The American criminal justice system is a fairly complex one, and often, finances enter the picture, such as paying a court a fine for a misdemeanor or paying bail bond fees. But what are bail bonds, and how and why should you look for bail bondsman companies if you have been charged with a crime? You are advised to have literacy in finances before and during this time, and you may also want to help a family member in need look for emergency bail bonds if they are the one who faces criminal charges. Whether you are doing this for yourself or someone you care about, looking for bail bond agents is a good idea, and setting up bail bonds is a good way for the defendant to avoid unwanted jail time until their proper criminal court case is held. How can you keep your finances in shape to afford all of this? And what are the perks and downsides of looking for bail bonds?
All About Bail Bonds
This topic will likely only be a concern to you if you or someone whom you care about is facing criminal charges. Of all nations in the world, only the United States or the Philippines use the bail bond system, and you may want to know at least the basics before committing your finances to it. Put simply, bail bonds are written documents that promise your timely appearance in court for all criminal charges, and most often, there is a co-signer for this bail bond, the bondsman (or bail bond agent). Bail, overall, describes the release of an arrested person before the end of their criminal case, and finances enter the picture with a bail bond.
Signing a bail bond is not a punishment, but rather, a way to avoid the expense and trouble of detaining the defendant while also having some insurance for their return for court. As for how much a bail bond may cost, that is up to the judge, who will set the amount for you or the defendant whom you care about during a bail hearing. For minor offenses, such as nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors, the bail amount may be quite low (no particular figures can be promised here). Some defendants may be able to pay the bail bond out of pocket and be done with this step quickly. For felonies and violent crimes, meanwhile, the bail bond can be quite costly, and in some cases, the judge may withhold that option entirely. Or, they might make the amount so incredibly high, there is no realistic way to pay it.
A bail bond is a sort of compromise between the court and the defendant. The defendant benefits from avoiding unwanted jail time, giving them the freedom to find a criminal defense lawyer, sort out their finances for the upcoming criminal court case, or any other preparation they want to do beforehand. Meanwhile, the court has paperwork telling the defendant “You are compelled to be there at court,” and this can be enforced, such as via finances. How do bail bonds act like insurance? Usually, the defendant is paying a fee to the bail bonding services who are helping them, and they may end up offering collateral for that bail bond.
Getting a Bail Bond
If you need to find affordable bondsmen for your criminal case or that of a loved one, be sure to look around and find a reputable, licensed, affordable bondsman who can get the job done without any hassle. In fact, if need be, you can look online to find reputable bondsmen in your area, and give each one a call to see if they can help (no guarantees on whether or not they charge a fee for this). Once you have chosen a bail bond agent to help, you will have the assurance that you can remain out of jail while waiting for your court case, but this will cost a fee. How much does the fee cost? That will vary, and some American states have a limit on this, but you might end up paying 10% of the bail’s value on that fee, or perhaps 8% or possibly even less. It will vary case by case. At any rate, if you do fail to appear in court, then the bondsman will compensate the court and police for that. Take note that other fees might be charged, too.
Collateral was mentioned earlier, and this is where it applies. When you arrange for a bail bond for yourself or someone else, you may end up lending objects or property of value to act as collateral, which may range from your house or a car to jewelry or similar items of recognized and substantial value, including stocks. This helps to discourage you or the defendant from simply fleeing and refusing to appear at court. Some statistics suggest that among defendants charged with felonies, those who have bail bond in place are more likely to appear for their court dates. Such collateral is known as creditworthiness.
If so desired, you may ask notary services to help, and a notary can verify the paperwork of a bail bond and ensure that everything is in place and that the identities of all parties involved are verified. This can help prevent confusion, money being lost, or delays due to clerical errors or mistakes on someone’s part. If you are urgently trying to avoid jail and pay a bail bond, the last thing you want is a typo or the wrong number putting you in a worse position.
Getting Your Finances Ready
If you cannot immediately afford bail, or if a relative needs to pay for a bail bond, then it is a good idea to get all your finances in order before getting ready to pay fees for bail bonds for someone. But be sure that your own life is still in proper order after this; you might not want to lose your entire house to pay for bail bonds and the bondsmen unless you deem that absolutely necessary. There are a total of 136.57 million housing units across the U.S., and each year, many Americans lose their houses due to foreclosure and debt. That mind include you if you get reckless about paying even the most reputable, licensed bail bondsman for help. In fact, depending on the state of your finances, you may want to consult a financial planner first, since financial emergencies like these can disrupt your life for months or possibly years to come. Some bail bonds can be quite costly, and paying their fees before you are ready can spell trouble.
This concept ties into the broader ideas of consolidating your finances and making sure you do not end up on the streets or getting your property repossessed. Cutting back on expenses is one obvious step to take, and it can take many forms. For one thing, reassess your lifestyle and determine which expenses, hobbies, or habits are costing you money that can and should be redirected toward paying the fees for bail bond. And even if you can afford the bail bond right now, you will want to do this so you can start saving again once your pockets are emptied out.
Write down all of your expenses, big and small, of all types and see which ones stand out to you. Many Americans, and that may include you, are operating practically on autopilot and do not even realize how much they are spending. Expenses can become “invisible” in a way, such as a daily coffee at the local cafe, movie tickets, cigarettes, alcohol, fast food, cable bills, visiting hair or nail salons frequently, or hobby expenses (such as car tuning). You may be surprised to see how much you are spending without realizing it, and worse yet, some people actually take out loans or get a credit card just to finance all of this. Make sure that this does not include you, too.
Add up all your essential expenses (rent, mortgage, groceries, car payments, utilities, etc) with your discretionary spending, and see how it compares to your income (both from jobs and passive income, if any). If you are falling behind, then at least you are now aware of the problem, and if you are breaking roughly even, now is the time to start getting ahead. Diagnosing bad spending habits is a major step to take, and this can help you save up for a bail bond or allow you to start saving money every month after paying a hefty bail bond for someone. You don’t want to stay broke for long after paying a big bail bond.
An obvious step to take is to simply cut most or all of that discretionary spending. No more fast food or restaurants, no alcohol, no salon visits, no fancy rims for your car, and maybe not even your video streaming services, either. All of these savings can add up in a hurry, and if you multiply your monthly savings by 12 for the year, you may be amazed at how much you save from cutting out these expenses. That is a good first step to take, and even when your finances are back in order, you might decide to keep up that lifestyle and continue saving, such as saving for retirement or maybe for a dream vacation someday.
But that is not all you can do, and most likely, canceling your Netflix account and avoiding fast food alone isn’t going to put your finances where they need to be. If you are still falling behind or can’t yet afford those bail bond fees in a timely manner, it is time to assess the critical expenses, too. This is not to say you should neglect car maintenance, for example, which will actually cost you more in the long run (don’t let your car break down due to neglect). Instead, you might consider options such as refinancing your home’s mortgage and be aware that if mortgage money is about to become scarce, don’t be afraid to talk to the creditors about it. Creditors would much rather get their mortgage money than simply take your house, so if you need to, talk to them in detail and see what sort of deal can be arranged. If your credit is good and you explain yourself well, your creditors may be willing to refinance your loan to adjust for that.
Meanwhile, what about your car, your other loans, or the like? Suppose you have paid the bail bond, and now you have practically nothing left (and expenses to pay each month). If possible, try to think long term, and save yourself some money on your interest rates. You may have heard that paying off credit card debt and student loan debt is a good way to avoid accumulated interest rates, and it is true. Here again, don’t get reckless and endanger your other expenses like rent. But assess your finances carefully, do some math, and see how quickly you can pay off those debts without harming your finances in other sectors. For example, redirect all your money to rent, car payments, groceries, and paying off a credit card, and nothing else. Some Americans actually have a few credit cards they owe money on, and they simply pay them all off one at a time until they are done. You can do the same (and don’t even try to get a new card to pay off an old one, or else risk a debt cycle).
Once you have paid a hefty bail bond fee, you might also try downsizing your life, and this can take a variety of forms. Some of them may look drastic, but if you are in control, then you should be in good shape. For example, you may sell one of your cars or motorcycles and avoid the expense of maintenance and fuel for them, and get money from the sale. Just keep one, affordable vehicle for personal travel, even if it’s not your beloved muscle car. Also, you might even sell your home for a fraction of its value and simply buy a new, cheaper home, or move into a rental property for a time. This could be a temporary measure, such as living in an apartment while you save up for a new home, or it could end up a more permanent new arrangement. That is up to you.
In short, no one enjoys getting arrested and facing jail time, but you can avoid the worst of it by finding a reputable, affordable bail bond agent who can keep you out of a cell. If you behave yourself and assess your finances carefully, it may be possible to reassemble your life and build toward the future.