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The definitions below are Bail Bonds Basics 101 as defined by Randall Parker
*** Disclosure: The information below is for general information purposes only ***

The intention of the scenario which is  below the definitions is to take words used daily in the bail bond world and simplify their meaning through a story format which hopefully will answer questions that simple definitions won’t.

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Bail Company / Bail Agency

The legal business name filed with or approved by the California Department of Insurance, verify agency status

Bail Agent / Bail Bondsman

The licensed person working for the bail company/bail agency, verify

Bail Agent License

Issued by the California Department of Insurance, every bail agent must complete yearly requirements to be in compliance with maintaining their license, check online


When a person is arrested and accused of a crime they are taken to the local jail where they are processed / booked and a monetary dollar amount is set by the jail. This dollar amount is the full amount of money required to be deposited with the jail to get a defendant released from jail…this is called bail. Bail amounts differ from county to county and each court system set their own bail schedule in accordance with their locate court system.

Bail Bond

A two part document consists of a Appearance Face Sheet and a Power of Attorney document. Information provided from the defendant’s booking sheet is copied onto these two documents and endorsed by the bail agent. This completed document is the bail bond or “financial guarantee” that is deposited at the jail for the court. Once the jail supervisor accepts and approves the bail bond the defendant is release on bond to the custody of the bail company.

Bail Bond Premium

A non-refundable cost/fee charged by the bail company for supplying/pledging the full amount of the bail. The annual amount paid to the bail company for their service is usually 10% of the full amount of the bail they pledge. The 10% is customarily paid by the indemnitor to the bail company at the time the bail bond is written.

Indemnitor / Co-Signer

A bail bond guarantees one thing with the court:
1.) The defendant will appear in court EACH and EVERY time until ALL court appearances are complete!
The primary reason for co-signing for a bail bond is obligating one’s self to reimburse the bail bond company. The financial obligation is for the full amount of the bail bond pledged to the court in the event the defendant neglects to appear for all court appearances and the court keeps the bail bond money as the penalty for the defendant’s breaching contract. Before a bail bond is given for a defendant’s release, a bail bond application must be completed by the potential indemnitor. Based on established credit worthiness, the bail bond company can evaluate the likeliness of being reimbursed by the indemnitor legally entitled money due to a breach of contract.
Bail Bond Application, Bail Bond Contract and Bail Bond Collateral (if applicable) are completed and signed by the indemnitor, defendant and the bail bond company.
The indemnitor is off the hook for the bail bond amount when the defendant has made the final appearance required by the court or if the bail bond has been exonerated by the court prior to the final appearance. However, the liability of co-signing doesn’t end until after full payment (if applicable) of monies is made for premium balances, interest/penalties-or-other assessed costs.
All nonpublic information gathered pursuant to the bail bond application is strictly confidential and shall not be disclosed except as permitted by law.


Something of value the indemnitor has a financial interest (real estate, personal property, stocks, bonds, etc.) which might be required to be held or a lien placed against by the bail agency as “security” for the bail bond pledged to the court. If collateral was pledged to the bail bond company it will be returned per contract after the bail bond(s) is/are official exonerated by the court.

Not all bail bonds require collateral be taken as security and each bond is different based on a case by case situation. Here are a few factors to whether collateral might be required: the “high” dollar amount of the bail bond, the defendant’s prior conviction record, the likelihood the defendant will appear and resolve the case in court.

Bail Bond Forfeiture

When a bail bond is deposited for the release of a defendant from jail the financial guarantee by the bail bond company to the court is that the defendant will personally appear in court for each and every date until ALL court appearances are complete. If the defendant fails to appear on a scheduled court date the judge will place the bail bond in a forfeited status and issue a warrant for the defendants arrest for not appearing.

Soon thereafter, the court will send the bail company a Notice of Bail Forfeiture, advising the bail company of the no-show of the defendant in court. At this point the court has put the bail company on notice stating if the defendant doesn’t return to court with the required Re-assumption of Liability the court will not clear the warrant and the judge cannot “Reinstate” the bail. If the defendant doesn’t return to court timely, the court will demand full payment from the bail company as a penalty for the defendant’s non-compliance.

Bail Bond Reassumption of Liability

After a bail bond has been ordered to a forfeited status, a Reassumption of Liability is the legal documentation provided by the bail company. This document must be filed with the court and will give consent which allows the court to remove the bail bond from the forfeited status and re-use the original bail bond on behalf of the defendant.

Bail Bond Reinstatement

If the judge accepts from the defendant the reason as to why the court date was missed, the judge will order the bail bond forfeiture to be vacated and the bail bond reinstated to the original conditions that guarantees the appearance of the defendant.

Exoneration of Bail Bond

For bail bond purposes, the bail bond is exonerated by the court when the defendant has made the final appearance required by the court. Usually the case has been adjudicated and the court sends notice to the bail bond company when this has happened.


A call is made to my Bail Bond Company and a Bail Bond Agent professionally answers the telephone.  A mom is calling who just got off the telephone with her son who has been arrested and is currently held in jail. This is the first time mom has ever had to contact a Bail Bond Agent and mom knows nothing more than her son is in the local jail and she doesn’t know what to do. At this point, I do my thing….one of which is to gather as quick as possible Bail information to inform mom of what her son is being accused of and to explain the different options she has. After discussing the details of the Bail Bond option and what the process of bailing the son-Defendant requires, mom wants son out of jail as quick as possible. Mom wants to be there when son gets released from jail on our Bail Bond. Based off the telephone conversation with mom, the Bail Bond was prepared by the Bail Agent and submitted to the jail prior to mom arriving at the jail. When mom arrives at the jail, the Bail Agent introduces myself and explains what has happened up to that point. Mom completes the Bail Bond Application, signs the Bail Bond Contract as the Indemnitor and pays the Bail Bond Premium. (NO Bail Bond Collateral is required in this Scenario) Mom is now the Indemnitor on this Bail Bond and is given copies of the Bail Bond Contract, Bail Bond Premium receipt and receives the “official court date” of when the Defendant must appear. Mom and the Bail Bond Agent wait for the release of Defendant from jail. After the Defendant is released from jail he is in the custody of the Bail Bond Agent. After being interviewed by the Bail Bond Agent, the Defendant signs the Bail Bond Application and Bail Bond Contract, now knowing exactly what is expected of him as a Defendant and who is “on the hook” for him as the Indemnitor.

At this point, the Indemnitor assumes custody of the Defendant from the Bail Bond Agent and the three depart the jail.

-Some time passes when the Bail Bond Company receives in the mail a Notice of Bail Bond Forfeiture from the court.

As required per my policy, the Bail Bond Agent goes to the court clerk to investigate why the Bail Bond was placed in a forfeited status.  After collecting information and establishing it to be validate notice, the Bail Bond Agent notifies the Indemnitor and informs mom of the receipt of Notice of Bail Bond Forfeiture and explains what steps need to taken in order to stop the penalty-clock from running out. At this point, if nothing is done and the statutory penalty-clock runs out, the Bail Bond Company will loose the “financial deposit” filed at the court and mom being the Indemnitor and having signed for this debt will have to reimburse the Bail Bond Company the “full amount” for the loss. The easiest remedy is have mom work “mom” magic with the Defendant and convince him to contact the Bail Bond Agent to coordinate and schedule getting on the clear warrant calendar. The Bail Bond Agent must file the required Letter of Reassumption with the court clerk at the same time the Defendant schedules himself on the clear warrant calendar. The case will be calendared for the same morning that the request is made. At this hearing the Defendant will explain to the judge as to why the last hearing was missed. If the judge accepts the explanation, the judge will set aside the Notice of Bail Bond Forfeiture and sign the Letter of Reassumption, thereby, Reinstating the Bail Bond already on file. When the judge Reinstates the Bail Bond it does a couple of things. One, it clears the warrant previously issued for the arrest and it stops the penalty-clock from running against the Bail Bond. With the Bail Bond Reinstated, the Bail Bond Company once again is guaranteeing the court appearances of the Defendant, with the looming loss of money as the alternative.

-Some time passes when the Bail Bond Company receives in the mail the Notice of Exoneration of Bail Bond from the court. Usually, this will indicate the Defendant made the final appearance required by the court and the financial guarantee of the Bail Bond is released by the court. In this scenario, mom is officially off the hook as the Indemnitor, the Bail Bond Contract signed by mom is null and void and Bail Bond Collateral is returned.


In Sonoma County, the process used above in this scenario is actually how the court operates when dealing with Bail Bonds and the procedures to clear a warrant.

Be aware, each county will have a different process to Reinstate Bail Bonds in their court.