Bail is the money or other security given to the court in exchange for releasing a defendant from jail and the defendant’s promise to come back for the next court date. Posting bail allows the defendant to go back to his or her normal life until the case is finished. The Judge decides the amount of bail. Bail may be denied in serious felony cases or where the defendant has two prior felony convictions. A defendant may also be released without bail (see Arraignments). Bail is returned after the case is over. If the defendant is convicted, a percentage of the money is not returned.

Many courts require bail to be paid in cash. Check with the Court Clerk to see if credit cards or other forms of payment are accepted and where to pay. If the defendant is in jail, bail is usually posted there. The Department of Corrections has information that will tell you how to post bail in New York City. If you are with the defendant when the defendant is in court, take cash with you and you may be able to post bail at the courthouse and take the defendant home. Keep your bail receipt! The person that posts the bail is called the surety.

If the defendant can’t post bail then he or she has to stay in jail until the next court date. A bail bondsperson can help with bail.

Bail Bondspersons

When people do not have enough money to post bail they can use a bail bondsperson. These people do not work for the court. A bail bondsperson sells a legal paper called a bond to give to the court instead of money. This bond guarantees that if the defendant doesn't come to court as ordered, the bondsperson will pay the amount of money on the bail bond to the court. The bondsperson may only charge you 10% of the value of the bond. The bondsperson may take security against your house or other assets. You can find a list of bail bondspersons here.

Getting Cash Bail Money Back

In most cases, bail is not given back until the case is over. There is a surcharge on all cash bail if the defendant is convicted. This means that the government keeps 3% of the amount of bail posted. If the case is dismissed or the defendant is found not guilty, you get all the bail money back. If the defendant fails to come back to court, the bail money will not be given back and a warrant is issued for the defendant. If this happens, it will be hard to get the money back. You can ask the court to give you back the bail money by filing a motion. This is called Bail Remission.

If the defendant went to all the court dates, and the case was in New York City, cash bail will be mailed in a check to the surety (the person who paid the bail), when the case is over. If you don’t get the money in the mail after 8 weeks, contact the NYC Department of Finance. If the case was outside New York City, the person who paid the cash bail and is named on the bail receipt must bring the bail receipt and photo ID to court to ask for the bail money. If you lost the bail receipt, you must submit a notarized statement explaining this. See sample City Court Lost Bail Receipt Affidavit. You can ask that the bail money be given to someone else by submitting a notarized affidavit. See sample City Court Affidavit for Assigning Bail.

Applying Bail to a Fine or Fee

If the case was outside New York City, and the court set a fine, a mandatory surcharge or a crime victim assistance fee in the case, the surety can ask that the cash bail money be applied to pay the fine or fee. To do this, the surety (the person who posted the bail) submits a notarized statement asking to apply the bail money to the fine or fee to the Court Clerk. You may be able to do this by mail. Ask the Court Clerk. Use the court locator box to find the phone number for the court. See City Court sample Apply Bail to Fine Affidavit.

In New York City, you can’t ask to deduct the fine or fee from the bail money.

YouTube DIY Forms Ask a Law Librarian