Know the Difference Between Bail and Bond


For people who have had minimal contact with the criminal justice system, the difference between bail and bond can be a little opaque. It’s an important distinction to know, though. No matter how careful you are, you never know when a misunderstanding could put you or a loved one in the position of having to defend against a criminal charge. When that happens, the arraignment and bail process is one of the first steps toward resolving the case. Both cash bail and bonds are used to secure the release of someone who is charged with a crime after arraignment, but they operate very differently. Additionally, some judges will allow people freedom until trial without setting bail for some offenses, and for others bail may be denied in the interests of public safety.

Navigating Cash Bail

If cash bail is mandated, that means the only way to secure the defendant’s release is by coming up with a cash deposit in that amount. Paying the deposit to the court secures the release, and if the defendant makes all court appearances, the cash is refunded at the end of the case. It doesn’t actually cost anything in terms of permanent money out for defendants who make those appearances, but coming up with a pile of cash you can afford to temporarily lose can be a bit of an obstacle for many people, especially if the amount is in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Bail Bonds as an Option

Sometimes, bond is required instead of cash bail. This is rare, and usually has to do with the judge wanting the bail bondsman’s resources to come into play if the defendant does not show. In that case, you pay a non-refundable fee to the bondsman that usually represents a small percentage of the cash bail. The bondsman then pays the court and assumes the financial risk if you do not show. Many bond companies work with retrieval professionals to ensure appearances as a matter of preserving their income.

Choosing Between the Options

Most judges leave a choice between cash or bond when setting bail, which puts the decision in your hands. Bail bonds Scranton PA are often the most cost-effective way to handle the situation, because they require less cash to be paid out at once, so they are a very popular resource when defendants are given the choice.

If you’re in the position of posting bail for someone or asking for help getting it yourself, consider your options. That way, you can make the decision that is best for your finances on any given day.


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