Information About Bail
What is bail and how does it work?
When a defendant (the “principal” or “arrestee”) is held before trial, the court may release them under conditions known as “bail.” Bail usually includes a payment to the court, which is typically given back at the end of the case if the defendant follows court orders. If the defendant (or their friends or family can’t afford the full payment, they can use what is known as a “bail bond.” There are several types of ba)il bonds, such as insurance company bonds, where a defendant’s friends or family sign a contract with a licensed bail agent who will pay for them. These contracts are usually called “indemnity agreements” or “bail agreements,” and the friends or family that sign them are called “indemnitors.”
Bail agents will charge a fee, or “premium,” for the bond, and may also ask for collateral, something valuable that the bail agent keeps while the defendant is out on bail to make sure the defendant follows court orders. The maximum premium is set by law and is generally non-refundable. Collateral should be reasonable, such as 10% of the bond value. Once the bail agreement is finalized, the bail bond is sent to the court for approval and the defendant is released.
Know Your Rights
You have the right to receive the following information in writing:
- the bail agent’s full legal name (including the name of any sublicensee), contact Information, and New York State Department of Financial Services license number.
- the insurer’s full legal name, contact Information, and National Association of Insurance Commissioners number.
- if applicable, the charitable bail organization’s full legal name, contact information, and New York State Department of Financial Services certificate number.
- the nature and amount of the premium and collateral required for a bail bond.
- any and all restrictions placed on the defendant as a condition of the bail.
- any circumstance under which the bail agent would surrender the defendant other than forfeiture, (when the defendant doesn’t return to court) or exoneration (when the court releases the bond).
You also have the right to:
- your own copy of any document or contract that you sign and all other documents and paperwork relating to the terms and conditions of the bail at the time of signing.
- detailed and signed receipts listing all premiums and collateral, one when you pay the bail agent and give them collateral and a second when the bail agent returns any money or collateral to you.
- have the defendant be released promptly once the bail agreement is signed.
- have the full amount of the premium refunded within 14 days of the bail agent receiving notice if the defendant is not released from custody, or if the defendant is released on recognizance or without any monetary bail requirement. (If there is more than one indemnitor, each indemnitor will be refunded the amount they paid.)
- get your full pledged collateral back, unless there is a forfeiture.
- have your collateral returned promptly when there is an exoneration.
- pay only the premium allowed by law — you cannot be asked to more than the legal premium.
- to file a complaint against a bail agent, insurer, or charitable bail organization with the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Licensed Bail Agents
The DFS licenses and oversees bail agents and insurance companies. Our licensees must follow the Insurance Law and regulations and guidance under the Insurance Law. Amended regulations regarding bail agents and bonds will take effect on March 19, 2020.
The following bail agents are currently licensed in New York: