Obtaining Bail

Understanding the Process

magistrateswindowUnder Virginia Law, once you have been arrested a number of things are required to happen.

  • You will be taken to a police station or a jail facility and go through the “booking process.”
  • You may be searched again, fingerprinted, and photographed.
  • You may be asked a series of questions such a your name, address, date of birth, emergency contact information and about any health issues you might have the staff at the jail should be aware of.
  • Your personal property (rings, watches, cell phones, etc.) may be taken by the Sheriff’s Department staff to be catalogued and stored.

At this point in time, your full cooperation with the Sheriff’s Department staff is the smartest choice you can make. The last thing you want to do is start trouble inside the jail as it can lead to extending your stay, additional criminal charges and in extreme instances, physical injuries.

The men and women who work in the jail have a demanding job to perform, dealing with many people, many of whom are not in the ideal state of mind. Be patient, show them the respect they deserve and comply with their instructions at all times.

The Magistrate

In many instances, a citizen’s first contact with Virginia’s Judicial System comes through the office of the Magistrate.

A principal function of the magistrate is to provide an independent, unbiased review of complaints of criminal conduct brought to the office by law enforcement or the general public.

Magistrate duties include issuing various types of processes such as arrest warrants, summonses, bonds, search warrants, subpoenas, and certain civil warrants.

Magistrates also conduct bail hearings in instances in which an individual is arrested on a warrant charging him or her with a criminal offense.

Magistrates provide services on an around-the-clock basis, conducting hearings in person or through the use of video-conferencing systems.

Magistrates are not police officers nor are they in any way connected with law enforcement. Instead, magistrates are issuing officers who serve as a buffer between law enforcement and society.

Magistrates have the authority to;

  1. issue arrest warrants,
  2. issue search warrants,
  3. admit to bail or commit to jail,
  4. issue warrants and subpoenas,
  5. issue civil warrants,
  6. administer oaths and take acknowledgements,
  7. act as a conservator of the peace,
  8. accept prepayment for traffic and certain minor misdemeanor offenses,
  9. issue emergency custody orders,
  10. issue civil or criminal temporary mental detention orders,
  11. issue medical emergency temporary detention orders,
  12. issue emergency protective orders, and
  13. issue out of service orders. (For commercial drivers)

Deciding Bail

There are certain minor offenses for which the Magistrate can set bail. If the offense falls into certain categories or for example, a firearm was used in the commission of a crime, the Magistrate will be required to refer the matter to a court for a “Bond Hearing.”

In either case if a Magistrate or a court sets bail, this is a means used to ensure that the accused appears before the court on the appropriate date to answer the charges made against them.

The types of bonds issued are;

  • Personal Recognizance
  • Cash Bonds
  • Pledge of Property Bond (if allowed)
  • A Bail Bond issued by a licensed Bail Bondsman

The Magistrate or the Judge can set the amount of the bail at their discretion. The Magistrate or the Judge will take into account such factors as;

  • Nature of the charges being sought
  • Defendants prior arrest record,
  • Level of cooperation with jail staff/arresting officers,
  • Defendants standing in the community,
  • Employment status,
  • Length of time defendant has lived in the community,

A professional bail bondsman is an individual whose business is to pledge his or her own property or security to guarantee the bail bond to the court.

If the Magistrate or the Presiding Judge of the bond hearing determines that the offense is such that bail is not warranted in this case, determines that there is reason to believe that the defendant might be a “flight risk” or the safety of the public might be compromised by granting the defendant bond, the defendant will be remanded to the Sheriff’s Department and will remain in custody until the trial.

Using a Professional Bond Agent

onphoneWhen considering using the services of a Professional Bond Agent, there are several factors to consider;

Those involved in this process are entering into a legally binding contract between the defendant, the party signing for the bond, the Bond Agent and the courts.

The “10%” of the bond paid in order to be released from custody is a fee paid to a bond agent for the Bond Agents assurance to the court (either by his/her property or assets) that you will remain free provided the defendant will comply with all restrictions placed upon them by the Magistrate as well as the court. It also provides some measure of assurance to the court that the defendant will appear before the court at the appropriate dates and time.

These restrictions might include but are not limited to:

  • Refraining from the use of drugs or alcohol,
  • No contact of any kind with another aggrieved party involved in defendants case,
  • No other arrests for any other charges,
  • Limits placed upon your travel, confining you to remain within the Commonwealth of Virginia until your case is decided or,
  • Banning the defendant from visiting any location the Magistrate or the court might deem to be problematic.
  • Any other restrictions the Magistrate or the court sees fit to impose to assure safety, peace and public order.

The “bonding fee” is payment for services rendered to the defendant and the defendants Indemnitor by the Bonding Agent and all parties must be in agreement to the terms.
However, once paid, the money paid to the Bond Agent is spent-refunds are not available. The defendant or the Indemnitor will not receive a refund of these funds regardless if you are out of jail minutes, days, weeks or months and regardless of the ultimate outcome of the case.

The service rendered by the Professional Bond Agent allows the defendant to earn a living, spend time with their family and better assist their legal council with their own defense.

The defendants bond can be revoked by the court for cause, but the defendants bond can also be revoked by the Indemnitor at any time for any reason.

It is also important to point out that should the defendant not appear for trial and the court rules the bond money posted is forfeited, the Indemnitor will be held financially responsible to the Bond Agent or Bond Agency for the entire amount of the bond. With this in mind, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of giving serious thought to signing for or becoming the Indemnitor for a bail bond.

Jumping Bond

Sometimes the defendant simply misses a court date and a warrant is issued by the presiding judge for the immediate arrest and detainment of the defendant.

In these instances, its always better for the defendant to turn themselves in and hopefully, the Magistrate or the Judge might give them another chance.

In other cases however, the defendant has decided that they will not comply with the orders of the court nor do they have any intention of appearing to answer charges.

It is in these cases when the Indemnitor could be held civilly liable for the full amount of the bond owed to the Professional Bond Agent should the court determine that the bond posted on behalf of the defendant is to be forfeited to the court.

With the Bond Agent facing the prospect of losing thousands of dollars in forfeited bond and the Indemnitor facing the possibility of civil action taken against them by the Bond Agent to recover these funds, the first priority in everyone’s mind becomes finding the defendant and getting them back into custody as quickly as possible.

This is where the services of a “Bond Recovery Agent” might be employed-commonly referred to as “Bounty Hunters.”

Bounty hunting is no longer the job we have been exposed to on television or in the movies. It is a highly regulated industry that must operate in accordance with various state laws and regulations.

Much of the bounty hunters time is spent making phone calls and using the Internet to located wanted persons who do not wish to be found.

The expenses of the bounty hunter may be paid by the Indemnitor, the Bond Agent or shared between the two parties as both have a vested interest in the capture of the fugitive.

It is important to understand that the services of a bounty hunter are generally used as a last resort when the Bond Agent and the Indemnitor have exhausted all other possibilities in their efforts to find the defendant.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Who can be the defendant’s Indemnitor?”

Any person can be a defendants Indemnitor provided they are;

  1. over the age of 21,
  2. currently employed or own a business,
  3. have a valid, government issued identification
  4. willing to assume financial responsibility if the defendant misses/refuses to appear before the court.

“If a defendant is granted bond by a Magistrate or a Judge, how much is it going to cost to get them released?”

It is a generally accepted practice for the Professional Bond Agent to charge a fee of 10% of the entire bond amount. For example, if the magistrate or the court sets a $5000.00 bond, then the percentage paid to the Professional Bond Agent is $500.00, however this can vary from case to case. Please e-mail or call Kevin Johnson at 757-737-5668 and let him help you with a payment arrangement that doesn’t break your budget.

“If I help someone get released from jail by becoming their Indemnitor (signing for the bail bond) and that person doesn’t show up for court, am I responsible for the bail bond and if so, how much?”

Yes, the Indemnitor (person signing for the bond) is financially responsible for payment of the full bond amount to the Professional Bond Agent if the person charged with the crime for which the bond was written does not show up for court.
In addition, the Indemnitor can be held responsible for any costs associated with recovering the accused and returning them to the custody of the authorities.
You are entering into a legally binding and enforceable civil agreement by signing the bond agent’s contract. Please read everything carefully, make sure you understand it and never sign a bond agreement for someone that you believe might betray the trust you have placed in them.

If I believe the person I have bonded out will not show up for court, can I have the bond revoked and the person charged returned to jail?

YES! If you are the Indemnitor for a defendant and have reason to believe that they will not appear before the court, are placing themselves or others at risk, engaging in illegal activity or violating the conditions of release set forth by the Magistrate and/or Court, you have the option to revoke the defendant’s bond which will require them to be taken back into custody until their trial.
However, there is usually a fee associated with bond revocation and other conditions that must be satisfied in order for a bond to be revoked. Please discuss these matters with the Professional Bond Agent before making your decision.

“If a defendant is found ‘not guilty’ or the charges against them are dropped, do I get the money I put up for the bond refunded?”


“If a defendant fails to appear for court, do you send a “Bounty Hunter” after them?”