When a friend, relative, or coworker gets into trouble, most people want to help. But if the situation has the potential for legal or financial liability, the decision should always be carefully considered.
A good example of this is when someone you know or love calls you from the county jail or a police holding facility and requests that you co-sign their bail bond agreement so that they can be released until their court date. If you have just received this type of request and are unsure of how to respond, the following information will help you determine your risks and make the best possible decision.
Understand what it means to co-sign a bail bond
The bail bond agreement acts as a guarantee that a legal defendant will dutifully attend all mandated court appearances and agree to other legal stipulations if allowed to remain free until their court date. A co-signer for this agreement is effectively ensuring their compliance, much like a co-signer for a loan is guaranteeing that the loan will be repaid.
Consider your financial status before agreeing
If the person you co-sign a bail bond for does not abide by the agreement, you may be financially responsible for the amount of the bond or the costs incurred by the bail bond agent who recovers them. If the defendant has been charged with a serious crime and does not honor the bond agreement you have co-signed for them, your final financial responsibility could end up being thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
Before agreeing to co-sign a bond, consider whether your financial situation is stable and how it would affect your family if the defendant does not comply with the terms of the bond. If you have assets or available means of credit to cover the costs and you have sufficient income to maintain your own finances, then you may be able to afford the risk of co-signing. However, if your own financial situation is shaky, or if your income is unstable, it may be best to decline the request to act as a co-signer.
Decide whether you can meet the immediate financial outlay
In addition to the potential of being financially responsible for a defendant who skips bail, you will also need to be able to pay the initial bail bond fee. This is typically a small percentage of the total bond amount. This fee is due and payable to the bail bond agent when the bond is posted and must be paid before your friend, relative, or coworker is actually released.
This amount, often called a bail bond premium, is typically paid by cash, money order, or credit card. Some bail bond agents are able to consider other items of value in lieu of some or all of this amount, such as real estate or valuable items of personal property, like jewelry.
Consider who is making the request
If the person making the request is a close family member or friend and someone who has acted in a trustworthy manner in the past, then becoming their co-signer on a bail bond agreement is more likely to be a positive arrangement. However, if the person making the request has a history of risky behavior or has not shown good faith in meeting legal or financial agreements in the past, then it may be wise to avoid placing yourself in the position of co-signing their bail bond agreement.
Before making a final decision on whether or not you should agree to co-sign a bail bond agreement for anyone, take time to discuss your situation with a bail bonds company such as Don's Bail Bonds. These professionals can help you understand what legal and financial liabilities you will have so that you can make the right decision.