Bail vs. Bond: What Is The Difference Between Bond and Bail?

You might hear the term bail or bond used interchangeably and incorrectly believe that they are the same thing. However, even though they are used in place of each other in everyday conversation, and they are quite similar, legally speaking they are different. It is important to understand the differences between them if ever you or someone you love lands in a situation that involves an arrest and court trial.

What Happens After an Arrest

Understanding the difference between these two items starts with understanding the situations in which they are warranted. If someone is arrested and taken into custody, they go through the regular steps of being fingerprinted and having their mugshot taken by the police. However, there is a great deal of time, sometimes days, weeks, months, or even years in between the initial arrest and the actual court date during which time someone who was charged with a crime may or may not be convicted of it.

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So what happens during this time? 

Bail Hearing

This is where bail or bonds come into play. It is up to a judge to determine whether a person is allowed to leave jail after their arrest or stay in jail until their court hearing. 

A bail hearing is when the court officer or judge weighs many factors like the risk of the defendant committing additional crimes if they are released or running away against things like their ties to the local community or a lack of criminal history.

If a judge decides that someone can leave jail and return on their own when it is time for their court date, they can post bail. The phrase post bail means that someone is being released from police custody until such time as they have to appear in court for their court hearing. They are effectively set free to go home or wherever else in agreement for promising to return.

There are some situations where a judge does not allow the person who was arrested that release opportunity. The terms of posting bail or getting a bond mean the person agrees to come back when it’s time for court however, some judges will decide that a person convicted of a crime is a flight risk. A flight risk means the individual is very likely to try and run away instead of coming back to court in which case the judge may not allow the defendant to leave jail. Instead, the defendant will remain in jail until their court hearing.

Is Bail and Bond the Same Thing?

Bail and bond are not the same things. Below is a quick reference for bond vs bail:


A bond is a pledge to make good on bail and in these situations, a third party agrees to be responsible for the money and the obligation of making sure the defendant appears in court. Any money paid for the services is not returned.

Four Types of Bonds

There are technically four types of bonds that are considered secured or unsecured.

  1. First is being released on your own recognizance and this simply means the court releases you under the auspices that you will return when it is time.
  2. Second is a cash bond or a payment made in cash also referred to as bail. Bail is a payment made to the court in cash.
  3. Third is a property bond. A property bond is when you offer the title to your own property as the form of insurance that guarantees you will return to court when you should. In the event that you don’t return to court or you don’t agree to the written agreement you signed with the courts, your property becomes forfeited to the government.
  4. Fourth is a surety bond and this is what is commonly referred to as “a bond”. This is when a third party agrees to the responsibility of your obligation and your debt.


Bail is a type of cash payment only that is paid by the defendant to the court and it gets returned at the end of trial assuming all requirements have been fulfilled by the defendant.

The Difference Between Bail and Bond

Posting Bail

Being released on bail refers to an actual agreement. The veil itself is an agreement between the person who is accused of committing a crime and the government. if the person is released on bail they sign a written agreement to return to court until such time as their case is finished. They also have to adhere to whatever terms are set out in that written agreement. This is quite common for things like a first offense. For bail, the judge determines the amount of money that has to be paid.

This set fee has to be paid to the courts as a form of insurance. It has to be paid in cash. Assuming the accused returns for all of their court dates and they do everything they are supposed to in the written agreement, and they are released from any charges at the end, that cash payment gets returned when everything is over. The eighth amendment states this bail cannot be exceeded in its amount, that it is not a requirement but rather a potential opportunity, and that no cruel or unusual punishments shall be inflicted on anyone who has been arrested. 

Getting a Bond

Just the same as one can post bail one can bond out of jail. A bond is a situation where you cannot pay the amount for bail on your own until you need some type of cosigner. There are many situations where you can be bonded out of jail by hiring someone else to cover the cost of your release or having someone else pay it. A Bonding Company uses things like a bail bondsman to co-sign and legally agree to pay your bail if you do not appear in court. In these situations, the companies pay the money but they are also responsible for getting you to court. This money is non-refundable.

A bond is not in and of itself money. A bond is just a legal document that a bail bondsman sends to the court in exchange for promising that the defendant will show up when it’s time for their court date. In the event that the defendant does not show up for court, the bail bondsman or bond company has to make a payment to the court in full.

Contact an Attorney

In order to learn more about bond vs bail, consider reaching out to a qualified attorney. Whether you are in need of assistance when it comes to posting bail or you are looking into a personal bond, you are likely to have questions and an attorney can help you determine which situation is best and work on your behalf in situations where what you are looking for hasn’t been provided by the court.


In the event you are taken into police custody and offered the opportunity to post bail in between your initial arrest and upcoming court dates, being able to pay the bail yourself in cash would represent posting bail. However, if you find yourself unable to pay the bail in cash, there are still legal options to help get you out of jail until your upcoming court hearing, specifically through a bond. If you have more questions consider reaching out to a qualified attorney.

Article by Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Legal Writer at Lawrina. Yevheniia browses through the most interesting and relevant news in the legal and legaltech world and collects them on Lawrina’s blog. Also, Yevheniia composes various how-to guides on legaltech, plus writes product articles and release notes for Loio, AI-powered contract review and drafting software.

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