A bail bondsman or bail bond agent is any person or corporation that will act as a surety and pledge money or property as bail for the appearance of persons accused in court. The services offered by a bondsman are made possible through various contractual agreements that are pre-set with the court systems in various states and counties where the bondsman conducts his or her business.
The bail bond system rose from common law. The posting money or property in exchange for temporary release, pending a trial, dates back to 13th century England. The modern commercial practice of bail bonds has continued to evolve in the United States; while it has since ceased to exist in most modern nation-states. The commercial practice of offering bail bonds arose out of a need to balance the playing field among the rich, middle, and poor classes when individuals were accused of a crime. It’s here to give people more options. The purpose of setting bail is to ensure that the defendant appears at trial without necessarily having to keep the defendant in custody.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2009, only 38 percent of defendants in urban cities were released because they were able to meet a financial obligation. Of those released on bail, only 5 percent were able to pay the full cash amount outright. About 4 out of 5 defendants who were able to meet bail requirements; and did so by securing a surety bond known as a bail bond.
Also, according to the nonprofit Pretrial Justice Institute, 53% of those accused of felonies nationwide are unable to post bail on their own. The numbers are worse for the poorest defendants. As the Village Voice reported, 40% of bail offers made in New York in 2010 were worth less than $1,000 – but only 17% of defendants offered such bails could meet the cost. It gives poor defendants the same benefit as rich ones: freedom during trial. It saves taxpayers money that would otherwise go toward jailing costs. By sending bounty hunters after fugitives, they argued, the industry helps overburdened police departments ease their workload.