In a recent blog, we discussed some of the most common words you might come across when you are in need of a bail bond. First, we gave you some quick definitions of what bail and bail bonds are, and what a bail bondsman does and how they can help. We also talked about how premium is different from the bail itself, and then let you know when a bounty hunter gets involved.

If you’ve never had to secure bail before, It’s not surprising if you aren’t familiar with many of these terms. Even if you’ve heard about them on television, the process isn’t explained or it’s misrepresented, and they never get into the nitty-gritty. So start by reading that first blog we mentioned, then come back and learn some other definitions of words you might hear when you’re at a bail bond agency.

The Accused / Defendant

This is the person who has been arrested. Charges have been brought against them, and while they wait for the court date they are trying to secure bail in order to get out of jail. Until the final court judgment, this person is referred to as the accused or the defendant, as they’re innocent until proven guilty.


The indemnitor is the person seeking bail for someone else. They are the one who is paying the premium and putting up any necessary collateral. Their primary responsibility to to ensure that the accused will show up for all court dates. If the accused does not, the indemnitor is not criminally responsible. However, they may be civilly responsible and are still subject to the conditions of the bail agreements, including forfeiture of any collateral.


Most people seek the help of a bail bond agency because they don’t have the full amount of bail. However, the bondsman is putting up the full amount, which means that they will often require collateral from the indemnitor in order to recoup that amount if the accused doesn’t show up in court and the court determines that the bail is forfeited.

Collateral can be nearly anything of value. Common examples include cars, jewelry, boats, computers or other electronics, firearms, art, or equity in a home. Depending on the circumstances, the collateral will need to be turned over to the bail bond agency, to be returned once the case is over.

Bail Agreements

The bail agreement is the written contract between the person seeking bail and the bail bond company. It is a legal document that details who the contract is between (the bond agency, the indemnitor, and the court). The basic agreement contains the name and contact information of the indemnitor, the name of the accused and the charges, the bail amount, and the dates and court location the accused is expected to be at. Financial agreements are also on included, such as the premium amount and any collateral required.

Bail Conditions

The bond agency is putting up a lot of money and wants to make sure that the person out on bail will show up in court on the trial date. To ensure this happens, there might be bail conditions included in the bail agreement we just mentioned above. One condition is pretty obvious: the accused must show up at all court proceedings. Other common inclusions include the accused attending court-mandated treatments, the agreement to remain employed, regular contact with the bail agent, and agreeing not to leave town (or telling the bondsman before you do).

Surety Bond

Not all surety bonds involve the legal process, but all jail bonds are surety bonds. A surety bond is essentially a bond among three parties, and for our purposes, that means the defendant, the court, and the bail agent. When you’re in need of a jail bond and seek the help of a bond agency, you’re seeking a surety bond.

Cash Bonds

Unlike a surety bond, a cash bond has only two parties: the indemnitor and the court itself. A bail bond agency is not involved. Cash bonds are great if you have money available, as you don’t have to pay the premium. However, most people choose to use a bondsman because they are unable to come up with such a large amount of cash in a short amount of time.

When the defendant’s case is over, the cash bond is returned to them (or the indemnitor), minus any fees the court might take. If the defendant skips bail and can’t be found, the full cash bond could be forfeited.

Released On Own Recognizance

There are typically two situations in which you won’t need bail. One is if the judge denies bail for some reason. The other is if the judge doesn’t deem bail necessary and releases a defendant ROR, or Released on own Recognizance.

Federal Bond

A federal bond is one that is needed for crimes that are considered interstate crimes. A federal judge will set the bond amount needed to get someone out jail.

Skipping Bail

Here’s a definition that you’re probably familiar with. Skipping bail means that the defendant has failed to show up in court. Most of the time the client is unable to be found, having left the jurisdiction of the court. A bench warrant will be issued for the defendant’s arrest, and they will most likely have to stay in jail until their next court appearance.

A defendant who misses a court due to illness or unavoidable circumstances is not considered to have skipped bail. While a bench warrant might still be issued if the judge hasn’t been made aware of the accused’s excuse, subsequent communication with the court can get a new court date set with few repercussions.

While there are other terms that might pop up during certain circumstances, that pretty much covers the most common terms you will hear at a bail bond agency. If you are confused about any or need additional information, it’s always a good idea to talk to a licensed bail bond agent. Give us a call with any questions you may have!