What is the Difference Between Bail and Bond?

One of the most confusing distinctions in the law is between the meaning of the terms Bail and Bond. It's so confusing that often times judges and lawyers will even get the terms mixed up.

Both of these words have to do with allowing a defendant who has charges pending an opportunity to be released from jail. The difference between the two is what the defendant actually offers in order to be released.

The amount of money that the court sets in "Bond Court" is actually a bail amount. So for example if the defendant is charged with DUI 1st and a breathalyzer refusal the court may set a bail amount at $1,022. If the defendant, or more likely someone on the defendant's behalf pays this amount up front it is considered paying bail. In this context the money paid to the court can be 100% as long as the defendant returns to court.

So what happens if no one has the money to pay the bail? That is where bond comes into play. Bond is really a form of insurance contract, where a company promises or guarantees the bail amount to the court. This is referred to as bail bondsman. The bondsman is paid a fixed fee up front (usually 10% or less of the total bail amount). The bondsman then posts a bond with the court, satisfying the bail requirement. If the defendant doesn't return to court then the bondsman will owe the full bail amount to the court. Money that a defendant or defendant's family pays to the bondman is kept as the fee for the bond, and it isn't refunded.

There is yet another related term in South Carolina called a Personal Recognizance Bond. This is basically where the Bond Court allows a defendant to leave jail for "free." However if the defendant fails to return back to court then the defendant will personally owe the pre-set bail amount to the court. For more information, contact James R. Snell, Jr.!

Categories: Criminal Law & Policy


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