How Do Bails Work? Everything You Need to Know to Understand Bails


Bail allows people to leave jail and continue their lives while awaiting trial. Learn how bail works, how to pay for bail, and much more!

What Are Bails?


Bail refers to the temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial for an alleged criminal offense, sometimes on the condition that a sum of money is lodged to guarantee their appearance in court. A defendant who posts bail can be free on bail while awaiting trial or bail hearing. If the defendant flees, the court will keep the money as payment for crimes committed. In most criminal cases, judges use their judicial discretion to set bail amounts.

Bail bonds are promises to pay the court if a defendant fails to appear in court for trial. A bail agent or licensed bail bondsman can help those who cannot afford bail. The bail agent guarantees to the court that they will pay the bond forfeiture if a defendant fails to appear for their scheduled court appearances. These individuals charge a fee or receive a percentage of the total set bail amount for the defendant’s release. 

How Are Bails Processed?


Once an individual is arrested, law enforcement will transport them to a local jail. They will then be processed and booked into the system. This process can take a few hours or even a day, depending on how busy the jail is.

Once an individual is booked into the system, bail will be set. The amount of bail is set based on several factors, such as the severity of the crime and the individual’s criminal history. At this point, it will be wise to work with a trustworthy criminal lawyer.

If an offender forfeits their court appearance, the court will keep the bail money and issue an arrest warrant.

To find out about the arrest or release of someone who is on bail, contact the police department directly. Be sure to have the offender’s name and police incident number when you make the call.

What Are the Different Types of Bail?


Several different types of bail may be used depending on the situation:

  • Cash Bail: Cash bail is simply paying money directly to the court or jail where the person is being held. The court or jail then gives back the cash once you have made your court date.

  • Surety Bond: Surety bonds are when third parties, like a bail bond agents or a bond company, agree to pay for your bail if you fail to appear for your court date. This person will usually charge a fee for bail bond services which can ranges in amount, depending on how much money they’re willing to lose if you fail to appear in court.

  • Property Bond: A property bond allows you to put up an asset like real estate or personal property as collateral against your appearance in court. If you fail to appear, then that property will be seized by the government and sold off so that they can recoup some of their losses from having released you from jail early on bail.

Bail and Bond Policy Guidelines


The bail and bond terms are the rules that govern how bail and bonds are set in criminal cases. These guidelines are designed to ensure that all defendants receive fair treatment regardless of their financial circumstances or the severity of their offense.

The following is a summary of the bail and bond policy guidelines:

  • Defendants arrested for a felony or misdemeanor can be released from jail by posting bail or obtaining a court order for a release on their own recognizance, also known as ROR.

  • The court sets an amount of money a defendant must pay in advance, often referred to as a bail bond, to ensure that a defendant appears in court when scheduled. You must also pay 10% of your total bail amount as a deposit with the court.

  • Bonds can be posted by anyone 18 years or older who is not currently on felony probation, parole, or supervised release. The person posting the bond must agree to pay all costs associated with your release if you fail to appear in court as required.

  • If you have been charged with multiple counts, several bails may be set for each count. However, the total amount paid at one time cannot exceed $5,000 without approval from the assigned judge.

If you are unsure about the bail and bond policy guidelines or you’re failing an excessive bail amount, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Getting a Bail Reduction


A bail reduction occurs when a judge lowers the amount of money a defendant must pay to be released from jail. A judge can grant a bail reduction if good cause is shown. Examples include the following:

  • Some charges against the accused have been dismissed or reduced.

  • The defendant is not likely to flee if released on bail.

  • The defendant has recently been arrested on other charges and does not have the funds to pay bail.

  • The defendant has no prior criminal record and poses no danger to society.

Bail reduction may occur at any time during the criminal process — before trial, after arraignment (when a judge formally charges you with a crime), or at any point during your case. Ensure you hire an experienced criminal attorney to guide you through the bail process.

Do You Get Bail Money Back?


Your cash bail amount will be returned if you attend all of your court appearances. A failure to appear at a court appearance can lead to forfeiture of the cash bail, in accordance with California Penal Code Section 1305.

Regardless of whether or not you are found guilty, the court will refund the bail money you paid directly to the court. The amount you paid to a bondsman is not refundable.


Pretrial Motion Lawyer


If you want to post bail but are unsure about the process, call pretrial motion lawyer, Valery Nechay of The Law Office of Valery Nechay to book a free consultation. She can walk you through the entire process from beginning to end.

Remember, there is no shame in asking for help. So don’t be afraid to reach out. Valery Nechay will do everything she can to get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.


If you are under investigation or charged with a crime, I will consult with you in person and at no charge to you.