Bail Bond/Zimmerman question

From CBS News:

Is it normal to only have to pay 1/10 of the bail yourself? Isn’t the point of bail that it’s collateral in case you try to flee the justice system? Then why shouldn’t it be illegal to have someone else pay your bond? I understand that a lot of this has to do with bail bondsmen tracking accused felons rather than the federal government, but this strikes me as a pointlessly impractical bureaucracy structured to penalize poor people the heaviest.

What’s the SD on bail bonds?

Yes. it’s normal to have to put up 10% of the bond in cash, and since the bondsman is on the hook if you skip town they will be monitoring you closely to make sure you don’t decide to ‘no show’ your court appearance.

In this case I read that Zimmerman will be hiding in a ‘safe house’ until his court date…

Think of it as just a specialized loan, and it makes perfect sense. If someone has $1m in collateral, they could get a $1m loan against it. It’s pretty much the same for bail bonds, except the procedures and terms are a bit different to a typical loan.

The bondsman is, in effect, loaning Zimmerman $1m.

If you were required to post the bail from your own money, that would be much more onerous for the poor than having bondsmen.

Or, bail amounts would be set much lower than they are now. The purpose of bail money is to save the government the expense of jailing a defendant while also giving them some motivation to appear for their court date. So the government does have some motivation for keeping bail reasonably priced for the majority of defendants.

An argument can be made that bondsmen have an inflationary effect on the price of bail, since a bondsman allows the defendant to pay a 10% fee in exchange for the bond.

It is normal to pay 1/10 of the bail.

It is not normal to be required to have the entire amount in collateral to secure the bail.

I think they mean you have to offer collateral of the correct value (not that you have to have the $1 mill cash) and as far as I know, that is normal.

If you skip bail, you’re going to lose the $100,000 but the Bail Bondmen who promised your return to court by bailing you out will have to cover the Million, and will take it out of your assets.

It seems to me that if there was no chance of recovering from your assets in the event you disappeared, why on earth would the bondsman post bail? Goodness of his heart?

Anyway I also know that bail systems do vary a lot state by state. Some places permit you to pay 1/10 of the bond in cash value, directly to the court. But if you use a bail bondsman, you’re going to have to put up collateral for him, not the court.

I don’t know why they would do it, but I know bail bondsman often bond people out who they can’t really expect to collect from if they end up fleeing.

For example someone has a $10,000 bond and is basically “judgment proof” meaning they have no meaningful assets. They somehow pony up $1,000, a bail bondsman bonds them out and if the defendant misses his court appearance the bail bondsman loses $10,000.

Why do it? Well for starters, the 10% you pay the bail bondsman is 100% non-refundable. It’s their profit, you will never get it back. If you have a $10,000 bail and you can post the entire $10,000 yourself however, then at the conclusion of the court case you almost always get it back. Even if you get convicted, they will typically deduct court costs, any fine you have to pay and etc, but any remainder you do get back. So the bondsman is basically taking advantage of the fact that typically in a bail arrangement you get the bail back at the end of the trial, but many people can’t afford bail upfront so they would be stuck in jail. The bail bond business takes advantage of this discrepancy, there are people who can pay 10% or whatever and get out, but who have no hope of ponying up their entire bail.

In reality I would think people who have a home or collateral to meet the value of the bail would not be your typical bail bond customers. Most courts will let you use your home as collateral, so someone with assets large enough for collateral probably won’t have to use a bail bondsman in most cases. (In some cases they would, as some courts in some states can insist on “all cash” bond, meaning you can only post in cash.)

But to get back to why bail bondsmen take the risk, basically because making 10% off each “customer” they find that over time the vast majority of bonded defendants make their court appearances and the surety the bail bondsman has on file with the court never gets touched. If you have 100 defendants you bond out, each with a $10,000 bond, that’s $1m in exposure. If 5 of them jump bail, you’re out $50,000. However, you’ve made $95,000 in your 10% fee off the 95 who didn’t jump bail.

Does the bail bond company keep the 10% as their fee?


Do they have bail bonds in other countries? Do they have bail bondsmen? Is it structured the same way?

Some other countries have bail bondsmen, but it’s fairly rare actually, and obviously they’d be structured differently in other countries than in the United States. Whole different legal system and all that.

In general though I believe the United States is almost unique (or maybe is unique) in that bail bondsmen are allowed to basically act as “bounty hunters” to apprehend persons they have bonded out of jail who have skipped bail.

That sort of thing is analogous to a lot of historical activities that was extremely common hundreds of years ago the world over, but in the modern world it’s basically unheard of outside the United States.

In this case Zimmerman only had to come up with $85,000, since the bond company allowed Zimmererman to apply $15,000 from his previous bond.

I didn’t know bond companies would do that.

It does mention that they had to supply collateral.

I just realized that nobody directly addressed this aspect of the OP:

It is standard that the judge takes the finances of the accused into consideration. People with more assets get higher bail, and people with less assets get lower bail. They try to strike a balance between making bail reasonably affordable while still being an adequate amount to discourage the defendant from fleeing prosecution.

So, in practice, it actually penalizes the richest people the most, since their bails will typically be higher for the same crime.

In practice, are rich folk forced to use bondsmen as much as poor folk? That would seem to be the real measure, since the bondsmen are taking a cut.

I don’t have a cite, but I don’t think that Florida (and a few other states) requires a bondsman. Zimmerman pays 10% cash into the court, and secures the other 90% with assets. All of which he receives back if he shows up for court. If he doesn’t, the state keeps them.