Bail bonds refer to the money posted by someone who is charged with a crime in court so he or she could be released temporarily while awaiting trial.
The system of posting bail bonds in the United States was adapted from a system developed in England in the 13th century.
This system started in England as a new way of giving punishment to people who are accused of crimes.
Before this was implemented, the punishments to those who commit crimes were water torture and burning at the stake and local sheriffs found it difficult to keep criminals locked up until trial due to the absence of a magistrate, who usually appears in court once a month.
So the sheriff was given authority by the king to release any criminal. He has the power to decide on the fate of a criminal and he makes the decision on who to release depending on the severity of the crime. This system was found to be less than perfect and had the tendency to be exploited so in 1275, the Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster which listed what crimes are and are not bailable.
The English parliament passed the Habeas Corpus Act in 1677 that allows magistrates to set the terms for bail and later, in 1689, the English Bill of Rights was passed that pointed out some restrictions on “excessive bail,” which was copied by the Virginia state constitution and was later became the basis for the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution which states that arrested individuals must “be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation” and they can demand bail if accused of a bailable offense.
This was the system adapted by the United States for almost 200 years until the U.S. Congress instituted the Bail Reform Act of 1966 stating that a defendant facing trial for a non-capital offense should be released “on his personal recognizance” or “on personal bond.” But if the court believes that the defendant will flee, the judge may limit his or her travel and requires him or her to execute an ‘appearance bond’ which will be refunded when he or she appears in court.
Some 18 years after, the Bail Reform Act of 1984 was passed with an added guideline related to the safety of the community as a factor to be considered when imposing bail.
The act states that an accused person can be detained without bail if he poses a risk to the community; may intimidate jurors or witnesses or obstruct justice while out on bail; commits a violent or drug-related crime; commits an offense carrying a penalty of death or life in prison; or commits any crime while already having a serious criminal record.
In 1898, Peter P. McDonough of San Francisco established the first modern bail bonds business in the United States.
Under this system, a person accused of crime will pay a percentage of the bail amount specified by the court to a professional bonds agent.
The agent will in turn give the money in full amount to the court as a guarantee that the person will appear in court.
These professional bond agents have a standing security agreement with local court officials that requires them to post an irrevocable “blanket” bond in case the accused person fails to show up in court.
Agents usually have a tie up with banks or insurance companies to back up them up with this security agreement, eliminating the need for them to deposit cash to bail out a defendant.