You've heard it time and time again on the news - so-and-so was arrested and bail has been set to x amount of dollars. But what is bail, exactly? What does it mean for someone who can make bail? Is that person expunged of the crime they are being accused of?

When a person is arrested because he or she is suspected of a crime, they are immediately placed in jail. Over the next few hours, sometimes days, their mug shots will be taken, their fingerprints will be recorded, and their court date will be set. Between the time that they are arrested and their court date, a defendant often times has the option of bail. Bail is a term used to describe the dollar amount that must be paid in order to allow the defendant out of jail before their court date. Bail is typically arranged with a bail bondsmen, who is working on behalf of the criminal defendant. The bail bondsmen is then responsible to ensure that the defendant will show up in court on the specified date. 

When bail is set, it is typically paid in one of two ways. First, a person may pay the entire amount up front if they are able to. Generally, that is not the case and a bail bondsman is hired to figure out a way to make bail. Most courts will accept 10% down for the release of the suspect and the bail bondsman will take out a security against the defendant's assets in order to cover the rest of the bail.  

Just because a person is out on bail does not mean that their charges have been dropped or even decreased. They will still have to return to court to determine whether or not they are guilty regardless of if they make bail or not. In the case that an individual is let out on bail, but does not show up in court when they are supposed to, the bail bondsmen may place a bounty on the individual. A trained bounty hunter may then determine the location of the individual and will be rewarded for the capture and return of the suspect. The reward amount is usually between 10 and 20 percent of whatever the bail amount was set to. If a bail bondsman is required to set up a bounty, he then has a right to sue the defendant to recover the amount spent to bail him out.