Bail Bonds

Bail Common Terms


Important Terms in Bail Transactions

Bail Agent

The bail agent is the person that interacts directly with a defendant or indemnitor to post bail. Bail agents do not work for the court, and any bail agents operating in New York must be licensed with the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Charitable Bail Organization

A charitable bail organization is a non-profit organization under New York law that can pay for a defendant’s bail in cash through a bail agent.


Collateral is something — cash, property, the deed to a home, or something else with value — that the indemnitor or defendant gives or “pledges” to a bail agent to keep while the defendant is out on bail. This may be in addition to any premium—or “fee”—paid. The collateral should be reasonable, such as 10% of the bond amount. If the defendant does not return to court or follow court orders and the bail bond is forfeited, the bail agent may keep the collateral.


Exoneration is when the court releases the insurer from its obligation on a bond. The court will provide exoneration paperwork, often called a “disposition,” which says that the bail was exonerated. This should be given to the bail agent, who must return collateral within 45 days.


Forfeiture is when the defendant misses a court date or violates a court order and the court orders that the bail bond must be paid.


The indemnitor, sometimes called the co-signer, is the person (or people) who pays the bail agent or pledges collateral. The indemnitor is often the defendant’s friend or family member.

Indemnity Agreement or Bail Agreement

This is the contract with the bail agent to provide bail.


The insurer is the company that works with the bail agent to issue the bond. All insurers doing bail bond business in New York must be licensed with the New York State Department of Financial Services. 


The principal is the person being held by a court and is otherwise known as the defendant or arrestee.


The premium is a fee charged for a bail bond. The maximum premium is set by law.


Surrender occurs when the bail agent returns the defendant to the court’s custody.