Trying To Decide If You Should Help A Friend With Their Surety Bail Bond? 4 Questions To Ask Before Agreeing
Helping someone through a difficult time is part of being a loving friend. But sometimes the act of helping a friend comes with potential risks that should never be ignored. A good example of this is when a friend is asking you to co-sign their surety bail bond so they will not have to remain in jail until their court date.
Agreeing to co-sign this type of contract comes with significant financial and legal responsibilities that should always be fully understood. If you have just been approached by a friend making this request, here are four important questions you must first consider to ensure that you are making a wise decision.
Do you know how a bond forfeiture will affect you?
A bail bond can be forfeited by the defendant for many reasons, including failure to appear in court as directed, being arrested for another crime, and failure to comply with direct provisions of the bail bond. When this happens, the co-signer who guaranteed the bond with their signature will become responsible for the entire bond amount, not just the small percentage they paid to take out the surety bond.
While the exact laws regarding bond forfeiture can vary between states and court systems, some provide a period of time in which the defendant can be located and turned into the court before charging the co-signer with the full bond amount. It is important that you do the research to learn how your particular court system deals with bond forfeiture before agreeing to co-sign the bond of a friend.
Can you trust your friend to act honorably?
In addition to having a good understanding of how the court will handle a bond forfeiture situation, you should also take some time to carefully consider your friendship and how your friend is likely to behave in this type of stressful situation. If they have abandoned you in the past, been untruthful, or acted dishonorably in any way, you must factor in the risk that they may not honor the bail bond agreement and ultimately leave you facing the legal and financial aftermath of their bad judgment.
Do you qualify to co-sign a bail bond?
A bail bond is actually a form of loan agreement, so it makes sense that a co-signer, sometimes known as an indemnitor, will need to be considered credit-worthy. This assures the bail bond agent and the court system that they will be able to collect the full bond amount from the co-signer, in the event that the defendant absconds and is not apprehended within the amount of time the court allows for their retrieval in such instances. In most cases, you will need to be employed or have a stable income and reside in the area to be able to sign a bail bond.
In some cases, co-signers who lack creditworthiness may be asked to post some type of valuable as collateral. Like the amount of the bond, any collateral that is posted is also subject to forfeiture should the defendant fail to perform as agreed in the bail bond agreement.
Would you be willing to revoke your friend's bail bond, if needed?
Although the financial and legal responsibilities of a bail bond co-signer are significant, it is important to understand that you do retain some control over the situation. In fact, many bail bond agreements give co-signers the right to revoke the bond agreement, should the defendant indicate they will not meet their obligations. Once the co-signer formally revokes the bond, the defendant will be taken back into custody and held until they can either make a new bond agreement or work through the court system to be released.
If you have been asked to co-sign a bail bond for a friend, your first action should always be to contact a bail bond service and discuss your concerns before making a final decision.