Bail is a legal mechanism that allows people who are accused of a crime to remain free pending trial. According to HowStuffWorks, bail takes many forms, but it usually requires that the accused, or another person acting as the accused's agent, post a sum of money as a guarantee that the defendant appears in court on the appointed date.
There are many different types of bail. Some, such as the citation bond, are simply an instruction to appear before the court. These are usually issued for minor offenses such as traffic misdemeanors. Personal recognizance bonds operate in a similar way, as the court releases the defendant who is willing to promise to return for trial. Other common forms of bail require cash deposits at amounts set by the court, according to HowStuffWorks. The money required to make bail is deposited with the court and held until the final disposition of the case is issued.
In the case of monetary bails, some defendants are able to pay the entire amount out of pocket, while others require the services of a bail bonds company. Most bail bonds companies charge a 10 percent deposit and typically ask for some kind of collateral to cover the remaining amount. If the defendant fails to appear in court on the designated date, the bail company must pay the total amount due, as the defendant is technically in the bond company's custody.