If you've never been in jail yourself and haven't had someone ask you to bail them out, you likely don't know how the process works. Here are the things you should know to help you decide if this is something you want to do or not.
How Do You Bail Someone Out Of Jail?
First, the defendant will have to make their initial appearance before a judge or magistrate. Not every offense or situation will allow for bail. For example, if someone was previously out on bond and failed to subsequently appear or meet the requirements of the bail, they likely wouldn't be offered bail again. This is a common situation with drug addicts. Bail is contingent on staying drug-free and going to court appointments. If they are picked up on bail jumping and/or new drug charges, they probably won't get a second chance.
If they are given a bail amount, then you have three options. You can post the full bail amount with the court. You can visit a bail bonds company, which is available in most states but not all. Or, you can ask the court to accept collateral in lieu of cash. This would need to be real estate or other valuable property you own and are willing to risk losing.
Do You Get Your Money Back When You Post Bond For Someone?
If you post a cash bond, you will get your money back providing the defendant does everything they are supposed to do and shows up for all required court appearances. Be aware — this can tie up your money for months, even years, depending on the charges and how quickly the case is settled.
If you post a surety from a bail bondsman, your initial outlay will be cheaper, as you normally don't need to come up with the full amount. For example, someone with a $500 bail amount may only require $100 from a bondsman to be released. You will lose this premium, but this is their fee to ensure the person does what they are supposed to do. For much larger bonds, the bail bondsman may also accept collateral.
If you do a collateral property bond, the court can take your collateral if the defendant doesn't show up. This is why the safest option for you is to go through a bail bondsman rather than post cash or property.
Do Your Trust The Person?
Carefully consider the character of the person, their track record, and the charges they are being accused of before you agree to post bail for them. As difficult as it is to see a loved on in jail, some people are better off in jail, at least for a while. Again, this may be true in the case of someone who is a drug abuser. A bail bondsman will consider the same things.