – if your loved one misses a court date (and there are typically several to attend), a warrant will be issued for his arrest. In the meantime, the bonding company will try to find him and take him back to jail to await hearings. If he is not located within a certain amount of time, usually 180 days, the company has to forfeit the entire bail amount to the court and then comes after you for repayment. What you thought was a $500 non-refundable fee, will turn into a $5,000 debt.

Cash Bail – When you pay the entire cash bail amount and he skips out on a court date, you forfeit the entire amount if he is not found and taken to jail within the allotted time frame.

3. Property Could Be At Risk

In some cases, the judge will order that the bond be secured by property or the bonding company agrees to accept property collateral until the bond fees This can be your paid off car, house, art collection, a piece of land or anything else you own of value.

Read the fine print and/or consult an attorney before agreeing to a property bond because if your loved one doesn’t go to court or runs, the bonding company has the right to take possession of your property. This means if you put your paid off car on the line, you could come out from work to find it has been towed away and the bonding company now owns it. If your house was used as collateral, you could lose it.

4. Skipping Payments Can Cost You

In some cases, a bonding agent will work with you by allowing you to put up property in return for weekly or monthly payments to pay the 10 percent fee. For example, you put your car up to secure the bond, then your loved one gets released and signs a promise to pay $100 a week until the $500 fee on a $5,000 bond is paid.

Even if he shows up to every court date, if he misses a payment to the bonding company, you could lose your vehicle.

5. You Might Pay For His/Her Poor Choices

When a defendant is bailed out, there are often conditions attached to the bond. Your loved one might be ordered not to associate with co-defendants, or leave the county. He might be expected to attend drug or alcohol treatment/classes. There might be no-contact orders in place regarding his alleged victim.

Violating any of the conditions of the bond can get his bond revoked and he goes back to jail. If you put collateral up, including houses, cars, guns, jewelry, or more, you could be ordered to forfeit it to the bonding company.

Hearing that a loved one or friend is in jail can be stressful. Your first thought might be to race to the rescue and bail him out. By bailing someone out, you are guaranteeing that he will attend every single court date, and comply with any bond conditions as well as pay any payments to the bond company if applicable.

Many people who have been bailed out attend all court dates, obey bond conditions and do well. There are others, however, who get scared and decide to run instead of face the judicial system. Before you sign bond contracts or turn the money over to a court for bail, make sure the person you are rescuing is trustworthy enough for you to take the above-calculated risks.