A local court official was asked to differentiate between cash and property bonds. Judge Sherri Blevins of Whitfield County Probate Court gave examples of how bonds work between the jail and her court.

“Let’s say you get arrested for driving without a license in Whitfield County,” she said. “The fine for that is $700. You’re taken to the jail. The jail will tell you the cash bond price is $700. If you or your family have $700 in cash, they can pay that money to the jail and they will release you on that cash bond.”

Blevins said the process then takes a step toward the court system.

“The jail will bring the ticket along with the cash bond to us (at Probate Court),” she said. “We put the money in our cash bond account and we will wait for your arraignment date, whatever day is on your ticket. Then you show up and plead guilty, we ask you do you want to forfeit your bond and use the money that you paid on a cash bond to pay your fine with, because it’s the same amount. The bond amount is the amount of the ticket.”

Blevins said forfeiture comes into play with a “failure to appear.

“Let’s assume you don’t show up,” she said. “Then we will forfeit that bond which means we collect that $700 that you posted at the jail. But let’s assume that you’re found not guilty of that charge. You get a refund, that $700 that you posted. So there’s some advantages to posting a cash bond because you can get a refund of your money in that case.”

She said a property bond works differently.

“You tell the jail, ‘I don’t have $700,’” she said. “You can post a surety bond, or a property bond. The bonding companies are called ‘sureties’ and they will say, ‘Your fine amount is $700, so you’re not paying cash up front so you have to post a property bond of $1,400 — it’s double the amount of the fine. And then they charge you a fee based on the bond amount, the $1,400. So they would take the $1,400 and multiply that by 13 percent (their commission) and would say, ‘OK, you or your family will have to pay us that amount of money (the 13 percent commission).’ Then they will sign your bond and they will stand good for your presence.”

The bonding company is given at least a 72-hour notice of the defendant’s required day of appearance in court. If a failure to appear occurs and “the courts have done what they’re supposed to do,” Blevins said, the bonding companies get notice of the failure to appear with 10 days. The prosecuting attorney will move to forfeit the bond and issue a bench warrant on the day of the failure to appear, she added.

“After that, the court must send the bonding company a letter within 10 days of the failure to appear (date),” she continued. “So the bonding company then gets notice their guy didn’t show up within 10 days, and that notice will also set what is called an execution hearing which is set for 120 to 150 days out ... and that gives the bonding company basically 120 days to go round up their person and bring them to court or bring them off their bond and go back to jail. That is really the difference between a cash bond and property bond.”

At the execution hearing, the bonding company appears.

“(They) can come in and (give) whatever excuse they have — ‘Well, this person was incarcerated in another jurisdiction at the time’ or ‘He was in the hospital at the time of his ... and is still in the hospital, and we can’t bring him because of medical issues.’ ‘He’s been deported,’ that’s another one, (and) they don’t have to produce him,” she explained.  “But let’s assume they don’t have any excuse. Then the court issues a ‘fi fa’ for the amount of the bond they can give to the sheriff and he can levy on the assets of the bonding company.”

Blevins said a family can also provide a property bond, but it is usually required by the court that there is enough equity in the house to cover the bond amount.

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