When someone you love contacts you for help getting bailed out of jail, your first instinct is likely to do whatever it takes to help that person. However, rushing into the situation without thinking through the consequences may result in significant losses and legal troubles for you. Here are three questions you should ask yourself before you put up money to get someone out of jail.
Can You Guarantee the Person Will Show Up for Court?
The most important thing you need to know at that moment is whether the person will show up for all his or her court appointments. The purpose of bail is to guarantee the defendant will appear as required. If the person doesn't show up for court even one time, any money spent on his or her behalf will be forfeit.
This can mean one of two things for you. If you paid the court the bail money directly, the state will take all of it as the price for the defendant failing to show for the court proceedings. You may be given a period of time to get the person in court or jail before the money is forfeited (e.g. 90 days), but you're out of luck when that time period passes.
If you paid a bail bondsman to get your loved one out of jail, the company will come after you for the money it lost. You may be required to hand over any collateral you put up to guarantee the bond or your account may be turned over to a collection agency. In either event, you will be held personally liable for the lost cash.
Therefore, it's critical to determine if the defendant is a responsible person who won't try to jump bail. If you have any doubts, you may want to think twice about putting up bail for your loved one.
Can You Afford to Lose Your Collateral?
The other question you need to ask yourself is whether you can afford to lose the collateral you put up for the person. Even the most responsible person in the world can act irresponsibly sometimes. The fact that the person is in jail may be a testament to this. Therefore, there is a risk the individual may jump bail and leave you dealing with the financial consequences.
As noted previously, the state will take any money you paid for bail, and a bail bond company will take your collateral or require you to repay it for any money it lost in the transaction. So you need to be certain you can afford to lose whatever you use to guarantee your loved one's release. It may not be a big deal when bail is only $500 or $1,000. However, some crimes (e.g. felonies) require defendants to put up bail in the tens of thousands of dollars. If you can afford to lose that money, your home, your car, or other assets, you probably shouldn't bail the person out of jail.
Should the Person Be Released from Jail?
Possibly the hardest question to ask in this situation is whether the person should be released from jail. It's natural to want to do what you can to help the people you love. Sometimes, though, that means engaging in a little tough love and doing things that may seem counterintuitive. Just because a person is eligible for bail doesn't mean getting them out of jail is the right thing to do.
For instance, if your loved one was arrested because of chronic drug use, being in jail may be exactly what they need to get sober. Even more concerning are people who have been arrested for violent or capital crimes, such as manslaughter. You should consider whether getting the person out of jail puts you, your family, your community, or the person at risk of getting hurt.
For help making the decision to bail someone out of jail or to learn more about the process of bail bonding, contact a local bail bond company, such as Brad's Bail Bonds.