How Does Bail Work at County Jails?

How Does Bail Work at County Jails?

When you need to bail out a loved one at a county jail, you may have a lot of questions. How does bail work? How can you get the money needed for bail? Should you use bail bonds? Finding the answers you need to get someone out of jail may seem confusing at a stressful time such as this.  

However, the good news is that bail is available in every state. Once you've determined the amount that needs to be paid, you'll need to figure out how to pay it. Bail bond companies offer to pay this price in exchange for something valuable as collateral. However, the laws surrounding bail bonds vary by state. 

We'll explain what to expect when the bail amount is determined, including your options for payment like bail bonds. We'll also cover why specific crimes may prohibit a person from receiving bail. 

How Is Bail Amount Determined?

How does bail work? Typically, there are standard bail amounts set based on the crime committed. For violent charges, multiple charges, felonies, or other circumstances, bail is set by a judge. The judge will look at several factors when determining an appropriate bail amount, including:

  • The severity of the crime
  • The possibility of the defendant committing another offense
  • The defendant's flight risk
  • The defendant's criminal history

Are There Crimes That Don't Allow Bail?

Though bail is available in every state, in certain circumstances, a judge may deny bail. Why does this happen? A judge may determine based on the facts of the case that the defendant is dangerous to society. For example, multiple murder charges, rape, and other violent offenses may result in bail being denied. 

Should You Work With a Bail Bonds Company?

Bail amounts vary widely. Depending on the charge, you may not have the extra cash lying around to make bail. When that happens, you're probably wondering about your options. While you could try other avenues looking for this type of cash, another solution is to work with a bail bonds company. Bail bonds are one of the most common ways to pay for bail. 

If you are considering bail bonds, you should know that the rules surrounding bail bonds vary from state to state. In some states, such as Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Oregon commercial (for-profit) bail bonds are prohibited. Instead, people will have to pay deposits directly to the courts.

How does bail work when using a bail bonds company? Most bail bond companies will pay for the majority of your bail for a 10 to 15% fee. Additionally, when you decide to go with a bail bond, you'll have to put up collateral for assurance. If you miss your court appearance and the bond is forfeited, the bail bond company will keep whatever you gave as collateral to make up for the loss. 

Should you use a bail bond company? The answer to this question depends on your personal situation. If you have the cash or have other ways to find the money for bail, you should go with that option. However, if you don't have the cash readily available, you should definitely consider using a bail bond. It's important to prepare for properly defending yourself at trial, which is difficult to accomplish in jail. You should try to get yourself or your loved one out of county jail before the trial begins by posting bail. 

How Is Your Bail Typically Paid?

Your options for paying bail are somewhat limited. Most people choose to pay the bond upfront, through a bond, or property bond. The forms of payment accepted will vary depending on the jail. In general, you can expect to pay cash or cashier's checks. For property bonds, you'll need to show proof like deeds or proof of value statements.


You can post a cash bond for the full amount listed. Some courts will also require a small administrative fee as well. However, this money will be returned to you upon your appearances in court. 

Court and Private Bonds

Another option for people who can't find the cash to post bail involves bonds, either by the court or a private company. Private bail bond companies usually require 10% cash of the bond upfront, plus collateral value (homes, cars, etc.). While you will get the collateral back if you show up for court appearances, you won't get back the 10% fee. For court-issued bonds, you'll usually need to offer the same fees and collateral as a private bond company. However, this type of bond is not for profit, meaning this money will be given back to you at the end of your court appearances. 

Property Bonds

How does bail work when you want to post a property bond? If you have any property with some sort of value, you may be able to submit it to the court as a bond. The value must be at least equal to the bail amount, though some courts may require more. You'll have to check with courts directly to see what property may be offered up as a bond and the kind of documentation you'll need to submit. 

Dealing with the ins and outs of bail can be confusing. For minor offenses, bail is often a predetermined amount that can be paid directly to the jail. For more complicated and serious situations, a judge will determine the amount of bail. For serious offenses, bail is often set to a high amount, which may be difficult to produce. Bail bonds work by providing those accused with the cash needed to get out of jail before their trial begins. If you're looking for more information about what happens after bail, check out our faqs.