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What Exactly is "Bond" or "Bail"?

By Daniel T. Geherin

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about eliminating “cash bonds/bail” in Michigan.  Some progressive states, like California, have been working towards that stance in recent years.  Essentially, this movement stands for the idea that people should either be released on their promise to comply with court orders (with or without protective conditions) or be held in jail (on the most serious offenses).   Traditionally, judges and magistrates require some cash payment (called a “bond or a bail”) to help insure the person’s compliance with court orders (i.e., returning to court dates; not having contact with a protected person; not drinking alcohol or using controlled substances, etc.).  Proponents of eliminating cash bonds believe the system is both unnecessary and culturally biased, disproportionate, and unfair.   

Dan Geherin, owner of the Geherin Law Group PLLC (GLG Michigan), is an ex-prosecutor and is recognized as one of the best criminal attorneys in Ann Arbor. GLG Michigan handles hundreds of criminal defense cases each year.  In many of these cases, clients are arrested and Arraigned before they have an attorney.  And that’s when the questions begin:

 “What is a bond and how much will it be?”

“What if I don’t have money to pay a bond, will I remain in jail?”

“How do 10% bond arrangements work?”

“Can I use a bail bonds company?”

At Arraignment, the magistrate/judge will generally set one of the following:

One: A personal recognizance bond (called a “PR”).  There might be a monetary “backup” to these bonds ($500.00 PR bond, meaning no money is posted but it will cost at least $500 to get released on a violation or failure to appear), or they may be strictly a PR bond.  These can also have conditions attached, ranging from informal (i.e., inability to leave the State of Michigan) to very formal (i.e., daily alcohol/drug testing, tethers, stay-away orders, etc.).  Obviously, PR bonds are generally reserved for misdemeanors and lower-level felony offenses.

Two: A cash/surety bond requiring a payment for release.  This payment can be by currency (cash, certified checks and credit cards typically), or by surety---which is a payment by a bonds company “guaranteeing” the person’s return to court.  Bonds companies typically charge a percentage of the bond as their non-refundable fee, and also typically require the person or family to have adequate collateral in case the defendant skips bond.  Regardless, most of the bond payment is returned either to the defendant or bond company at the end of the case, minus a small court processing fee (often 10%).  Because there is no bond “schedule” in Michigan, it is difficult to accurately predict what a bond might be in a specific case.  That is why having an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in Washtenaw County is crucial to predicting a likely bond and preparing a client for that even before Arraignment. 

Three: A 10% cash/surety bond requiring a smaller payment for release.  Similar in every respect to a cash/surety bond, these simply allow the defendant or bonds company to pay 10% of the total bond set to trigger release. 

Four: An outright denial of bond precluding any release at all until the resolution of the criminal case.   Denial of bond in Michigan is limited to very few circumstances, typically Capital (life-maximum offenses) charges or following bond/bail/probation violations. 

Most bond decisions can be appealed to the next highest court and can often be reviewed for modification periodically by the judge who issued the bond.  Having an experienced, reputable, and dedicated defense attorney—especially one who appears before those judges on a daily basis and who has earned their respect—can drastically help lessen or change bonds that are too high or too restrictive.  In short: having the best criminal defense attorney in Ann Arbor can make the difference between sitting in jail for months and being out and working.

For any criminal case please contact Dan Geherin and his firm at GLG Michigan, the best criminal attorneys in Ann Arbor.  We’re available 24/7, and we will put our 23+years criminal justice experience to work in protecting your interests.  Schedule online at GLGMichigan, or call 24/7 (734) 263-2780.  

GLG Michigan:  Handling bond issues in criminal defense cases throughout Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and Southeastern Michigan.