How to Bail Someone Out of Jail

Explained by an award winning San Diego criminal defense lawyer

San Diego Criminal Lawyer
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Nicholas Moore

Nicholas J. Moore

San Diego Criminal Lawyer

What is Bail? 

The purpose of bail is to make sure that you attend your court dates. Bail is generally available for almost all types of crimes, except for extreme cases. Bail can be paid by your or a bail bonds agency.  It is common for people to use a bail bonds agency because they require only a small percentage of the bond to obtain your release.  If you fail to miss a court date your bail will be revoked and a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest. You will then be held in jail for the remainder of your court proceeding, which can take months. 

What Types of Bonds Are Available?

  • Cash Bonds: If you can afford to post bail yourself, this is an option for you. This money is held in trust, by the court, to compel your attendance in court. You will not have access to this money until 60 to 90 days after the conclusion of your trial. 

  • Federal Bail Bonds: If you are charged under Federal Law, you bail amount will be set by a Federal Judge, and the bail amount for federal crimes is usually substantially higher than crimes prosecuted by the State of California. 

  • Immigration Bonds: If you are not a citizen of the United States and charged with a crime, you are required to secure an immigration bond. There are two types of immigration bonds

    • Delivery bonds and

    • Voluntary departure bonds.


Delivery bonds are issued when a person is arrested by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under a Warrant of Arrest and a Notice of Custody Conditions. The amount of the bond is set by the court to compel the attendance, or "deliver," the non-citizen to future proceedings


Voluntary departure bonds allow a non-citizen undergoing removal proceedings (deportation) to voluntarily leave the country. In some cases, the judge will require a bond to ensure the non-citizen exits the country within the time set by the court. 

  • Surety Bail Bonds: A Surety Bond is the most common type of bond. It is the bond that gets you out of jail, and ensures that you attend your court proceedings. These bonds typically cost 10% of the total amount of bail - as determined by the specific charges you are facing. (See San Diego County Bail Schedule)

  • Property Bonds: If you do not have access to cash, but you have property that can satisfy the bail amount, you may be able to post a Property Bond. The property you use must be assessed at a value of twice the amount of the bail required by the court.

What to Do If You Cannot Afford Bail

Bail Hearing

Posting bail can be expensive. One of the benefits of hiring a San Diego criminal defense lawyer is we can represent you at a special hearing to lower your bail, thereby easing the financial burden of defending yourself against a criminal charge. 

Talk to an Attorney

An experienced San Diego criminal attorney also has relationships with bailbonds agents, and can potentially save you thousands of dollars by helping you obtain discounts of up to 30%.  Many times clients can only afford to pay a bail bondsman or an attorney, but not both.  There are some situations where it is advisable to pay a bail bondsman, and some situations when it is more advisable to hire an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer.  For more information to help you make that difficult choice, see this article.   

How to Post Bail

There are three ways to post bail: 
  • Cash - you can write a check. Actually paying cash is a bad idea. It will likely result in your cash being seized by the police.  
  • Bond - A bailbonds company provides the full amount of the bail for you. You pay only 10% (less if you are referred by an attorney) - but you do not get that money back. 
  • Property Bond - A surety bond backed by real property that you own. 


Where do I pay bail?

There is a processing counter at each precinct. You may also pay through the court clerk's office. If you hire a bail bondsman, they will post the bail for you.  


Do not pay in cash. If you pay in cash, it will likely raise suspicion on the source of the money (even if the money is clean), and the money will be confiscated as evidence of a crime. 


Co-signing a Bond

If you are a co-signer, then you need to ensure that the person you have co-signed for will make their court appearances, or else you are financially liable. If the person you co-sign for skips bail, the bail contract legally allows the bail bonds company to recover their loss (the full amount of the bail posted) from you as the co-signer.  

How Much will Bail Cost?

When a person is arrested, information is uploaded to the website - Who's in Jail - which shows a persons court date and the amount of bail required. 


This document is called a bail schedule. Look for your penal code to determine the amount of bail that you need to make bail. Bail numbers are generally very high and few people can afford to put up the amount in cash. You can put up real property as surety to bail. You can go to a bailbondsman, but you will pay high fees for the convenience they offer. Calling an attorney before you call a bailbondsman will save you a substantial portion of fees as most bailbondsman offer discounts to attorneys in the hopes of generating repeat business. 


Own Recognizance - No bail needed. 

Sometimes you are held in jail until arraignment, up to 48 hours later, and the judge releases you on your own recognizance. That means that you are being released, without bail, with the promise to appear in the court at certain future dates. If you do not show up for these future dates, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest. You can have your attorney represent you at some of your future dates if you sign a Penal Code 977 waiver of personal appearance. 

What Happens to My Bail After Trial?

If you are acquitted at trial, or your case is disposed of by some other manner (such as a plea or dismissal), court costs and fines will be deducted from your cash (check) bail, and the bail will be returned in 60 to 90 days. 

San Diego Criminal Defense

101 W. Broadway, Suite 1770 | San Diego, CA 92101

This site is for information only. Use of this website does not create an attorney client relationship. This site is not legal advice. Legal advice is specific direction related to the unique circumstances of your legal issue. This website is not a substitute for a consultation with a California licensed criminal defense attorney. We invite you to contact us with any legal or criminal defense question you might have. 


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