What Is a Court Bond?

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A court bond is a dollar amount set by a judge, that must be paid by the defendant charged with a crime, to ensure that the defendant returns for trial. A court bond can also be non-monetary -- or "on your own recognizance" -- meaning the judge believes the defendant will return to court on his/her own, without any disincentive from the courts. Bond can also be denied, and in the case of a homicide, usually is.


The purpose of bond is to ensure a defendant returns to court. If the bond amount is paid, the accused may go home until the court date. If it is not paid, the defendant will be held at the local jail until your court case comes up.


Bond, in many cases, is a set amount determined by the criminal statute that the defendant is accused of violating. Different classes of felonies and misdemeanors have different bond amounts. In some instances, it is up to the judge's discretion, in others it is not. The latitude the judge has in setting bond varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Payment types

Traditionally, courts only accepted cash for a bond payment, but it can vary depending on the jurisdiction. Today, in the age of electronic checks, some courts will accept a personal check, credit card or debit card. All will accept cash, cashier's checks or money orders.

Bail bondsmen

Bail bondsmen are people, registered and licensed by the state, who will accept collateral in exchange for a cash payment to the court for bond. Not all states allow bail bondsmen and you should check your local jurisdiction if you find you need their services.

Bail vs. Bond

Bond is the amount set by the court that will enable a defendant to remain free while the case is being heard. Bail is the amount of money that the defendant must post in order to stay out of jail for the duration of the trial. In some states, defendants don't have to pay the full amount of the bond. Illinois, for example, has a 10 percent rule. The defendant only has to pay 10 percent of the total bond set. That is the bail amount. In states where there is no 10 percent rule, the bail and bond amounts are the same.


If the bond is paid, but the defendant fails to show up for court, the judge will issue a bond forfeiture warrant for the defendant's arrest. This will be a permanent black mark on the defendant's criminal record and will probably prevent him/her from ever getting a bond "on your own recognizance."


About the Author

Julie Segraves is a freelance writer and photographer. She has written for several community newspapers in Chicago and authors her own blog. Segraves graduated from Loyola University with a Bachelor's in sociology and a minor in criminal justice. She currently works in the IT field as a mainframe operations analyst and disaster recovery specialist.