Bail is a payment of money that allows a person in police custody to be released. When someone is arrested and awaiting trial, the judge will make a determination if bail will be set, the defendant will be released on their own recognizance, or if they will remain in custody.
In California, bail amounts will be determined by not only the crime involved, but by what county the court is in. Ultimately, the judge has a large degree of discretion on setting the amount.
Types of Bonds
When the court sets bail, the defendant will have the choice of how they are going to pay bail, if at all. Of course they can pay the amount by cash (CA Penal Code 1269), but most people do not have a large sum of money available for this.
A bail bond is an agreement between the defendant and the bail bondsman. The defendant promises to appear at all upcoming court appearances, and the bail bondsman agrees to pay the bond for them to the court. The cost to the defendant is a percentage of the actual bail due. In California, the highest percentage a bondsman can charge is 10%.
A property bond is used when the defendant has an ownership interest in a piece of property and puts it up for collateral to the bondsman. Usually, the value of the property needs to be at least twice the amount of the bond needed. If the defendant fails to appear, a lien will be filed on the property and could be foreclosed upon.
There are very few acceptable excuses for not appearing in court as promised. If you do not appear at the required times, your bail money will be forfeited and a bench warrant issued for your arrest. There are a few acceptable reasons not to appear which include, severe illness, insanity, disability or if you are in custody in another jurisdiction.
This system will change in October of 2019 when California effectively stops the bail system and replaces it with preventative detention hearings.