Do You Have to Pay a Bond if It's Revoked?

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Bail bonds help shore up the principle that a defendant is “innocent until proven guilty.” If a judge grants bail and the defendant can pay it – or he contracts a third-party bond agent to guarantee the bail payment on his behalf – the defendant is released from custody and granted freedom until his hearing. But if the court revokes the bond, the defendant typically makes a return trip to jail and often loses the money. What determines whether a revoked bond must still be paid depends on certain factors such as the reason for the revocation and the laws of the jurisdictional authority.

Bail vs. Bond

Often used interchangeably, the terms bail and bond actually have discrete meanings. Bail is the monetary amount that a judge imposes as a “get-out-of-jail” premium until the defendant must appear for her hearing. But when the defendant cannot pay the amount of bail, a third-party agent may guarantee the payment of bail in the form of a bond, hence, the terms “bondsman” or “bond person” or “bond agent.” Defendants pay a bail bond agent a fee for this service, which represents a percentage of the total amount of bail, generally 10 percent.

When a bond company pledges its bond for a defendant, the agent essentially assumes the role of jailer. If the defendant fails to appear in court for her hearing date, the bond company must find the defendant and return her to court or forfeit the amount of bail that it guaranteed.

Read More: Who Can Revoke a Bail Bond?

Process of Revoking a Bond

The judge may issue a motion to revoke a bond under varied circumstances. Bond revocation carries an additional criminal charge, for which the defendant must answer, and it also means that the defendant is returned to jail. Whether the defendant is able to reinstate a bond depends on the judge’s ruling as well as the bond company’s decision whether to extend another bond to the person who has already demonstrated an unwillingness to abide by the conditions of bail.

Reasons for Revoking a Bond

State laws vary in specifying the legal reasons for bond revocation, but three common reasons are rules of thumb for all jurisdictions:

  • Failure to comply with the conditions of the bond. Terms of a bond commonly include a requirement that the defendant must regularly communicate with the bond company and a restriction that the defendant cannot leave a certain geographical area, such as the county, without the bond agent’s permission.
  • Additional criminal charge(s). When a defendant is arrested on a new charge while out on bond, the court may revoke his bond for the original charge and may rule against allowing bond for that charge as well as any subsequent charges.
  • Failure to appear (FTA). When a defendant fails to appear at a hearing while he’s out on bond, the court issues an arrest warrant and revokes the bond, sending the defendant back to jail.

Depending on state laws, however, a bond agent may not be able to return a defendant to jail simply because he is behind in making his mandated payments or the total bond fee.

Payment for Revoked Bonds

If a bond is revoked, it may also be forfeited, particularly if the reason is failure to appear in court. Because the FTA charge is in addition to the original charge for which the bond was issued, federal law and most state laws require forfeiture of the bond payment. If conditions of the bail are broken for charges other than FTA, it’s up to the discretion of the court and/or jurisdiction where the crime was committed to determine whether the bond payment must be forfeited. Regardless of whether the defendant has to pay the entire revoked bond, he is still responsible for paying the fee to the bond agent.

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