Considering Co-Signing on a Bail Bond? Understand Your Responsibilities First

Posted on: 13 April 2017


It's the middle of the night and you're awoken by a frantic phone call from a friend or family member. The individual has been arrested, and they need you to co-sign on their bail bond before they can be released. In many states, the court will allow your friend or family member to hire a bail bondsman. The co-signer will pay a premium to the bondsman, and the bondsman in turn guarantees the remainder of the bond.

If you are being asked to co-sign a bond,here is more about this topic to keep in mind before making any final decisions:

The Role of a Co-Signer

When your friend or family member is allowed bail, but the amount is too large for them or you to cover, this is where a bondsman is contacted. The bondsman is paid a premium by the defendant or co-signer. The bondsman then goes to the court to free the defendant, with the promise that if the defendant doesn't meet all their legal obligations, the bondsman will cover the remaining bail amount.

According to About Bail, the premium you must pay the bondsman varies by state. For example, in Alabama, the co-signer must pay 10 percent of the bail amount. In Missouri, there is no maximum amount set, and the premium is determined by the Missouri Department of Insurance.

The Responsibilities of a Co-Signer

Once you sign on the dotted line, you take on several responsibilities as the co-signer, or indemnitor. In addition to paying a premium, the co-signer must put up some sort of collateral, which will cover the costs of the remaining bail, if the defendant doesn't show up to court. Depending on the circumstances of the bond, this collateral could be any of the following:

  • cash
  • jewelry
  • real estate
  • vehicle title
  • electronics
  • art and antiques of value

In addition to putting up the collateral and paying the premium to the bondsman, you are also responsible for ensuring that the defendant appears at every court hearing, and complies to all the other stipulations put forward by the court.

If the defendant misses the court date on accident, there may be some leniency, especially if the crime wasn't serious or they are a first-time offender. However, if the defendant intentionally misses a court appearance, then your bondsman must repair the remainder of the bail. Any collateral that you provided to secure the bond will then be seized, which could leave you in a serious financial situation.

In many states, the bondsman and co-signer have a set amount of time, such as a few weeks or months, to find the defendant and bring them to court.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Before you agree to co-sign a bond, it is important to understand your responsibilities, and that there are ways you can protect yourself. In many states, as the indemnitor, you can ask for certain conditions before agreeing to co-sign the bond. For example, you can stipulate the defendant receives a psychiatric evaluation, is medicated or completes a drug rehabilitation program. In addition, it is important to stay in constant contact with the defendant, especially on days they are expected to appear before a judge.

If you need to, drive the accused to their court dates and make sure they comply to any orders set forth by the court.

Taking on the role of bond co-signer is a huge responsibility, both personally and financially. Before you sign on the dotted line, it is critical to learn about the bail bond laws in your state, your responsibilities as the co-signer and take any necessary steps to protect yourself.