FAILURE TO APPEAR: What happens when the defendant does not make it to court on the date and time ordered by the court. Once the court determines that there is a failure to appear by the defendant, they must forfeit the bail.
BAIL FORFEITURE: When the court orders the bail forfeited, the bail agent has a certain amount of time to produce the defendant back in court, or prove that he can’t because the defendant is dead or in jail somewhere else. In California the amount of time allowed for this is 180 days. If the bail agent cannot have the forfeiture set aside (cancelled) within this time, they then have to pay the full amount of the bond to the court.
EXONERATION: When the court declares the bond exonerated, the bondsman is released from his guarantee that the defendant will appear in court. The collateral should be returned to the cosigner at this time if no money is due the bail agent. Exonerations usually happen when the case is decided (defendant found guilty or not guilty), but can be done anytime the judge feels the bail bond is no longer necessary to assure the appearance by the defendant in court.
COLLATERAL: Something of value either pledged as security or turned over to the bail agent to hold onto until the bond is exonerated. This could be a lein on a piece of real estate, a car, jewelry, cash, or just about anything else of value. Most reputable bail agents no longer accept firstborn children as collateral.
COSIGNER(S): A person or people who sign a contract with the bondsman stating they will pay any expenses the bondsman incurs returning the defendant to court if the defendant fails to appear. The cosigners are also responsible for payment of the bond premium.
PREMIUM: The fee paid to the bail agent for posting the bail bond and assuming responsibility for the defendant appearing in court. This money is earned in full once the defendant is released on the bail bond. This amount usually is ten percent of the face value of the bail bond.
SURRENDER: Returning somebody to the custody of the court (jail) in order to get the bond exonerated. The bondsman can surrender anybody they have out on bond at any time they want. This usually only happens if the defendant has failed to appear. If the bail agent believes somebody is going to skip bond, they can surrender them before they fail to appear. If the court decides the bail agent did not have reason to surrender the defendant, they can order the premium returned.
SKIP: Fail to appear with the intent to flee justice. Some failures to appear are accidental withoul fleeing. Skips involve a person who believes they can evade their just desserts by making their friends and family (cosigners) pay the court the bail. Thankfully for justice (and the cosigners), the amount of skips who succeed are few and far between. The bail agents and the bail recovery agents they hire are much better at finding a person than that person is at fleeing justice.
BAIL RECOVERY AGENT (BOUNTY HUNTER): A person of suitable age and discretion authorized by the bail agent in writing to arrest and surrender the defendant. These, overwhelmingly, are people with either police background and/or training. Private investigators, retired sheriffs, retired FBI agents and other trained professionals do this sort of work. The threat of civil litigation has taken the wild west attitude out of bail recovery work.