Cash Bonds Vs. Bail Bonds
People often ask “Why should I pay a bail bondsman a 10% fee for a bail bond if I have the money to put up for a cash bond?” That’s a good question. In the old days, when a person deposited the bond amount in cash, all of the money was returned to the depositor when the case was over.
A few years ago, however, the Florida legislature changed the laws so that the judge could order fines and court costs taken from the cash deposit. With government entities so cash-strapped now, often a very large percentage of the deposited money is being taken out of the cash bond amount. Sometimes they will take all of it. And sometimes in some counties they will even take cash bonds to pay older fines.
But when a bail agent writes the bond, the 10 per cent bail bond fee is all a person is ever going to pay (unless there is a breach of the bond due to the defendant’s nonappearance in court. But that’s another blog topic for another day). Most bail agencies will notify the indemnitors of all court dates for defendants, and having the co-signer aware of all of the court dates makes it more likely that the defendant will make all of his (or her) court apprearances.
Before you become an indemnitor on a bail bond, you should know what your responsibilities include. In Florida, if a person released on a bail bond fails to show in court, the bail agent has 60 days to return the defendant to custody. If the person bonded out cannot be returned to jail in that period, the bondsman is legally bound to pay the full amount of the bond to the clerk of the court. This is called a bond estreature, or bond forfeiture (at this point, the cosigner becomes liable to the bail bondsman for the amount forfeited, usually the full amount of the bond). The agent then has 10 additional months to return the defendant to custody and receive almost all of the forfeited money back, and has an additional year after that to receive 50% of it back.
But if a person puts up a cash bond with the court, the laws covering the returning of cash bonds to a depositor are vague at best. Even if the defendant is only gone for a few days, the depositor risks loosing all of the money he put up with the court. Also note that the clerk of the court is not be obligated to notify the depositor of court dates. If a bondsman handles the release from jail, however, the laws are clearly spelled out by state statute and the indemnitor is protected, only being liable for any cost of bringing the bond skip back to custody after a breach of a bond.
In addition, if the cosigner on a bail bond feels like the person they signed for (or put up tangible collateral for) has become a risk to take off, and is likely not go to court, the bail bondsman has the power to revoke that person’s bond and return them to custody. At that point, when the defendant is returned to jail, the co-signer’s liability goes away. A cash depositor has no such power to return a person to jail. And should the defendant miss court, the Florida bail agent has full arrest powers in almost every state, and can apprehend the absconder and return him to custody. The cash depositor, of course, has no such arrest powers, and as stated above, it may not make any difference once the defendant has missed his court date, as the money may be lost from day one.
If you have any more questions, call me at 352/376-6645 and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about cash bonds and bail bonds.