The Art Of Haggling And Other Money Secrets

Teenage Son Or Daughter Arrested? What You Need To Know About Bail Bonds

No parent wants to get a call from their child in jail. But teens do misbehave from time to time, and sometimes that bad behavior lands them in custody. If your teen has been arrested, you may need to bail them out so they can come home and await their hearing -- rather than waiting in jail until the hearing is held. But bailing someone out of jail is not as simple as it seems, especially if you're thinking of using a bail bond to do it. Here's what you need to know.

What is a bail bond, anyways?

A bail bond is an amount of money that you essentially borrow from a bond agent in order to bail your loved one out of jail. The bond agent pays the jail or court, resulting in the release of your teen. In return, your teen agrees not to skip their court date. If they do appear in court as planned, the money is returned to the bail bond agent -- less a fee that they charge you or your teen for the bonding service. 

How much do bail bonds cost?

Fees vary between bonding agents, but it is not unusual for companies to charge at least 10% of the bail amount in fees. So, for example, if your teen needs $1000 posted for bail, you will have to pay the bonding agent $100 to lend this money. If, for some reason, your teen does not satisfy the conditions of their bail -- such as showing up to court and obeying the law until their court date -- you will owe the bail bond agent the full cost of the bail.

So, for instance, if your teen's bail was $1000 and they do not show up to their court date, you then owe the bail agent an additional $1000, on top of whatever fees you initially paid to borrow the money.

Do you have to go through a bail bond agent?

No. If you have enough money to pay for the entire amount of your teen's bail yourself, you can just post the bail. This way, you won't have to pay the extra fee for borrowing the money. However, the end result is otherwise the same. If your teen shows up to court and satisfies all of their requirements, you'll get the money back. (Some states do keep a small portion as a fee.) If they do not meet the bail requirements, the courts will keep the bail that you posted.

Hiring a bail agent does not reduce your financial risk, but it does keep you from having to come up with the money immediately -- and it keeps you from having to come up with the full amount as long as your teen satisfies the conditions of their bail.

Where do you find a bail agent?

If you are not sure where to find a bail agent in your area, you can talk to the jail where your teen is being held. They can give you the number of a local bail agent who they work with regularly. If you're not in a terrible rush to get your teen out, you may want to call several bail agents and compare their rates before deciding which one to hire. 

Once the bail agent posts your teen's bail, they should be released from jail promptly -- often within a few hours or perhaps the next morning. Once they are released, you'll want to do all you can to ensure they stay out of trouble and make it to their court date. Otherwise, you'll owe the bonding agent the full amount of their bail, which may be tough to come up with.

You can click here for info about starting the actual process of obtaining a bail bond.