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Consumer rights

Because the court offers many variables based on the individual arrested, this summary of how bail works doesn't include everything that could happen.

When is a bail bond needed?

When someone is arrested on a criminal charge they may be held for trial, unless they furnish the required bail as ordered by the court. A bail bond includes any contract guaranteeing the attendance in court of anyone arrested or confined due to an actual or alleged violation of the law.

How do I bail a person out of jail?

There are 2 different sources of bail bonds:

  • If you have cash for the full bail amount, you can go directly to the court and pay the court clerk. In this case, the defendant gets all the money back if they appear as promised to the court hearings unless the court, at the time of setting the bond, states that part of the cash can be applied to legal financial obligations.
  • The most common option is to contact a bail bond agency. Bail bond agencies charge a fee for their services. Only a person holding a bail bond agent license issued by Washington State Department of Licensing may sell or negotiate a bail bond. You have a right to ask to see the agent's license. Your local telephone book may have bail bond agencies advertised. When shopping, be sure to look for bail bond agencies that have their license number and street address in their advertisements.

Depending on your relationship to the defendant, it's important to understand that you may be very worried and under stress because of the arrest. Take the time to fully understand the bail bond contract and know your rights. Understand what you're promising.

What does the bail agent do for the consumer?

  • Arrange for the defendant to be out of custody until his or her appearance in court until the matter is resolved.
  • Upon release from jail, provide the defendant the details of the bail bond transaction, etc. as required by the Department of Licensing regulations.
  • See that the defendant makes the required court appearances.
  • Assist in the location of the defendant should he or she fail to appear for a court date.
  • Appear before the court regarding the bail bond when necessary.
  • Hold any collateral in a trustworthy capacity as required by law, and return it within 5 business days after exoneration of the bond by the court.

What is involved in a bail bond?


Bonds cost a minimum of $50 plus other applicable bonding fees may be added. Bonds over $1,000 usually cost 10% of the bond. For example, if bail is set at $9,000, the premium would be $900 and other bonding fees may be added to the 10%. All costs must be disclosed up-front. If you pay with a credit card, you shouldn't be charged a fee for using a Visa or MasterCard. This is a rule set by the credit card company, not the Department of Licensing. The fees that you pay are called premiums and aren't refundable.


The person who pays for the bail bond premium or places collateral in trust with the bail bond agent is called the indemnitor. Depending upon the cost of the bail bond, you may be required to give the bail bond agent collateral in addition to the premium. Bail bond agency requirements will vary on collateral requirements. Your collateral can be in the form of cash, car, or property titles or other items of value. The bail bond agent will hold the collateral in trust until the bond is exonerated. Exonerated means that the person arrested, (the defendant), has appeared in court as required. Exoneration of the bond does not necessarily dismiss the charges against the defendant.

Bail agreement/contract

It's important to understand the bail agreement/contract before you agree to be the indemnitor. When a bail bond is issued, the defendant agrees to appear in court at the designated time and date. Part of your obligation as the indemnitor, as well as the defendant's obligation, is to keep the bail agent advised of any changes in the defendant's contact, address, or employment information until the bail bond has been exonerated.

What happens if the defendant fails to appear in court as required?

If the defendant fails to appear at the court appointment:

  • The bond amount becomes payable and is forfeited as a penalty. You as the indemnitor may lose your collateral in addition to reimbursement of reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by the bail agent caused by a breach of bail agreement. These would include travel expenses, guard fees, telephone calls, and associated costs necessary to have the person re-arrested for failing to appear in court. It's very important to read and fully understand the responsibilities set forth in the bond agreement, including forfeiture of the bond amount and reimbursement of associated costs. This is particularly true when title to real property has been provided as collateral. You may find yourself in a position where your car or home is taken from you.
  • The bail bond agency may use the services of bail enforcement agents who by law have the authority to enter your home or place of business without a search warrant in search of the fugitive (defendant).

Do I get to keep a copy of the bail agreement?

You are entitled to a copy of the signed agreement/contract. The bail bond agreement runs for the life of the case being bonded. The premium is normally paid when the agreement is signed and each anniversary of the bond. The premium isn't refundable, and is fully earned regardless of the outcome of the case.

How do I file a complaint?

If you have a complaint, please send us a completed Public Protection Services Complaint (English, Español, Русский, and more) with photocopies of original documents to:

Public Protection Services
Department of Licensing
PO Box 9649
Olympia, WA 98507-9649.

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