Bail Bond System
Should the court set bail too high for the person to pay the court in cash, the defendant will rely on a bail bondsman who would pay the court the entire amount of the bail or provide the court with assurances to do so if needed (surety bond). The defendant would have agreed to pay the bondsman a non-refundable fee for this service—10%-15% of the bail amount—and may be asked to put a collateral—title of the car, home, or some property.
Depending on jurisdictions, the amount of cash is standardized based on the alleged crime (bail schedule). However, judges often have wide discretion to determine the amount for bail increasing it, decreasing it, or even waiving it altogether, depending on many factors including the person’s prior criminal history, the likelihood that the person will not appear at trial, and the danger to the community if the person were to be released. Generally, a defendant (a person officially charged with a crime) who is deemed to be a potential flight risk or there is a high possibility that they pose a danger to the community, would be denied bail.
By most accounts, the cash-bail system is needed to solve two problems: Flight risk and danger to the community. However, research data show a different reality. A report by the Prison Policy Initiative found that 34% of charged individuals are detained pretrial because they could not afford money-bail—a very large number of people when you consider that about 0.7% of US population is jailed/imprisoned every year. On the other hand, only 4% of charged individuals are denied bail and detained pretrial because they are flight risk or danger to the community.