Know what your obligations and risks are before you co-sign on a bail bond. Co-signing on a bond is not like writing a letter of recommendation for an individual–it carries a real financial risk to the signer. You are guaranteeing an accused defendant’s appearance in court, for each and every court date that the person is required to make, until the charges against that defendant are terminated.
Co-signing usually involves the signing of a promissory note or an indemnity agreement, each of which financially obligates you up to the full amount of the bail bond you are guaranteeing. Many times these instruments (the promissory note or indemnity agreement) are executed in conjunction with your pledging tangible property (i.e. cash, a real estate mortgage, a lien on an automobile, an assignment on a bank account, or even the pledging of household property, like electronics and jewelry).
One of the most important questions a cosigner should ask is this: How long am I financially responsible if I cosign on a bond?
* Until the person you have signed for is sentenced on his or her cases. This includes sentences of probation, fines, jail or prison time.
* When the charges are dropped.
* When sentences are deferred. This includes pre-trial intervention or deferred prosecution, or an adjudication of guilt.
* When the bondsman returns the defendant to jail (or when the defendant gets arrested on new charges) and the bondsman revokes the original bond (this procedure is also called “off bonding”).
* When the judge revokes the bond, and returns the defendant to custody, due to a violation of a bond condition. This is not the same as forfeiting the bail bond-the co-signer should not be out any money in this case.
* 36 months after a bail bond is executed. After this amount of time has passed, all bail bonds are automatically cancelled by state statute.
Before signing to guarantee a bail bond, make sure you really know the person you are signing for, and be sure that the person is trustworthy. If things “go south” and your instincts tell you that the person may become a flight risk, contact the bail bondsman immediately. The bondsman can then try to find the individual and have him or her returned to jail. In this instance, only when the person is behind bars does your financial obligation terminate.
Another question you may ask is “are bail bonds refundable?”. I answered this question here.
If you have any questions about the risks of cosigning on a bail bond, feel free to call me at 352/376-6645. Rick Roundtree