Written by attorney R. James Christie III

Alaska Bail Law 101: A Brief Overview of Bail in Alaska

How is bail determined?

Alaska Statute 12.30.020 directs that a person charged with an offense shall be released on their own recognizance or upon posting an unsecured bond unless the person is charged with a Class A or Unclassified Felony, or if the court determines that release will not reasonably assure the future appearance of the person as required, or if release will pose a danger to to the alleged victim, other persons, or the community. If these factors are present, then the court will impose additional conditions of release such as monetary bail, third-party custodianship, or restrictions on travel. In determining the appropriate conditions of release, the court is required to consider:

  1. The nature and circumstances of charged offense;
  2. The weight or apparent strength of of the evidence against the person;
  3. The person’s family ties;
  4. The person’s employment history;
  5. The person’s financial resources;
  6. The person’s character and mental condition;
  7. The length of residence in the community;
  8. Criminal history and record of appearing at prior court hearings; and
  9. Threats made by the person and the danger posed to the alleged victim.

Based on these criteria, the court may require an appearance or performance bond, a third-party custodian, or other conditions of release.

Appearance vs. Performance Bonds

Generally, there are two different types of bonds required for bail in State and Municipal Courts: Appearance and Performance. An Appearance Bond guarantees your appearance at all court dates. Show up for court, and you (or the bail bondsman) get the money back at the conclusion of your case. Miss a court date, and your bail is forfeited (and you go back to jail!). Appearance Bonds may take the form of Cash Corporate, Cash, or Unsecured Bonds. A Performance Bond guarantees not only your appearance at all future court dates, but also that you will abide by all the court-ordered conditions of your release. These conditions often include prohibitions on consuming alcohol, possessing weapons, contacting alleged victims, or driving. Miss a court date, or violate the court-imposed conditions of your release, and your bail is forfeited (and you go back to jail!). Performance Bonds may only take the form of a Cash Bond.

Cash vs. Cash Corporate vs. Unsecured Bond

A Cash Bond requires that the entire bail amount be paid in full by you, a friend or family member. You may not employ a Bail Bondsman. A Cash Corporate Bond means that you may either pay the entire bail amount yourself, or employ the services of a Bail Bondsman (for a fee) to post your bail for you. An Unsecured Bond is essentially a promise to pay if you don’t show up for court. It does not require the posting of any money to be released, but miss a court date and you owe the court for the full amount of the bond.

What is a third-party custodian?

Third Party Custodians, or TPCs, are an unusual feature of the Alaska Court System. A 3rd Party Custodian is a person who agrees to serve as the eyes and ears of the court by ensuring that a criminal defendant abides by all the court-ordered conditions of their release and appears at every court hearing. If the defendant violates the conditions of his or her release in any way, the TPC is obligated to immediately contact the authorities and report the infraction. Originally conceived as a substitute to the requirement of a monetary bail, third party custodian requirements have become commonplace in the Alaska courts, and are often required in addition to a monetary bail.

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