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Bond vs. Bail – What’s the Difference?

The terms bail and bond are often used interchangeably but incorrectly. Each term means a different thing and may cause confusion, especially when getting a loved one out of jail. If you or a loved one has been arrested, knowing the difference between bail vs. bond can make a difference. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to decide on the next step towards regaining your freedom.

What is Bail?

The first step in understanding bail vs bond and the difference between them is knowing what each term means. Bail is the amount of money set by a court or judge for a defendant to pay for their freedom. A defendant is any person who has been arrested and charged with a crime.

The bail amount set by the judge depends on many factors, including the severity of the charges against the defendant, the defendant’s criminal history, age, community ties, and whether or not the defendant is a flight risk. A person is considered a flight risk when they have a history or tendency of disappearing or skipping court dates after their release.

When bail is set, the defendant is required to pay the set amount directly to the court in exchange for their pre-trial freedom. In addition to the amount set, courts may also include other conditions like;

  • Not drinking
  • Not leaving town until the case has been concluded
  • Not contacting anyone or places involved in the case
  • Not doing drugs or engaging in illegal activities.

Defendants are expected to abide by the terms of their release until their case has been completed. Defendants who are rearrested while out on bail will have their initial bail revoked.

What is Bond?

Bond is money paid on behalf of a defendant by a bonding company. The main difference between bail and bond is who pays the money and how much is paid. For bail, the defendant is required to pay the total amount set by the court to secure their release. On the other hand, a bond is secured by a bondsman or bail bonds company. With bonds, a defendant only has to pay a fraction of their bail amount to the bonding company to secure their release from jail.

The Differences Between Bail vs. Bond

Get a clearer explanation of the differences between bail and bond.


Bail: Bail is the amount set by a court/judge and paid directly to the court as part of the terms of a defendant’s release from jail before the completion of their case. This amount has to be paid in full to the court to secure the defendant’s release.

Bond: This is a ‘secured’ guarantee made by a bonding company on behalf of the defendant. In this case, the defendant does not have to pay the full bail amount. The defendant, instead, pays a premium or charge to the bonding company, which then stands as a surety for their release.

Who Pays Fines or Fees?


The defendant or their loved ones pay the bail amount directly to the court


The bonding company stands as surety or pays the amount on behalf of the defendant.



Bail is refundable provided the defendant shows up on all court dates, isn’t re-arrested, and didn’t violate the terms of their release.


The charges or premium paid to the bonding company are non-refundable.



The penalty for skipping court dates, re-arrest, or contravening release conditions is forfeiture of bail amount and re-arrest.


The penalty for violating the terms of bail bond in North Carolina include re-arrest and forfeiture of collateral used to secure the bond.



The defendant or their loved ones bear the full cost of the bail amount.


The defendant or their loved ones pay a fraction of the bail amount, usually 10%, as fees to secure release from jail.

Do Bail Bondsmen Appear in Court?

Yes and no. Bail bondsmen do not usually appear in court as their job begins only when a defendant’s bail condition has been set. Bondsmen usually use an affidavit that shows they’re backing the defendant’s bail for their release. Affidavits are written statements sworn under oath. They are considered a legally binding promise indicating the bonding company as the defendant’s surety.

What Happens When Defendants on Bail Bond Run?

It is not uncommon for defendants on bail bonds to run to evade justice. In such cases, bail bond companies have the authority to either go after the defendant or hire bounty hunters to do the job. Depending on state laws, bail bondsmen or bounty hunters will re-arrest the defendant and return them to jail.

It is worth noting that defendants will lose their collateral for skipping court dates and trying to evade justice. Such defendants’ bail will be revoked, although they may apply for a fresh bail to secure another release.

What is a Signature Bond?

Signature bonds are sometimes allowed by the court system to secure a person’s release from jail. It is most common among people considered to be a low flight risk. This bond does not require money, however, the defendant must provide their signature and agree to show up on all court dates until the case has been resolved.

With signature bonds, the defendant isn’t expected to make any upfront payments to secure their release. However, a monetary fine/ penalty is attached to non-compliance with the release agreement. People may be considered a low flight risk when one or more of these conditions are met;

  • No money to leave town
  • Local family, business, or children
  • No established contacts in other states or countries
  • Has a house, job, or other obligation or ties to the community.


Which is Better? Bail vs Bond

Both bail and bond are good choices, depending on your financial capacity. Bail bonds help defendants unable to pay the full bail amount. It also helps defendants to save money on their release so they can put it towards hiring a lawyer and building a defense case.

At Apex Bail Bond, we offer bail bond services in Virginia and North Carolina also have a financing plan in place. With our financing plans, defendants can spread their bond obligation over time to make payment easier.

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