What Is a Court Bond?

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A court bond is a surety bond required to pursue an action in court. A surety bond is a contractual agreement between three parties: the principal, the person needing a bond; the surety, the entity offering the bond; and the obligee, the party requiring the bond. The party before the court is the principal, a bondsman is the surety, and the court is the obligee.

There are two types of court bonds. The first is a judicial bond, in which the principal agrees to pay a sum of money if he defaults on a promise to the court. The second is a probate bond, in which an administrator of an estate promises to perform his duties ethically. A judicial bond is employed in criminal or civil court, while a probate bond is employed in probate court, a specialized division of civil court.

A Bail Bond Is a Judiciary Bond

A bail bond is signed by a criminal defendant, who promises to pay bail, a sum of money set by the court. The money must be paid if the defendant does not show for further proceedings. A bail bondsman may cosign this type of bond. The bail bondsman charges the defendant a fee for the promise to provide the payment to the court. Usually, the defendant pays the bondsman 10 percent of the bail amount.

Amount of a Bail Bond

The amount of a bail bond depends on the amount of the bail. A judge sets bail to correspond with the severity of the crime and the defendant’s flight risk. Bail amounts vary considerably among states and counties. Bail is usually minimal for a misdemeanor, a crime punishable by less than a year in county jail, or an infraction, a violation of state law. Bail usually ranges from under $100 to $750 for such offenses.

Bail often begins in the thousands for a felony, a crime punishable by more than a year in state prison. Felony bail may range between $1,000 and $25,000 for each alleged offense.

Is a Lawyer Required for Bail?

A defendant does not need a lawyer to arrange for bail. A defendant can post a cash bail on her own. She can also request that a bail bondsman arrange the bond or ask a relative or a friend to post bail. A lawyer may argue that a defendant’s bond should be lowered in a bail hearing.

Many states require that bail be posted in cash. Courts in some states, such as California, may allow a defendant to pledge property instead.

When Will Bail Be Exonerated?

A defendant’s obligation to pay bail disappears when the bail is exonerated. Bail can be exonerated if the prosecutor dismisses the case, the defendant wins or the defendant loses and is incarcerated. At this point, the bondsman must release all property the defendant used to secure the bail.

What Happens to Forfeited Bail?

A defendant forfeits bail if she does not show up for court. In this instance, the party that posted the bail must pay the entire amount. Depending on the state and the circumstances of the no-show, a court may give a bondsman about a week to locate the client.

Other Types of Judiciary Bonds

Other types of judiciary bonds include appeal bonds, injunction bonds, and replevin bonds. These are specialized types of bonds. For example, an appeal bond is used in a civil case. A defendant gets an appeal bond when he loses a case and wants to appeal it to a higher court. The lower court will delay his payment of the lower court's judgment until the higher court reaches a decision.


About the Author

Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.