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Do You Get Bail Money Back?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jun 27, 2024

Posting bail after a loved one's arrest can be costly and stressful. But what happens to that money after the criminal case is resolved?

If you're wondering whether you should expect to get your bail money back, there are a few essential factors to consider. You will need to understand the differences between cash bail, property bonds, and surety bonds (bail bonds) and the specific circumstances that can impact whether or not you can recover your funds.

Do You Get  Bail Money Back?
You will get your bail money back if you paid cash bail and made all court appearances.

By understanding these issues, you can better prepare to receive your bail money back.

If you post cash bail directly to the court without a bail bonds company, you can receive your money back, minus court fees, as long as the defendant shows up for all scheduled court appearances.

This scenario is for those who directly post the entire bail amount to the court. It implies that whether the defendant is found not guilty or pleads guilty and receives a sentence after the case is resolved, the bail money is discharged and returned to the person who posted it.

The scenario differs when you use a bail bond service to post bail for your loved one. In this case, the payment you made to the bail bond service is a fee for the service, and it is non-refundable.

Suppose the defendant fails to appear in court or is arrested again on bail. In that case, the court might forfeit the full bail amount, and any collateral provided could be at risk.

What is the Purpose of Bail?

The primary purpose of bail is to ensure that a defendant appears for all their court proceedings related to their criminal case. Posting bail essentially guarantees that the accused will fulfill this obligation, like a bank loan's collateral.

By posting bail, a defendant can be released from custody after arrest, but the collateral (cash, property, bond) is held until the case is resolved.

If the defendant attends all court appearances as required, the collateral will be returned to the individual who posted it. However, if the defendant fails to show up for court or violates the conditions of their release, the collateral might be forfeited, and there may be additional legal consequences.

What About Surety or Bail Bonds?

Suppose you are unable to post bail with cash or property. In that case, you can use a bail bond to secure your release from jail. This involves working with a bail bondsman or agent, who will post the total bail amount in exchange for a bail premium you pay.

When you make all your required court appearances, the bail money will be returned to the bail bond agent who posted it.

Notably, however, you will not receive a refund of your bail premium, which is usually 10% of the bail amount, because this is a non-refundable fee that you pay for the bail agent's services.

If you fail to show up for court or violate any conditions of your release, the bail bond can be forfeited, and you might be required to pay additional fees or face other penalties.

Understanding the above can help you make an informed decision about whether or not to use a bail bond and what to expect to get your money back.

Bail Money - Quick Facts

  • You would get your bail money back if you paid cash and made all your required court appearances.
  • You will not get your bail money back if you paid cash bail and failed to make a court date or posted bail using a bail bond.
  • In the criminal court system, bail is money that must be posted with the court to get released from jail.
  • The primary purpose of bail is to help ensure that you show up for future court appearances.
  • Defendants may have to pay bail in either misdemeanor or felony cases.
  • The specific bail amount will vary depending on the crime involved.
  • Typically, the more severe the crime, the larger the full bail amount.
  • To get released from custody on cash bail, you must pay bail in full to the court or the agency that arrested you.
  • Depending on the court's policies, you may pay bail with cash, a money order, a personal check, or a bank cashier's check.
  • If you attend all of your court appearances, you will normally receive a full refund after your case is resolved.
  • If you fail to appear for a court date, you forfeit your money to the court.
  • If you're arrested and charged with a crime, the judge will decide whether to release you on your own recognizance or to set bail.
  • Bail is a financial arrangement between you and the court to secure your release from jail pending trial.
  • If the defendant meets all their court obligations, they are eligible for a refund of the bail money, subject to certain conditions.

What Are the Types of Bail?

Several bail options are available in California, including bail bond, cash bail, and a property bond.

  • A bail bond involves a bail bond agent or company who pledges to pay the full bail amount should the defendant fail to appear in court. The defendant pays a non-refundable premium, typically 10%, of the bail amount to the bail bondsman for this service.
  • The defendant, friend, or family member pays the court the total bail amount in cash. This is the easiest form of bail, but it can be costly.
  • The defendant or family puts up real property, like a home, as collateral for the bail amount.

How Do You Get Your Bail Money Back?

Getting your bail money back in California will depend on various factors, such as the type of bail used and your adherence to court orders, as discussed below.

Bail Bonds. The premium paid to a bail bondsman is non-refundable even if you follow all court orders. It is a fee for their service of guaranteeing the full bail amount to the court.

Simply put, if you used a bail bond to get released from jail before trial, you should not expect to get this money back.

How Do You Get Your Bail Money Back?

In other words, you generally will not get this money back, even if you make all your court appearances. Since most people cannot post cash bail., bail bonds are more frequently used and are called "surety bonds."

With a bail bond, a bondsman acts as a surety and posts your bail for you in exchange for a non-refundable bond premium. As noted, there is no bail refund or return of your premium, even if you appear on all court dates.

Many bail bondsmen require collateral with surety bail arrangements, meaning you will need something of value to ensure you will not skip bail and miss court. If this occurs, the bail agent can keep or sell your collateral.

Cash Bail. If you paid your bail in cash and followed court orders, including appearing for all court dates, you will receive a full refund of your bail money after your case is resolved. The refund will not include any administrative or court fees that might have been charged.

Property Bonds. If you follow all court requirements for property bonds, the lien on the property will be released, but you will have to pay administrative costs.

When Can You Lose Your Bail Money?

If you fail to appear in criminal court as ordered, the court will often keep the bail money, and the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. This is known as a "bail forfeiture."

If you have a valid reason for missing court, such as an emergency, you must notify the court beforehand and show them evidence to avoid bail forfeiture.

Suppose you put up a property bond for your release. In that case, the court can place a lien on the property. If you don't appear in court, they can enforce the lien, putting the property in foreclosure, and you will forfeit it.

If you skip court in a bail bond case, the bail bondsman must pay the court the entire bail amount. The bail bondsman will then use your provided collateral to recover this cost. Contact us for more information. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.