Posting a Bond in North Carolina
What are the different types of bonds, and how can you post them to get someone charged with a crime out of jail before their case goes to court?
What is a bond, and what are the different types?A bond is not a punishment. It is a type of legal collateral meant to ensure that someone shows up for court. The type and amount of bond is set by a magistrate and can be later modified by a judge. There are several types of bonds:
1. Cash bond. An amount of money that must be posted (in US currency) to get someone out of jail.
2. Secured bond. A monetary bond that can be posted using cash or some other type of collateral such as property, or by hiring a bonding company.
3. Un-secured bond. A monetary bond that does not have to be posted at all to be released from jail. However, if you fail to show up for court, that money comes due in full.
4. Promise to appear. Not really a bond at all, just a signed agreement to show up for court.
How do I go about posting a bond?A secured bond can be posted using cash that you bring to the magistrate. This is also the only way to post a cash bond. The court would then hold that money until the case is done, then return it to you in full.
Real property (land/real estate) can also be used to post a secured bond. However the land must typically be located within the county, must not have any sort of mortgage on it, and must be worth substantially more than the amount of the bond. To post a property bond you would need to contact a real estate attorney to execute a Deed of Trust on that property.
You may hire a bonding company to post a secured bond. They will charge you a fee--no more than 15% of the total bond--and then be responsible for the full bond. The fee may be negotiated, and the bondsman may require that you provide additional collateral for them to hold in addition to their fee. Once the case is over you will get any collateral back, but the fee is kept by the bondsman. If you don't show up for court, they will make efforts to find you and turn you back in, and they may require you to repay them for the full bond.
Un-secured bonds do not require you to pay any money or post any collateral. The same thing goes for a Written Promise to Appear.
What about a bond reduction?A bond can be changed at any time by a judge. It is quite common for a lawyer to arrange to have their client's bond reduced to make it easier to get out of jail. This can be done via an agreement with the prosecutor, or a hearing can be held to try to convince the judge to reduce the bond. The opposite is also true--the prosecutor can also ask the court to increase the bond, though this is fairly rare.
Before paying a bond or hiring a bondsman, it is generally best to talk to a lawyer about a bond reduction. If the bond amount is reduced, it will cost less to get someone out of jail. If you are going to hire a bondsman later, the fee you pay them will be much less because it is a percentage of the lowered bond. If a bond is $20,000, you might pay as much as $3000 for a bondsman. But if a lawyer gets it reduced to a $10,000 bond, you would only have to pay $1500 to get that same person out of jail.
In some cases a bond can also be changed from a cash bond or a secured bond to an unsecured bond. This is the best scenario, since it would no longer cost any money to get that defendant out of jail!
What if I don't show up for court?If you have a bond and don't go to court, that bond will be "called", meaning that the judge will order that it be forfeited. An order for your arrest is also likely. When a bond is forfeited, that means that you lose it. If it was a cash bond, the cash is turned over to the local school board. If property was used, it would become owned by the State. If you hired a bondsman, they will have to pay the full bond amount to the state unless they find you and turn you in first. If your bond was unsecured, you will now owe that money to the state.
Once a bond has been called, the judge will also put a new bond in place. Once you have been arrested and put back in jail you would have to post the new bond to get out, but you would typically have the same set of options for how to do it. However the new bond will likely be at least twice as high as the old one.
A lawyer can usually go back and fix a failure to appear, including any bond forfeiture. However the time to do this is limited. If a bond forfeiture isn't set aside within 150 days, it is final.