Friday, March 11, 2016

Financial Dos & Don'ts Of The Bail Process

financial bail process
With any luck, not many of you will experience the worry and concern of having a loved one arrested and put on bail. But, if it does ever happen, you should make yourself aware of the situation. In today’s guide, we’re going to go through all the things you should be thinking about before you enter into any agreement.

The basics

First of all, let’s take a closer look at what happens when someone you love is arrested. For severe cases, the legal authorities may decide to keep your loved one in jail until they go through the trial process. It can be for a few reasons. For example, the police may consider their suspect has a high chance of reoffending or fleeing the country. In most cases, defendants will be given the opportunity to post bail.

Bail can come in many forms. The best outcome is that the bail hearing decides the defendant is released on their ‘recognizance.' There is no fee for this result. There could also be an unsecured bond, which means that a price is set, but the defendant doesn’t have to pay - unless they fail to show up at their trial. Then, there is cash bail and bail bonds - which is where things might start affecting you as a loved one.

There are two choices that a defendant can make in this outcome. The first is to pay the bail themselves, either with their money or by borrowing off a friend or family member. The second is to use a bail bonds agency - who will charge you around 10% of the total bail amount.

The amount of bail due is also determined by the hearing. In some cases, it might be an affordable amount, but in more severe cases, it can be drastically expensive. If the defendant can’t pay, they will remain in jail until their trial.

Of course, this gives you, as a loved one, a difficult decision to make. And, while all cases are different, there are certain rules you should follow. Let’s take a look at those with our list of financial dos and don’ts of the bail process.

DO: Take the bail hearing seriously

The initial bail hearing is a vital part of the process for the defendant. Try and do everything you can to give them an opportunity of coming away with a good result. The judge will look at a few factors. These will include hearing evidence from friends, coworkers, employers, and doctors. Try and involve as many people as you can. If you can help prove that your loved one is usually of good character, there is more likelihood of leniency.

DON’T: Bail out anyone you don’t know

Avoid anybody asking for bail that you don’t have a strong connection with. It could be a relative that you haven’t seen for a while or a friend from your school days. However, unless you can say that you know them as well as you ever have, it is unwise to give them financial backing. It’s vital that you are aware of their character well before using your money to bail them out. You will be taking on responsibility for their finances, and if they skip town - you will lose everything. It’s important to know who they are, where they live, and to have had regular contact with them. Unless you know about their lives and current situation, you just can’t afford to represent them with your money.

DO: Understand the terms

After the bail hearing, make sure you understand the terms of the agreement. Many people suffer from a shock to the system when they realize they pay a non-refundable premium to a bail bond agent, for example. It’s the price of admission, if you like - not a refundable cost. It’s also important that you understand the defendant’s responsibilities. If they decide to commit another crime or run away, you are going to be left holding a financial hot potato. And, it goes without saying, that will be an expensive mistake.

DON’T: Hire the first bail bond agent you meet

Just as you would screen a lawyer before working with them, you should also do the same with a bail bond agent. Visit them, and give them an interview - you need a firm that understands you and has a good reputation. Check the Better Business Bureau for references, and ask to speak to past clients. And, if you get a sense that they don’t care or respect you, walk away and find someone else. Bail bond agreements can be expensive, and choosing the wrong team to work with can be a painful experience. And, they can also lead to serious levels of debt on your behalf.

DO: Keep up to date with the case

Let’s not mess around here; you could have a lot of money tied up in this case. And, as a bail backer, you have a right to know that the defendant is doing their bit. Make sure that you stay in touch with them and remind them of their court dates. Make yourself aware of the court orders surrounding the case and ensure the defendant is following them. Bailing someone out can be an investment, of course - but only if the accused makes it to trial. If they don’t, it could be a severe financial mistake on your behalf.

DON’T: Assume you’ll get your collateral back straight away

As soon as the case is over, you might have to push to get back your collateral. Good, reputable bond agents will give you your money back straight away, and keep you informed of the situation. However, depending on who you use, some agents may focus their attentions elsewhere, and will need a push. It’s also vital that you remove your name from the bond as soon as the case is over. If the defendant fails to meet their legal obligations, that may come back to haunt you.

OK, so there you have it. As we mentioned before, all legal cases will be different. But, by following these tips, you should be able to give yourself as much protection as possible.

No comments: