Most people arrested in the U.S. qualify for a temporary form of release called bail while awaiting their court dates. However, no one who qualifies for bail can actually go free without paying a refundable fee to the court. For a small percentage of this fee, bail bonding companies will secure release. Unfortunately, not everyone has the money on hand to pay even this relatively small amount.
Indemnitors are people who co-sign bail bonds on the behalf of others and provide the financial assurances required by bonding companies. Anyone who acts in this role must understand the duties that come along with it. Otherwise, the future may hold some very unpleasant personal monetary surprises.
Ensuring That the Defendant Will Appear in Court
The chief duty accepted by anyone acting as a bail bond indemnitor is ensuring that the person identified on the bond appears as expected for all hearings and proceedings scheduled by the court hearing the case. The company issuing the bond also shares this duty. If the defendant named on the bond fails to appear even once, the second duty of an indemnitor automatically kicks in.
Paying to Track the Defendant Down
If a bonded defendant fails to appear in court, the company that issued the bond may immediately take steps to track that defendant down. Usually, this involves the hiring of a third party who specializes in fugitive recovery. If a bail bonding company chooses to hire a recovery agent, the indemnitor has a duty to pay the fees that agent charges.
Paying the Full Cost of Bail
In some cases, recovery agents are not successful when trying to track down fleeing defendants. In addition, a bail bonding company may not choose to hire a recovery agent in the first place. In both of these situations, the indemnitor who co-signs the bail bond assumes another duty: paying the court for the full cost of the original bail established for the defendant. If you used property as collateral when co-signing the bond, you will forfeit that property and the bonding company will use the proceeds from it to pay the court.
Important Things to Consider
Legally speaking, bail bonding companies assume that anyone acting as a defendant’s indemnitor knows that person well enough to assume the financial risks. Once the paperwork is signed, under no circumstances does the bonding company have any responsibility to change its mind. This means that you can’t decide at a later date that you want to get off the hook for the money and/or property you owe for co-signing for someone who violates the terms of bail.
As an indemnitor, you are released from your responsibilities when the defendant completes all of the proceedings scheduled by the court. At that time, you may not have any further financial obligations. However, the situation changes if you’ve made a payment agreement for the bail bond fee. No matter how the defendant’s court case ends, you still bear legal responsibility for completing the terms of that agreement.
As a result of the risks involved, bail bonding companies typically take the time to walk potential indemnitors through the details of their duties beforehand. This way, family, loved ones and friends can co-sign a bail bond with full knowledge of what can happen if things go wrong. Before acting as an indemnitor, it never hurts to ask yourself: Do I really know the defendant well enough to accept the responsibility of entering into such a serious, legally binding agreement?