When you cosign to help your friend or family member out of jail, you're taking on a lot of responsibility. Media makes the situation seem easy, and cut-and-dry, but there's more to being the cosigner than just offering money or property on another's behalf.
You're On the Hook
You already know you're on the hook, but do you know the extent? Securing the bond is great for the person you're securing it for, but there's more. If the defendant doesn't show up at court then you will have to pay the full amount of the bail, or otherwise forfeit your collateral.
A lot of the times, you will have a window of opportunity to help the court and bond company find the defendant. If you can help find them and get them to court, then you will help both the defendant and yourself. But this brings up another of your major responsibilities.
You're the Caretaker
By cosigning, you're actually telling the court that you will take full responsibility for the defendant. You will make sure they show up at court. You will make sure that they show up to the offices of the bond company.
If the defendant attempts to dodge the court date or leave town, it's your duty to make sure they come back and turn themselves in. If you know the whereabouts of the defendant, it's on you to report it. If the defendant moves to a different address or changes any of their contact information, you must let the bond service know.
You Have the Power
Much of this sounds like you're a slave to the defendant, but you're not. You have the power to cancel the bond. The defendant will have to go back to jail, but you won't have to play the role of caretaker or have your assets on the hook.
You can also negotiate with the bond service. Remember that a bond agreement is a legal contract. As with any contract, you should take the time to read it through and ask questions about anything you don't understand. Yes, time is of the essence in many of these situations, but you need to consider your own situation as well.
- You can ask for a lower premium
- You can negotiate how to pay the fee
- You can discuss using collateral other than your home
Since the laws for bail bonds vary from state to state, you need to work with the bond service to figure out what will work best for you in your jurisdiction. Some things are set in stone in some states, such as the premium percentage, but don't automatically assume that's the case.
Speak clearly and honestly about your financial situation with the bail service. They might just help you if you help them to do so.
These things are all considerations that a cosigner has to deal with. It's never a good idea to go to a bail service and rush through the process. Even if you're looking for quick bail bonds, you need to take a moment to ascertain what you're getting into. (For more information, contact Chesterfield Bonding)