Bail vs. Bond: What Is the Difference Between Bond and Bail?

Updated January 23, 2024
9 min read
Bail vs. Bond: What Is the Difference Between Bond and Bail?

Introduction

You might hear the terms bail or bond used interchangeably and incorrectly believe they are the same. However, although they are used in place of each other in everyday conversation and are similar, legally speaking, they are different. It is essential to understand the bond and bail difference if you or someone you love ever land in a situation that involves an arrest and court trial.

What Happens after an Arrest

Understanding the difference between these two items starts with understanding the situations in which they are warranted. If someone is arrested and taken into custody, they go through the regular steps of being fingerprinted and having their mugshot taken by the police.

However, there is a great deal of time, sometimes days, weeks, months, or even years, between the initial arrest and the actual court date, during which time someone who was charged with a crime may or may not be convicted of it. 

During this interlude, the topics of bail and bond often arise, leading to the common question — what's the difference between bail and bond? This will involve understanding how these concepts function within the judicial system and how they impact the accused individual's circumstances from the point of arrest until their court date. 

Bail hearing

This is where bail or bonds come into play. It is up to a judge to determine whether a person can leave jail after their arrest or stay in jail until their court hearing. 

A bail hearing is when the court officer or judge weighs many factors, like the risk of the defendant committing additional crimes if released or running away against things like their ties to the local community or a lack of criminal history.

If a judge decides that someone can leave jail and return on their own when it is time for their court date, they can post bail. The phrase post bail means that someone is being released from police custody until they have to appear for their court hearing. They are set free to go home or wherever else in agreement for promising to return.

Is Bail and Bond the Same Thing?

While some people might use the terms interchangeably, bails and bonds are not the same things. A query commonly arises in this context — is bond and bail the same thing? The answer is no. They serve different yet related functions within the judicial system, and understanding bond vs bail can be crucial for those involved in legal proceedings. Below is a quick reference for bail vs bond difference.

Bond

You will often encounter the term "bond" in situations involving a pledge to facilitate bail. Here, a third party is responsible for providing the bail money and ensuring that the defendant shows up in court as required. Any money paid for the services is not returned.

There are four types of bonds that are technically considered secured or unsecured.

  • First, you are released on your own recognizance, which means the court releases you under the auspices that you will return when it is time.

  • The second is a cash bond or a payment made in cash, also called bail. Bail is a payment made to the court in cash.

  • Third is a property bond. A property bond is when you offer the title to your own property as a form of insurance that guarantees you will return to court when you should. If you don’t return to court or don’t agree to the written agreement you signed with the courts, your property becomes forfeited to the government.

  • Fourth is a surety bond, and this is what is commonly referred to as “a bond.” This is when a third party agrees to your obligation's responsibility and debt.

Bail

A form of cash payment made by the defendant to the court is known as bail. This payment is generally returned at the culmination of the trial, provided the defendant meets all the court's stipulated requirements.

The Difference Between Bail and Bond

Clarity on bond or bail is essential for those interacting with legal procedures. While they seem similar, a significant difference in bond and bail affects how accused individuals navigate their journey from arrest to trial. Let's delve deeper into bail versus bond differences.

  • Posting bail: Being released is an agreement between the accused and the government. When released on bail, the accused signs a written promise to return to court until their case concludes and needs to follow all terms specified in the agreement. The judge determines the bail amount, which must be paid to the court in cash as insurance. If the accused fulfills all their obligations, the cash is returned at the end of the process.

  • Getting a bond: If the accused can't afford the bail, they can opt for a bond. This involves hiring a bonding company or bail bondsman to co-sign and agree to pay your bail if you fail to appear in court. Here, the bonding company assumes responsibility for the accused's court appearance and pays the bail money, which is non-refundable. A bond isn't money but a legal document that a bondsman presents to the court, promising the defendant's court appearance. 

Conclusion

If you are taken into police custody, you may have the chance to post bail between your initial arrest and upcoming court dates. Posting bail means paying the total amount in cash on your own. But what's the difference between bond and bail, especially if you can't afford the full bail amount?

Here is where the concept of a bond comes into play. If you cannot pay the bail in cash, legal provisions exist to ensure you can still be released from jail until your court appearance. The bond is a surety that you will attend all required court dates. Understanding these differences is crucial when navigating the legal process, and further questions may often require consulting with a qualified attorney or other legal resources.

Article by
Yevheniia Savchenko
Lawrina

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Product Content Manager at Lawrina. Yevheniia creates user interface copies for Lawrina products, writes release notes, and helps customers get the best user experience from all Lawrina products. Also, Yevheniia is in charge of creating helpful content on legal template pages (Lawrina Templates) and up-to-date information on US law (Lawrina Guides). In her spare time, Yevheniia takes up swimming, travels, and goes for a walk in her home city.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the product or UX content for Lawrina, feel free to contact Yevheniia directly at y.savchenko@lawrina.org or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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