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If you are not familiar with or are new to the surety bail industry, much of the terminology and everyday language will sound foreign to you. The following terms, definitions and industry information may be of help to you. Of course, if you need further explanation, feel free to contact us.


Affidavit: A written statement given voluntarily under oath before a notary public or other official authorized to administer oaths.

Agency: A business location at which a licensed and appointed bail bond agent engages in any activity and employs individuals to engage in any legal activity under the license and appointment of bail bonds.

Arraignment: The first appearance of the criminal defendant before a judge to address the charges he/she has been accused of. The judge will set or deny bail at this stage.

Bail: Monetary or other form of security given to ensure the appearance of the defendant at every stage of the proceeding. Bail is a surety contract made up of three parties. The Obligee, The Obligor and The Surety (see definitions for explanation). The bail contract is also written for an indefinite term and also must remain in effect until the obligation is fulfilled. It cannot be cancelled in the same manner as an insurance policy. Surrender of the defendant, however, is one method of fulfilling the obligation and allows the surety to be relieved of liability.

Bail Bond: The document executed to secure the release of an individual in custody of the law.

Bail Bondsman: A limited surety agent or professional bondsman.

Bond: Customarily a written statement instrument in which one party (the principal, the defendant) agrees to perform some act for the benefit of a second party (the obligee), and a third party (the surety) agrees to pay the sum of money that has been fixed as the penalty if the principal (defendant) fails to perform.

Build-Up Fund: A fund that is held in trust for the limited surety agent by the surety company and into which a portion of all bond premiums are paid. This fund is normally used to indemnify the company from losses that might be caused by the agent.

Collateral: Something of monetary value to protect the surety from loss. If the defendant fails to appear in court and cannot be apprehended and returned to the custody of the court, the collateral could be sold and paid to the court to cover the amount of the bail. An example of collateral may include a home, land, buildings, vehicles, jewelry and cash.

Contract: A legally binding agreement between two or more persons.

Defendant: One who must defend himself in some action at law. In criminal proceedings, the accused. In criminal surety bonds, the principal.

Discharge: In reference to a surety bond, to fulfill the obligations of the bond. In bail bonds, the bond is said to be “discharged” when the case is disposed of.

Exoneration: To remove a burden or release from a duty.

Extradition: Extradition is the legal process by which a person who has committed a crime in one state and fled to another state may be returned to the state where the crime was committed.

Extradition Bond: Used by the defendant in extradition proceedings to gain his freedom in the arresting state while a decision is being reached on whether he will be handed over to the requesting state. Guarantees that he will surrender himself, if ordered to do so, to be returned to the requesting state.

Forfeit: To give up or surrender something as a penalty for having failed to comply with a legally recognized obligation.

Forfeiture: Failure of the defendant to appear at the time, date and place of required appearance shall result in forfeiture of the bond.

General Agent: An individual, partnership, association, or corporation appointed or employed by an insurer to supervise or manage the bail bond business written by limited surety agents licensed by the company.

Indemnitor: One who indemnifies the defendant. To secure against loss; to insure; to hold harmless.

Jump Bail: Leaving the jurisdiction or any other act by a defendant to avoid a court appearance after a bail bond has been posted.

Limited Surety Agent: An individual who is appointed by an insurer with power of attorney to execute or countersign bail bonds in connection with judicial proceeding, and who therefore receives or is promised money or other things of value.

Obligee: The party to whom some obligation is due. (The State)

Obligor: The party who owes the duty or debt; the principal. In bail, the defendant.

Premium: The sum paid to an insurer for providing insurance or a surety bond. – Professional Bondsman: Any person who pledges U.S. currency, U.S. postal money orders, cashier’s checks, or other property as security for bail bonds in judicial proceedings, and who therefore receives or is promised money or other things of value.

Surety: One who undertakes to pay money or to perform some act if the principal fails to pay or perform. (An insurer or surety company).

Temporary Bail Bond Agent: A person operating under a temporary license, under the supervision of a duly licensed and appointed bondsperson, managing general agent or authorized insurer.

Types of Bail Bonds:

Surety Bail Bond: This is executed by private surety bail and at no cost to the taxpayers. Licensed bail agents post bonds with the court, guaranteeing a defendant’s appearance in court. The defendant’s appearance at all court dates becomes the sole responsibility of the bail agent and is the most effective bail system. The bail agent is physically and financially responsible for the defendant at every step of the process.

Cash Bond: This is a governmental system where the defendant, or someone on his/her behalf, must pay the Court the full amount of the bail bond, in cash, to be released. The defendant and the co-signer, if any, must sign the bond that guarantees the defendant’s appearance at all future court appearances.

Own Recognizance Bond: This is a government funded type of release that releases defendants from jail based on their promise to appear at all court appearances. Commonly referred to as “ROR” or “OR” – Professional Bond: Is written by any person who pledges US currency, postal money orders, cashiers checks, or other personal property as security for bail bonds in judicial proceedings and who therefore receives or is promised money or other things of value.

Government Pre-Trial Release Bond: A government operated bail system that uses tax-payer dollars to fund its program. National studies show that government PTR is less efficient and effective at keeping track of defendants and has a higher failure to appear rate than private surety bail. This type of bond can also be more expensive than the one time bail bond amount. A defendant can be court ordered to pay for drug testing, GPS monitoring, walk-in visits and more, whereas a bail agent would provide these services.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a bail bond indemnitor?
A bail bond indemnitor is the co-signer for the bail bond. The indemnitor is responsible for seeing that all premium and costs are paid for a defendant’s bail bond.

Do I get my premium money back after the defendant goes to court?
No, the premium is the fee the bail agent charges for his/her services.

Do I get my collateral back after the defendant goes to court and the bond is exonerated?
By law if the defendant has successfully shown up for all court dates, both the Indemnitor and the Defendant are “off the bond,” and should receive all collateral back used to secure the bond past the premium. The premium money is not returned.

Key Facts

Founded in 1971

Licensed in all 50 states
and District of Columbia
(or DC)

Treasury Listed by the
United States to write
Federal Bonds

AM Best Rated A- (Excellent)

A Randall & Quilter Group Company

How Bail Works

Feel free to pass on this informative video guide to anyone to help explain how bail works.