Do You Get Bail Money Back If Charges are Dropped?

When a family member or loved one is arrested, it can be a stressful and overwhelming experience that can disrupt your life tremendously. Not only do you have to worry about the incoming legal proceedings, but you also have to find a way to pay for bail. 

Bail can be expensive. And in some cases, it can be so expensive that it’s near impossible to afford. But if you do manage to pay your bail (with or without a bail bondsman), do you get that money back? What happens if your charges are dismissed, acquitted, or dropped? Do you get bail money back if charges are dropped?

Let’s break it down.

What is bail?

Bail is set by a judge (or an algorithm) and can range from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars. The total amount depends on the severity of the crime and the defendant’s overall flight risk. 

Bail is basically an insurance policy to guarantee that the defendant returns back to court for trial.

However, bail can often be a rather large amount. And in many situations, it’s unlikely that the average person can afford to post the entirety of the bail amount. 

For this reason, many defendants work with a bail bondsman to post bail. Instead of paying the full bail amount, they only have to pay around 10% of the total bail amount to the bail bondsman. The bail bondsman will pay the remaining amount to the court on your behalf.

While this fee can vary from state to state, it’s typically close to 10%.

Related Content: How much does a bail bond cost in California?

Do you get bail money back if charges are dropped?

If the charges are dropped, acquitted, or dismissed, the defendant will be entitled to a bail money refund, minus any expenses and fees incurred by the court or the bail agent. This is because the bail amount serves as a guarantee that the defendant will attend all court hearings and abide by the conditions of their release. It is not designed as a way for the court to make money.

When the charges are no longer pending, the bail bond is no longer necessary, and the defendant gets their money back.

However, there are some cases in which the defendant may not receive their bail money back. For example, if the defendant violated their bail conditions or failed to appear in court, the bondsman may forfeit the bail. Additionally, in some jurisdictions, a portion of the bail money may be used to pay off any outstanding fines or fees incurred by the defendant. 

It’s essential to understand that the rules surrounding bail refunds can vary state by state, so it’s always best to consult with an attorney or a bail bond agent to ensure you understand the rules and conditions specific to your case.

Related Content: Why would someone have a 2 million dollar bail?

Do you get your bail money back if you work with a bail bondsman?

If you choose to work with a bail bondsman (instead of paying the full bail amount on your own), things work a little differently.

In this situation, the bail bondsman took on 90% of the risk. Your 10% payment to them is how they make money. This 10% fee is non-refundable and the bail bondsman will keep it (even if the charges are eventually dropped).

Many people consider the 10% non-refundable bail bond fee to be worth it in the end (even if they are innocent). That’s because the court process can take a few months (and in some cases, up to a few years). If your funds are tied up for that long, it can be a major issue for many people.

Keep Reading: Why is bail so expensive and what affects the cost of bail?