When you co-sign on a bail bond it means that you are voluntarily obligating yourself to take on the financial burden of the bond if the defendant does not appear in court or make the payments to the bail bonds company. Whomever you co-sign for will be released from jail on bond and can remain out until their trail date unless they violate the terms of the agreement. But what happens if the defendant doesn’t pay? Here’s what you need to know about the consequences for not paying the bond.
Who Can Co-Sign a Bond?
Before getting into the consequences, it’s important to know who is eligible to co-sign a bond. The person who signs the bail bond must be a citizen of the United States of America, and must have lived in their residence for a certain period of time. They must have a stable, secure place of employment, and good credit. Some states have additional requirements for co-signers, but your bail bondsman will explain this to you upon your meeting. Here are the responsibilities of a co-signer:
- You are responsible for the defendant—ensure they appear in court and meet the terms of their bail bond agreement.
- You take full financial responsibility if the defendant cannot pay the bond or fails to appear in court at their scheduled date.
- If the agreement requires collateral, you will need to use assets like your home, which will be returned once the case is over.
Things You Need to Know Before Co-Signing a Bond
Before you agree to co-sign a bond, there are some important things you should know:
- After you sign the agreement, the defendant will be released from jail.
- You now have the authority to make sure the defendant appears at all their scheduled court hearings and meets the requirements of their bail bond.
- Before co-signing, you can request stipulations such as a requirement that the defendant commit to a drug treatment program or take a mental health evaluation.
- Although the co-signer is responsible for the defendant, they have the power to cancel the bond and return the defendant to jail if they feel uncomfortable with their actions or catch them doing something that violates the bond agreement.
- If the defendant bears the risk of failure to appear or tries to flee, the co-signer can contact the bail bond company and notify them of the location of the defendant. The authorities will fine and pick up the defendant and return them to jail.
- Your co-signed account will appear on your credit report and can affect your score.
What Happens if the Defendant Doesn’t Pay?
If the defendant tries to run away and cannot be found to bring back to court within a certain amount of time, the co-signer will be responsible for what happens next. You will either need to pay the entire bond or surrender the collateral property that was pledged to the bail bonds company. However, you do have a window of opportunity: If you think the defendant is planning to avoid their court date, you can warn the bail bondsman and get your money or collateral back. This will notify the authorities that the defendant must be re-arrested and returned to jail.
Once you are responsible for the payments, your credit is on the line and missed or late payments will affect you. If the delayed payments alert debt collectors, they will contact you and can file a lawsuit against you for any unpaid parts. After this, they can go after your income from your place of employment. As you can see, there are many risks with being a co-signer, so make this decision wisely.
How to Reduce the Risk
The purpose of being a co-signer is to get your friend or relative out of jail. If you trust them to make amends by fixing their mistakes and showing up on their court date, co-signing is a great way to help them out of a difficult situation. The bonus of working with professional bail bond services is that you get a discount off the bail amount, which can save you a lot of money. However, there are risks involved, especially when the defendant is not reliable. Here’s how you can reduce the risk when applying to be a co-signer.
- Stay in touch with the defendant by calling them daily or making surprise visits.
- Occasionally call the defendant’s workplace to ensure they have been showing up and performing their responsibilities well.
- Maintain all your records and periodically ask for the defendant to verify the information.
- Make sure you read through everything and ask for clarification before you sign anything on the bond agreement.
- Don’t be a co-signer for someone you barely know, or whom you cannot trust. The greatest risk is making the mistake of helping out someone who could take advantage of your generosity and kindness.
How PCS Bail Bonds Can Help You
PCS Bail Bonds brings over 25 years of experience to our profession. We provide 24-hour bail bonds for charges including theft, embezzlement, drug possession, assault, and more. Our bond fees are 10% lower than our competitors, which helps our clients who have a difficult time coming up with the costs. Additionally, we can also help you set up collateral in place of money.
We have professional memberships in several renowned associations including the Professional Bondsmen of Texas, Tarrant County Bar Association, and Professional Bondsmen of Tarrant County. We serve clients in Fort Worth, Texas, and other municipalities in Tarrant County. We process our clients’ requests quickly and efficiently. Our bond agents are always on call and we can be down to the jail in under 30 minutes.