History of Bail Bonds

Bail bonds are an accepted part of the criminal justice system in modern times. However, many people are not aware of how old the concept of bails bonds is. People in the Western world began posting bail, that is giving money or property in exchange for being released from jail, in the thirteeth century.

However, the practice of posting bail bonds is seen in records dating back four millennia in what is now Iraq. Wealthy land owners would use their sheep as collateral for a community member to secure their release. The accused then had to maintain contact with their “bondsman,” often working for him until the trial was concluded. Most cultures that have criminal justice systems have had some sort of bail bond system in their history.

The bail bond system began because of one core problem with bail: it naturally gave an unfair advantage to the wealthy, who had large amounts of liquid assets. Middle and lower class people were usually not able to post bail and thus were unable to be released from jail while awaiting a trial. Being incarcerated during the pre-trial period has been found to lead to more convictions and heavier sentences, because the accused is not able to participate in building a defense. This made the justice system inherently unfair to people who were not rich.

This led to the formation of money-lending businesses specifically for the accused, a practice that was brought to the United States from Britain during the country’s Colonial era. However, the first modern American bail bonds company, in which a percentage is given by the accused and the rest by the bail bondsmen, was formed in 1898 in San Francisco. Tom and Peter P. McDonough ran a business similar to modern bail bonds companies, lending the majority of bail in exchange for guaranteeing that the person released would appear in court. The McDonough brothers were bar owners who began posting bail bonds as a favor to favorite patrons in exchange for a percentage of the amount posted. While there have been some changes in the century since this business model was instituted, the system and basic principles remain the same except for legal variations from state to state.

In the United States today, bail bonds companies lend $14 billion annually. There are over 13 million arrests in the US every year, and 49% of these people have bail set in exchange for release. Most Americans cannot afford the high amounts set in bail, and people who stay in custody until their trial are more likely to be convicted due to be unable to build a case. These factors make bail bonds an important part of the American justice system.

The top three accused crimes needing bail are assault and battery, larceny theft, and public intoxication. Bail bonds are most often used for felonies that have jail sentences if convicted and thus fulfill a need for the accused to get legal representation and build a case. Bail bonds companies play an important role in ensuring that people of all means can get a fair chance in court.

Bail Rewrite vs Bail Reassumption

Something many people ask a bail bond company is: What is the difference between a bail rewrite and a bail reassumption?

Bail Rewrites

A bail rewrite is when a bond is rewritten to replace previous bail for the same charges. It is needed when charges are not filed in a case and the court forgives the bond. It is up to the bond issuer whether or not to do a bail rewrite. These companies usually rewrite bail for a specific amount of time after the first bail is forgiven.

Getting a Rewrite

The process of posting a bail bond can differ from time to time due to a defendant’s situation. Oftentimes, defendants, co-signers, and defense attorneys misunderstand when a bail rewrite is needed.

A bail rewrite is needed for a criminal defendant if bail has already been posted and legal circumstances change so more bail is required. For example, a defendant was arrested then was bailed out for $15,000. At the first court appearance, the district attorney’s office ups the charges in the case to a felony and/or adds more criminal charges to the original complaint. The district attorney’s office asks the judge for a higher bail in the amount of $50,000, because of the new charges. The defendant must now make bail in the amount of $50,000. If the court requires bail at a higher amount, the bail bond issuer usually issues a credit for the original bond and the defendant pays only the difference.

The bond company does not have to post the larger bail. The first bond was written based on the charges at the time of arrest. Depending on the new charges and bail amount, more security may be needed to guarantee the new bail amount.

A bail rewrite cannot be given in the case of a forfeited bail. The defendant’s failure to appear in court or having their bail amount raised does not constitute a bail rewrite.

Bail Reassumption

When a defendant fails to appear in court or is late for court, the judge might issue a bench warrant. A reassumption is a letter to the court stating that the bail bonds company is willing to continue the bail. It is up to the judgment of the bail bond company as to whether or not to issue a resumption.

Out of every hundred people who get a bail bond, there will be a few people who will run late, forget their court date, lose their paperwork, or have some other excuse as to why they missed court.

When this happens, the judge can do two things. One, the judge issues a bench warrant to arrest the person, or two, the defendant forfeits their bond. In order to rectify the problem, the defendant will need the bond reinstated. This means the bail bond issuer will have to provide the court with written proof that the judge reinstated the bond with the agreement that the bail bond agency willingly reassumed responsibility for the defendant’s appearance. This letter, which is written proof, can be provided in such circumstances. When the defendant goes back to see the judge, the letter reverses the two options already mentioned. It will reinstate the bond and will make the judge recall the bench warrant.