When a defendant is in custody, the judge may decide to release the defendant if he does not expect the defendant to commit other crimes. The judge may require the defendant to post a bond to make sure that the defendant adheres to the bail agreement. Because the bond belongs to either the defendant or a surety such as a bail bond agency, the judge must issue a bond forfeiture warrant before the court can claim the bond money.
A bond is not required in all cases. The judge may allow the defendant to leave on personal recognizance, which is just the defendant's promise that she will return, will not commit any other crimes, and will stay in the state. A court may allow personal recognizance for some misdemeanor cases, but felonies usually have fixed bail amounts, depending on the severity of the crimes the defendant is accused of committing.
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Bond Forfeiture Hearing
If the defendant does not appear at his scheduled court date, or the court finds other evidence that suggests that the defendant violated the terms of the bail agreement, the court holds a bond forfeiture hearing. The defendant is required to attend this hearing, and any surety, such as a bail bonds agency representative, is also present. The judge asks the defendant and the surety to explain why they believe that the defendant has not broken the terms of the bail agreement. If the judge doesn't accept these reasons as valid, or the defendant doesn't appear at this hearing, the judge may issue a bond forfeiture warrant.
With a cash bond, the suspect posts a portion of the bail amount with the court as collateral. The standard cash security amount is 10 percent. If the court has to issue a bond forfeiture warrant because the defendant does not show up, the court immediately claims the 10 percent deposit, and starts collection procedures to recover the other 90 percent of the bail from the defendant.
A secured bail bond can be secured by assets other than cash, including real estate if the court allows it. The defendant has the option of providing the court a surety bond, rather than posting the entire value of the bail in cash. A bail bonds agency acts as a surety and provides the bond to the defendant, in exchange for the defendant's promise to return to court. If the court issues a bond forfeiture warrant, it collects the cash value of this bail bond from the surety, and then the defendant is liable to the surety for the bond value.