Brought down to the most basic essentials, the concept of bail is simple. If you are in custody awaiting the date of your trial, the court will allow you temporary freedom on the condition of your return when the trial starts. But because there is an assumption that defendants will not voluntarily return to face a criminal trial where they could be found guilty and be sentenced to life, courts need to assure themselves that a defendant, when released, will still return for his court hearings. And they do this by requiring a financial bond.
The practice started in medieval England, when a relative or friend of a defendant acted as a guarantor, using both his economic status and personal honor as an assurance that the defendant will not flee. As guarantor, he is expected to put up money as a pledge for the reappearance of the defendant on the dates of his trial.
This practice has been carried over to today, but modern realities also add additional reasons for the importance of bail bonds, surety bonds, and bail bond agents.
For one thing, not everybody has a relative or family member with the financial capacity to pledge the amount of bail required by the court. That means that even if the courts grant bail to the accused, he cannot be released on bail because he and his family cannot afford it. And secondly, jail congestion is a reality in many state and local penitentiaries. Many state legislatures advocate for jail decongestion, and one of the ways by which this can be done is by granting defendants temporary release out on bail. But if a defendant does not have the financial capacity to make good on his bail amount, bail bondsmen and bail bond agents step in to provide the same kind of surety or guaranty that was once provided to defendants by their wealthy and respectable family members.
In a very real way, the Torrance bail bonds industry is geared towards providing those who cannot afford to do so the financial capacity to make their bail. To a certain extent, then, bail bond agents help to level the playing field for the rich and the not-so-rich as they navigate their way through the criminal justice system. And it certainly doesn’t hurt the state that there are fewer detainees in jails for whose upkeep and maintenance the state has to answer for.
On the flip side of the fence, however, the bail bond industry has also proven to be a financially lucrative business for many bail bond agencies and companies. Despite the inherent risk that seems almost obvious in entering into the bail bond profession, the risk is not as great as the financial return of acting as a bail bond agent. First, there is the non-refundable fee that the defendant has to pay the bail bondsman to secure his services, which is generally 10 percent of the total bail amount. And bail bond agencies aren’t necessarily required to put up the full amount of bail for each and every defendant for whom they act as surety. Bail agents usually put up a blanket bond that is acceptable to all the local courts. And if the defendants do show up for their hearing, neither the defendant nor the bail bondsman would need to shell out any more additional money.