What is an Appearance Bond?

close-up of a judge holding a gavel

Understanding Appearance Bonds

Most of us have an idea of what a bail bond or security bond is, but what is an appearance bond? What does appearance bond mean? This may be referred to as an unsecured appearance bond and is essentially a written agreement between the defendant and the court that they will appear for their assigned court date once after being released from custody. 

Do you have to pay for an appearance bond?

No, in most cases, there is no money or collateral required. A basic and official written agreement is the difference between the more commonly known and used bail bond and an appearance bond.  

So, how is an appearance bond secure if no money is required? 

The term “personal recognizance bond” may be used instead of an appearance bond. This no-cost bail may be granted by a judge when the arrest stems from a minor crime. There are factors considered by the judge before this type of appearance bond is granted. The factors considered are: 

  • The specific charges
  • Any prior criminal record
  • If the defendant is considered a danger to the public
  • Defendant’s employment status
  • And other factors may be used

Appearance bonds are issued by judges for first-time offenders for very minor crimes and if the jails are overcrowded. The written agreement that the defendant is required to sign for their appearance bond states they will appear before the courts on the assigned date and time. It also states there will be consequences if they do not appear as stated in their appearance bond. 

What happens if I miss my court date?

The failure of a defendant to appear before the courts on the date required will result in an arrest warrant being issued by the judge. Law enforcement will be advised to apprehend and bring the person to jail. The defendant will remain in jail until their new court date. 

They will be required to pay for the appearance bond in the amount of a standard bail bond. They will be required to pay additional court fees and fines and will have another trial for skipping bail on the appearance bond. 

What are the risks of an Appearance bond?

If the defendant does not meet the requirements of their appearance bond, the judge may revoke it, resulting in the defendant being arrested and required to remain in custody. They will then be faced with the charges of the original arrest and additional charges for failing to appear before the court on their appearance bond.

Do you have to have payment upfront for an appearance bond?

In most cases, no, there is no money required by the courts when the judge approves the defendant being released on an appearance bond. Depending on the factors listed above, the judge may require some amount to be paid to the court upon being released on an appearance bond. 

What crimes can you use an appearance bail for?

Appearance bonds may be issued by a judge for a misdemeanor crime arrest. Some examples of what may be considered a minor crime are: 

  • Minor drug offenses like possession
  • DUI or DWI
  • Petty theft such as shoplifting
  • Simple assault or simple battery
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism
  • Minor sex crimes, like indecent exposure or solicitation
  • Resisting arrest
  • Cybercrimes like bullying or stalking

Are there reasons you cannot use appearance bail?

A judge will deny an appearance bond if the defendant has a criminal history, including jumping bail on previous arrests, or if the crime accused is of a severe nature. Those crimes would include armed robbery, murder, domestic violence, and violence against a child or the elderly. It is up to the arraignment judge if the arrest is considered viable for an appearance bond, a surety bond, or no bond.

Will you go to jail if you don’t pay back your appearance bail?

Absolutely! If you fail to appear in court on the assigned date, your appearance bond will be revoked, you’ll be arrested and will remain behind bars until your court date. You’ll also be facing a charge for skipping the appearance bond, which can be punished by additional time behind bars along with additional court fees and fines. 

judge writing a document

In Conclusion

In order to be granted an appearance bond, having representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney is recommended. And will a judge consider an appearance bond in the normal procedures? It can happen, though it is rare. This is usually a request of the accused and presented by their legal defense. 

A person arrested and requesting an appearance bond will need to have a clean criminal record and prove to be a worthy member of society, i.e. valid employment, and the arrest must be for a minor infraction as we’ve mentioned. An appearance bone is supporting the old saying, “A man is as good as his word.”