Bail Vs. Bond: What's The Difference?

September 17, 2015
By: Emily Kaiser

We here at CrimeFeed throw around a lot of legal terms, but we wanted to take a moment to set the record straight about the difference between bail and bond. Both terms obviously allow a defendant temporary freedom, but the difference between them hinges on who is posting the money and what is offered as payment.

When bail is set, a criminal defendant provides money as insurance that they will return to court at a set time. Granted, the actual person paying the money might be the defendant’s significant other, best friend or unfortunate family members. In any case, if the defendant doesn’t make good on that promise to return to court, the money is not refunded.

This also explains why an insanely rich criminal might be forced to pay a seemingly impossible amount of money. Look at Wall Street tycoon Michael Milken, who was able to pay his $250 million bail after he was arrested for 98 charges for insider trading. There is also the issue of someone deemed too dangerous to be released from police custody — they definitely won’t get bail.

Bail should not be used as a mean of punishment.

Photo by: iStock


Bail should not be used as a mean of punishment.

Although million-dollar bails can seem high, the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from excessive bail. The goal of bail should not be to provide extra funds for the government or punish a defendant.

But what happens when you don’t have the money to make bail? This is where we get to bond!

Bonds are bails paid by a bail bond company. Now say that five times fast! To get that money, the defendant will have to get a loan. Giving loans to criminal defendants seems like a risky business, right? Well, the defendant often offers serious collateral, like their house or car. Typically, a defendant is also required to hand over 10% of the bail amount in cash. And did we mention that you can offer weapons up as bond collateral? I guess handing over a pile of guns when you are facing criminal charges might be best for everyone.

Next, a bail bondsman pays the court part of the total bail. And if that defendant tries to flee or doesn’t show up as promised, the bondsman will pay the rest of the bond.

Homes, cars and other property are often used as bond collateral.

Photo by: iStock


Homes, cars and other property are often used as bond collateral.

Some countries skip the bail bond company part by allowing defendants to offer their property directly to court as insurance that they will show up again as promised.

Now you know difference between bail and bond, but here is the extra credit! There is another form of bond known as a signature bond. For less serious offenders, they can sign (get it — signature) a bond, promising that they’ll return to court. This example of bond is also known as O.R. They don’t have to cross their heart and hope to die though.

So there you have it — you can tell all your friends about bail and bond! (Hopefully not begging them for cash while you do it…)

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