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An order of a court in a criminal case allowing an accused defendant to be freed pending trial if he/she posts bail (deposits either cash or a bond) in an amount set by the court. theoretically the posting of bail is intended to guarantee the appearance of the defendant in court when required. in minor routine cases (e.g. petty theft or drunk driving) a judge automatically sets bail based on a rate schedule which can be obtained and put up quickly. otherwise bail is set at the first court appearance (arraignment). although the u.s. constitution guarantees the right to bail, in extreme cases (murder, treason, mayhem) the court is not required to admit a prisoner to bail of any amount due to the likelihood of the defendent fleeing the area, or causing further harm. bail bondsmen are usually readily available near larger courthouses and jails, charge ten percent of the amount of the court-required bond, and often demand collateral for the amount posted. if the defendant fails to show up in court or flees (“jumps bail”), the defendant may have to give up his/her deposit (bail). when the case is concluded, the bail is “exonerated” (released) and returned to the bail bond company or to whoever put up the cash. if a bail bondsman has good reason to believe his client is attempting to flee he may bring him/her in to jail, revoke the bond, and surrender the client.

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