What’s the Difference Between Bond and Bail?

The terms “bail” and “bond” seem synonymous to most people. After all, they both involve getting someone out of custody. While this interchangeable usage is prevalent, there are some key differences between them. For instance, cash is the only way to make bail in Pittsylvania County and nearly all other jurisdictions. Bonds, on the other hand, could take several forms. These terms refer to the arrangement that a defendant in custody has to reach with the authorities to get released pending a trial or hearing. A bond is an arrangement in the form of a legal document.

This guide provides a detailed comparison of these two arrangements, discussing their basic processes. 

Similarities Between Bail and Bond

Bond refers to an agreement between someone facing criminal charges and the courts. This written agreement stipulates that the accused must appear before the court when required. It involves a third party, a bail bondsman, or a company. The third parties act as guarantors of your appearance in court. In exchange, you’ll pay them for this service.

Bail and bonds are similar in that they allow for the release of an accused person from custody before the completion of their case in court. The defendant has to promise to appear in court when called upon. However, bail is usually a fixed amount that must be paid upfront before the defendant can be released from custody.

Both bail and bonds come with specific conditions. The accused must abide by those terms if they want to avoid further legal troubles. For instance, the defendant must promise not to engage in any illegal activities or travel beyond the boundaries of a particular jurisdiction. Flouting any of the bail conditions can result in a swift arrest and forfeiture of your bail money.

In a way, bonds and bail provide the court with assurances that a defendant won’t skip town when their trial starts. 


While both bail and bonds act as guarantees, one of their major differences is in who pays the required amount of money.

Not all defendants have the means to post bail. Similarly, the accused may be unable to access funds readily to make bail. That’s where a bail bondsman comes in. The bail bondsman agrees to pay the defendant’s bail money in exchange for a percentage of that amount, usually between 10 to 15 percent. In that sense, the bond is posted by a bail bondsman or company. Bail is paid by the defendant themselves. In its simplest form, a bond is a document stating that an individual or entity is shouldering the responsibility of a defendant abiding by the court’s terms (or not).

In posting bail, cash is the acceptable form of payment. For bonds, several arrangements can come into play. 

What Are the Different Types of Bonds?

1. Surety Bonds

This is the typical bond. It involves a third party assuming the responsibility for the defendant to show up for their court appearances. The third-party must live up to their obligations and debts. Failure to do so will land them in legal trouble. 

2. Cash Bonds

These are the same as regular bail or bail bonds.

Here, money is paid directly into the court’s coffers. The defendant is released immediately after this payment is made. Sometimes, another individual makes this payment on behalf of the accused. This is what is referred to as a cash bond. The individual paying the amount on behalf of the accused could be a relative or a family member. 

3. Property Bonds

A property bond is when the accused agrees to hand over the title deed of a property to act as collateral. The authorities will hold onto the deed until the defendant’s case runs its course. Failure to comply leads to the forfeiture of such assets. 

4. Personal Bond

Sometimes, a defendant is believed to be trustworthy enough to be trusted to show up for all their court hearings. In such cases, the accused signs a written legal contract attesting to the fact that they’ll honor the terms of their temporary release from custody. This is known as a recognizance. 

The Process of Posting Bail

Once a person is arrested for a crime, they must be brought before a judge to have their case heard. This is known as an arraignment. It is during this session that the judge decides whether or not to grant bail to the accused. Several factors will determine this. For example, if the defendant has a past criminal history, this will usually work against them. Similarly, a person considered to be a flight risk will likely not get bail. Of course, the nature of the offense also factors into the judge’s decision.

In setting bail, the judge will also consider the defendant’s income level. For instance, a CEO accused of financial crimes can expect bail in the tens of thousands of dollars while a lowly-wage worker can expect bail to be set low. 

What Happens if You Can’t Make Bail or Pay the Bondsman’s Fee?

Many accused individuals are unable to make bail. This means that a bail bondsman is their last resort. However, the bail bonds company can only help once their payment has been made. Depending on the bail set by the judge, this amount can still be high. For example, if the judge set bail at $100 000, 10 to 15 percent of it is at least $10 000.

This is still high for many individuals. Without making this payment, the defendant will have to remain in custody until their case is tried in court. That’s why it’s always advisable to look for a bail bond company whose rates are close to the 10 percent mark, making it more affordable. 

Where Does Your Lawyer Fit In?

From the moment you’re arrested for a crime, having access to a competent defense lawyer is something you should do promptly. In addition to representing your interests in court, lawyers in a particular area will know most of the bail bondsmen. As such, they can put you in touch with reputable ones that can help you out.

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