What's better: Posting the bail or getting a bond?

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Question:

What’s better: Posting the bail or getting a bond?

Answer:

For defendants who make all scheduled court appearances, posting full cash bail is cheaper than buying a bail bond. At the conclusion of the case, the defendant who posts full cash bail gets the money back (sometimes less a small administrative fee). Cash bail is refunded regardless of whether a defendant is convicted after a trial, pleads guilty before trial, or gets the charges dismissed.

Defendants who buy a bail bond are out the purchase price regardless of the outcome of a case. The cost of a bail bond is a bail bond seller’s nonrefundable fee. Moreover, a bail bond may be valid only for a limited time, perhaps a year. If a case drags on past that time, the defendant may have to pay a second fee.

Example: Cala Mari is arrested for drunk driving and taken to jail. Bail is set at $1,000. Cala posts this amount and makes all required court appearances. She eventually pleads guilty to reckless driving. At the end of the case, all (or almost all) of the bail money will be returned to Cala. By contrast, had Cala paid $100 for a bail bond, the bail bond seller would not return that money to her.

This answer was excerpted from The Criminal Law Handbook, by Paul Bergman, J.D., and Sara J. Berman, J.D.

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