A police car with lights flashing.

Did you know...

  • Every 3 seconds in the United States, an arrest is made?

  • At least 4.9 million people are arrested and booked into jail each year?

You or someone you know could get arrested and charged with a crime in the United States, so it's important to familiarize yourself with the bail system.

It's always best to seek the advice of a law professional for legal proceedings. ⚠️

Arrested And Charged

If you're caught committing a crime or a law enforcement officer has evidence to suspect that you committed a crime, you could be arrested depending on the severity of the alleged offense. 

Following an arrest, a judge will set the conditions for your release from jail. The conditions can vary widely from state to state and even county to county in the United States. 

A man being put in jail by police officer.

What Is Bail?

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Bail is the money given to the court in exchange for your release from jail. It's an assurance that you'll return for your court date and trial proceedings. This money can be paid in the form of a cash bail or a surety bond from a bail bond agency.

Unfortunately in the United States, bail has become the most likely way to be released from jail, even though almost half of defendants required to pay bail cannot afford it.

Getting Out Of Jail

A person being released from a jail cell.

Your release from jail will be conditional based on one of the following:

  1. Release on citationlaw enforcement will issue you a citation (like a ticket) with a date to appear in court for your trial.

  2. Release on personal recognizanceyou don't have to pay bail and are expected to show up for your court date.

  3. Pay the bail amount set for youthe amount will vary from crime to crime and location to location.

If you're considered a flight risk (meaning you might skip your trial or leave the country) or a threat to others, you may be denied bail and will have to remain in jail until your trial.

The Bail Process

A series of $100 bills. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

If a bail amount is set for your release, you can pay that bail amount in cash. Sometimes the court will take checks or credit cards. 

Two other ways you can post bail:

  1. Bail bond: a type of surety bond from a bail bond agency.

  2. Property bond: you can sometimes use real estate property as insurance for your bail amount. The court would require 1.5-2 times the amount of the bail.

No matter what the conditions are for your release from jail, you'll be expected to appear at all required legal proceedings or court dates.


Michael is arrested and charged with a crime. As part of the booking process, the judge sets his bail at $1000 cash or a comparable property bond. What kind of property could Michael put forth to pay his bond?

Skipping Bail

As part of the condition for your release, you'll need to appear in court.

If you use a bail bond agency to secure your release and you don’t appear at your court date, you're considered to be “skipping bail” or “jumping bail” because the bail bond agency is now responsible for paying the entire bail amount. 

Picture of Duane Chapman, also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter Duane Chapman, aka Dog the Bounty Hunter, worked to find people who skipped their bail.

Take Action

A woman getting her mug shot taken.

Getting arrested isn't uncommon. As of 2015, the number of people with criminal records was nearly equal to the number with college degrees in the United States.

By completing the steps below, you'll be prepared if you or someone you care about is arrested.


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