What's the Legal Difference Between Bail and Bond?

What's the Difference Between Bail and Bond?
In a legal context, bail and bond are two different terms that are related to one another. Here's a brief overview about the terms that are often used interchangeably.
OpinionFront Staff
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2018
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According to statistics, most of the suspects released on surety bonds appeared for court hearings without fail, and committed fewer crimes. This could be because of the due diligence of bail agents, who ensure that the suspects stick to the terms and conditions of the bail.
What happens to a person who is arrested for committing a crime? The arrested person has to spend time in the jail, till the trial begins. In most cases, it would take a few months for the trial to begin. So, the suspect (who can be innocent) has to undergo detention till the trial. However, there is a provision for release of an arrested person from pretrial detention―he can seek bail. What is bail? You might have heard and read about the release of suspects on bail. Bond is another term that is usually used in association with bail. What is bond? Is there any difference between bail and bond? Let us find out.
Legal Definition of Bail
Judges gavel
According to Black's law dictionary, bail is defined as, "Releasing a prisoner due to a deposit of a security. The person must still appear in court." So, bail is a provision that allows an arrested person to be released from detention, provided he/she furnishes the security, as decided by the court. Such security can be in the form of money, property, or bonds.
In other words, the court needs some financial backing to ensure the appearance of the suspect till the case gets concluded. The term bail is also used to denote the security furnished for releasing the arrested person.
Legal Definition of Bond
Lawyer and defendant
Legally speaking, the term bond means a written guarantee in regard to the fulfillment of a legal obligation. When used in the context of bail, the term bond is usually referred to as bail bond.
A bail bond is defined as a bond given by a criminal defendant or by his or her surety to ensure compliance with the terms of bail, especially with the requirement that the defendant will appear in court as scheduled. So, it can be said that bond is a type of bail that is furnished before a court of law, for securing release of a person who has been arrested for a crime.
Bail and Bond - Legal Provisions
Bail is granted on the basis of factors, like the seriousness of the offense, the criminal record of the arrested person, laws of the state, etc. If permitted by law, the arrested person can seek bail, soon after his arrest. In case of minor offenses, he/she will be allowed to post bail. Others have to wait till they are presented before a judge, who will decide their eligibility for bail and the type of bail. In some states, the bail amount is already fixed, and are provided in statutes. Otherwise, the judge has to decide the same, after considering factors like gravity of the crime, and the criminal record of the person. Bail can be denied if the judge feels that the person can pose a danger to society, or there is a risk of flight (jumping bail). Once the trial ends, and the suspect attends the court without fail, the bail amount may be returned in some cases, irrespective of the outcome of the case. If the suspect jumps bail, the court issues an arrest warrant against him, and forfeits the bail.

So, bail can be of different types, and can include cash, property, surety bond, etc. If the person is required to deposit the bail amount in cash, he has to pay the same in cash. In some cases, the court may allow the suspect to use his property as bond (property bond). The value of the property must be equal to or more than that of the bail amount. In case of minor offenses, the court may release the suspect on bail, without paying any bail amount. Such release on personal recognizance means the person is personally responsible for further court appearances. The arrested person may also opt for a surety bond, through which a third party (can be a friend, relative, or a bail agent called bail bondsman) agrees to be responsible for the bail amount. In this case, the surety pledges to pay the bail amount, if the suspect jumps bail. In return for this service, the bail bondsman charges the suspect a premium (usually 10% of the bail amount), and may also ask for a collateral.
Bail Vs. Bond
So, both bail and bond are related to the same legal process. Bail is the security given to a court for release of an arrested person. Such security can be in the form of cash, property, or a bond. So, a bond can be used to pay the bail. Though posting a bond means furnishing a surety bond, bail payment in cash or by pledging property is also referred to as bonds.
In the strict sense, surety bond represents the term bond used for securing bail. The term bail is being increasingly used to denote the cash payment for bail. If you go by this version, bail represents cash payment for securing release of an arrested person. Bond is the written assurance from a third party who takes the responsibility for the suspect's obligation. In case of bail, payment has to be made in cash. In case of a bond, a surety bond has to be furnished before the court. If the bond is purchased from a bondsman, a non-refundable premium of 10% of the bail amount has to be paid as purchase amount. The court may return the cash payment after the trail, but there is no chance of refund in case of surety bond purchased from a bondsman. In case the suspect fails to show up for court hearings, the court may forfeit the bail amount, and issue an arrest warrant. If the bail is obtained on a surety bond, the court will collect the bail amount from the surety. If the bond is purchased, the bondsman sends bounty hunters for searching the suspect. If the suspect is found, he has to pay for the expenses incurred for the search.
In short, bail and bond are two terms with different meanings. However, nowadays, they are used interchangeably. This is only a brief overview of bail and bond. The legal provisions regarding these two terms may vary from one state to another. So, it is always better to contact an attorney in order to know more about the relevant laws in your region.