Bail Glossary

Wondered what some terms about bail mean? Here’s our bail glossary that explains just everything about bail

This bail bonds glossary of terms was put together to help those who may not understand some of the legal jargon and terms of their bail bonds application or indemnitor application. If you are not familiar with or are new to the surety bail industry, much of the terminology and everyday language will sound foreign to you.

The following terms, definitions and industry information may be of help when asking about bail bond prices or what is in a bail contract. Of course, if you need further explanation, feel free to contact a local bondsman near you.

Bail Bonds Glossary Terms

Accused: The person who is arrested and/or accused of a crime; also called the defendant.

Absconding Debtor: A defendant who purposefully leaves a jurisdiction (area where arrested) to avoid the legal process.

Action: The steps by which a party seeks to enforce any right in a court or all the steps of a criminal prosecution.

Affidavit: A written statement given voluntarily under oath before a notary public or other official authorized to administer oaths.

Agency: A business location at which a licensed and appointed bail bond agent engages in any activity and employs individuals to engage in any legal activity under the license and appointment of bail bonds.

Arraign: Arraignment of an accused consists of calling upon him by name, reading the charges in the arrest documents, and demanding to hear a plea of innocence or guilt. This hearing may be combined with informing the accused of options regarding a defense attorney.

Arraignment: The first appearance of the criminal defendant before a judge to address the charges he/she has been accused of. The judge will set or deny bail at this stage.

Arrest: To deprive a person of his liberty by legal authority.

Bail: Monetary or other form of security given to ensure the appearance of the defendant at every stage of the proceeding. Bail is a surety contract made up of three parties. The Obligee, The Obligor and The Surety (see definitions for explanation). The bail contract is also written for an indefinite term and also must remain in effect until the obligation is fulfilled. It cannot be cancelled in the same manner as an insurance policy. Surrender of the defendant, however, is one method of fulfilling the obligation and allows the surety to be relieved of liability.

Bail Bond: The document executed to secure the release of an individual in custody of the law.

Bail Bondsman: A limited surety agent or professional bondsman.

Bail Loan: A loan to help pay the cost of bail. A bail loan can be a bank loan or personal loan; enough to cover the entire cost of cash bail or the 10% premium

Bail Schedule: Bail schedules are a list of crimes within the county and the bail amounts required to release the accused from custody. These bails vary from municipality to municipality. Judges can also change the amount of bail needed, depending on the facts of each case.

Bond: Customarily a written statement instrument in which one party (the principal, the defendant) agrees to perform some act for the benefit of a second party (the obligee), and a third party (the surety) agrees to pay the sum of money that has been fixed as the penalty if the principal (defendant) fails to perform.

Build-Up Fund: A fund that is held in trust for the limited surety agent by the surety company and into which a portion of all bond premiums are paid. This fund is normally used to indemnify the company from losses that might be caused by the agent.

Cash Bond: This is where the defendant, or someone on his/her behalf, must pay the Court the full amount of the bail bond, in cash, in order to be released from custody. The defendant and the co-signer, if any, must sign the bond that guarantees the defendant’s appearance at all future court appearances.

Citation Release: A defendant may be given a written citation by the arresting officer in lieu of going to jail. A “Cite Out” is generally used for very minor infractions.

Collateral: Something of monetary value to protect the surety from loss. If the defendant fails to appear in court and cannot be apprehended and returned to the custody of the court, the collateral could be sold and paid to the court to cover the amount of the bail. An example of collateral may include a home, land, buildings, vehicles, jewelry and cash.

Contract: A legally binding agreement between two or more persons.

Court Order: A command or mandatory order by a judge made during a case.

Criminal Defense Lawyer: A criminal defense lawyer is a legal professional who organizes a case and represents someone accused of a crime. Everyone in America, whether a citizen or not, is entitled to legal counsel before questioning can begin.

Defendant: One who must defend himself in some action at law. In criminal proceedings, the accused. In criminal surety bonds, the principal.

Detention Facility: Facility where a defendant is held when waiting for bail or trial. You can search for county Detention Facilities here.

Discharge: In reference to a surety bond, to fulfill the obligations of the bond. In bail bonds, the bond is said to be “discharged” when the case is disposed of.

Exoneration: To remove a burden or release from a duty.

Extradition: Extradition is the legal process by which a person who has committed a crime in one state and fled to another state may be returned to the state where the crime was committed.

Extradition Bond: Used by the defendant in extradition proceedings to gain his freedom in the arresting state while a decision is being reached on whether he will be handed over to the requesting state. Guarantees that he will surrender himself, if ordered to do so, to be returned to the requesting state.

Felony: A serious criminal offense that typically comes with an expensive bail bond amount.

Forfeit: To give up or surrender something as a penalty for having failed to comply with a legally recognized obligation.

Forfeiture: Failure of the defendant to appear at the time, date and place of required appearance shall result in forfeiture of the bond.

General Agent: An individual, partnership, association, or corporation appointed or employed by an insurer to supervise or manage the bail bond business written by limited surety agents licensed by the company.

Government Pre-Trial Release Bond: A government operated bail system that uses tax-payer dollars to fund its program. This type of bond can also be more expensive than the one time bail bond amount. A defendant can be court ordered to pay for drug testing, GPS monitoring, walk-in visits and more.

Incarceration: Imprisonment of accused and/or convicted; confinement in a county detention facility, local jail or penitentiary.

Indemnitor: One who indemnifies the defendant. To secure against loss; to insure; to hold harmless.

Initial Appearance: The process by which an arrested defendant is promptly brought before a judicial officer who then advises the defendant of the charges against him, his right to counsel, official court date and sets conditions of pre-trial release. It also includes a “probable cause” ruling on a cases involving arrest without warrant and a preliminary hearing in felony cases.

Jump Bail: Also called “Skipping Bail”. Means to leave the jurisdiction or any other act by a defendant to avoid a court appearance after a bail bond has been posted.

Licensed Bail Agent: A licensed bail agent is a person or company authorized by a Department of Insurance or Bail Bond Board to arrange bail for people accused of crimes. Licensing ensures that your bail agent engages is legitimate practices and can be held accountable for any wrongdoing.

Lien: A claim upon real property in exchange for paying off a debt. A Bail bonds company may file a lien on indemnitor property if a defendant has skipped bail.

Limited Surety Agent: An individual who is appointed by an insurer with power of attorney to execute or countersign bail bonds in connection with judicial proceeding, and who therefore receives or is promised money or other things of value.

Magistrate: Judge or officer of the court holding the power to set bail and determine conditions of release after a person is arrested.

Misdemeanor: A minor criminal offense.

Obligee: The party to whom some obligation is due. (The State)

Obligor: The party who owes the duty or debt; the principal. In bail, the defendant.

Own Recognizance Bond: This releases defendants from jail based on their promise to appear at all court appearances. Commonly referred to as “ROR” or “OR bond” –

Plaintiff – The person filing a complaint in a civil action.

Plea – An answer to a charge.

Posting Bail – Posting bail is the process by which the amount needed to release a person from custody is paid to the courts.

Premium: The sum paid to an insurer for providing insurance or a surety bond. – Professional Bondsman: Any person who pledges U.S. currency, U.S. postal money orders, cashier’s checks, or other property as security for bail bonds in judicial proceedings, and who therefore receives or is promised money or other things of value.

Professional Bond: Is written by any person who pledges US currency, postal money orders, cashiers checks, or other personal property as security for bail bonds in judicial proceedings and who therefore receives or is promised money or other things of value.

Public Defender – A public defender is a lawyer provided by the courts at no charge to represent someone accused of a crime.

Surety: One who undertakes to pay money or to perform some act if the principal fails to pay or perform. (An insurer or surety company).

Surety Bail Bond: This type of bail is written by a private surety bail and at no cost to the taxpayers. Licensed bail agents post bonds with the court, guaranteeing a defendant’s appearance in court. The defendant’s appearance at all court dates becomes the sole responsibility of the bail agent and is the most effective bail system. The bail agent is physically and financially responsible for the defendant at every step of the process.

Temporary Bail Bond Agent: A person operating under a temporary license, under the supervision of a duly licensed and appointed bondsperson, managing general agent or authorized insurer. Please check with your state to determine if working with a temporary bail bondsman is allowed.

Verdict: The final decision of the court when it comes to a criminal or civil case.

Warrant: A written order by a judicial officer commanding a peace officer to arrest the person named or to search for and seize property. A warrant can be nationwide, worldwide or simply held within the state of issue.