What is bail?

Bail is money paid to the court to ensure that an arrested person who is released from jail will show up at all required court appearances.

Who can post bail for me?

You may post bail for yourself, have someone over 18 years old post it on your behalf or use a bondsman. Whoever posts bail for you assumes full responsibility for your appearance in court. If you fail to appear as required, a warrant will be issued for your immediate arrest and the bail will be forfeited.

How can I post bail?

Bail may be posted in the following manner:

  1. Cash Bail
    A percentage may be posted for cash bonds. All bonds that are set at two thousand, five hundred dollars ($2,500.) or less may be posted with a cash deposit of ten percent (10%). However, the person posting cash bail is liable for the full amount. If you appear for trial or the charges are disposed of before trial, the amount posted will be refunded. If you do not appear, all cash posted will be forfeited and the full amount of bail becomes due.
  2. Property Bail
    Property (e.g. land or home) in Maryland may be used to post bail, provided that the net equity in the property meets or exceeds the amount of bail. To determine net equity deduct any liens, mortgages or deeds of trust, and ground rent, capitalized at 6 percent, from the assessed value of the property.
    When posting property, you need to present tax bills, assessment notices, copies of a recorded deed or other public records. Each person whose name appears on the tax bill must sign the form, unless a power of attorney has been executed by one or both parties authorizing another signature.
  3. Intangible Assets
    Acceptable intangible assets include:
    a. Bankbooks and certificates of deposit accepted at 100 percent of stated value,
    b. Letters of credit from a bank,
    c. Certificates for stocks listed on the American or New York Stock Exchange, accepted at 75 percent of the present exchange quotation.

Only a clerk of the court may accept intangible assets; a commissioner may not. Present the required documents to a clerk at the court location where the case is pending.

Credit and Debit Cards
Bail may be charged on certain credit and debit cards. Although a commissioner or clerk accepts the card, an independent company processes the charge. The charge includes the amount of the bail and a service fee. (These charges will appear on your next credit or debit card statement.) The card and personal identification must be produced in person at the time of posting bail. (Contact a District Court commissioner or clerk for information on cards accepted and the fees charged.)

Professional Bail Bondsman
A bail bondsman charges a non refundable fee to post bail. In addition to the fee, the bondsman may require collateral security or property to secure your release. Collateral will be returned to the person who posted it after disposition of the charges. The service fee and collateral received must be displayed on the bail bond form. Make certain that the information is correct on the form, that you receive a receipt and that you understand the action the bondsman may take if you fail to meet your obligations.

For the telephone number of a bondsman consult the Yellow Pages under the “Bail Bonds.”

Do I need a lawyer?

You are not required to have a lawyer. However, a lawyer will offer you legal advice, help defend you and protect your interests before the court.

How do I get a lawyer?

If you wish to hire a lawyer but do not know one, or if you wish to defend yourself but want to consult with a lawyer, the Lawyer Referral Service of the local Bar Association can help. Check the Yellow Pages under Lawyer Referral Service.

If the offense is one that is punishable by imprisonment and you want to hire a lawyer but cannot afford one, the state may supply you with a lawyer free of charge, if you meet eligibility requirements. Contact the Office of the Public Defender at 877-430-5187.
If you do not meet eligibility requirements for a public defender, many organizations and law firms provide free or low cost legal services. Contact the Maryland State Bar Association or a local bar association for assistance.

When should I contact a lawyer?

Immediately! Your lawyer will need time to prepare your case for trial. If you have not hired your own lawyer or contacted the public defender by the time of your trial, the judge can make you go to trial without a lawyer. The public defender may refuse your case if you apply with less than 10 working days before trial.

What happens after I’m arrested?

After you are arrested, you will be taken before a District Court commissioner
who determines if probable cause exists to charge you. The commissioner

  • ensures that you understand the charges against you and the possible penalties,
  • advises you of your right to an attorney,
  • advises you of your responsibilities in obtaining an attorney,
  • decides whether you should be detained or released pending trial,
  • and determines whether bail should be set.

You should provide the commissioner with any information requested.

What court will hear my case?

The District Court hears most cases involving motor vehicle violations, criminal misdemeanors and certain felonies. The circuit court hears cases involving serious felony crimes.

Will I be tried by a jury?

A judge hears District Court cases and many circuit court cases. However, you may request a jury trial, if you face a charge punishable by imprisonment for more than 90 days. A written request for a jury trial should be filed fifteen (15) days before the scheduled trial date. If your case is set for trial in the circuit court, you will be asked whether you want a jury trial when you are arraigned in the court.

What is a preliminary hearing?

A preliminary hearing is a proceeding held in the District Court to determine if probable cause exists to charge you with a crime. You are not allowed to testify or to offer evidence at the hearing, but you have the right to hear the evidence against you and to cross examine the state’s witness.

If the court finds no probable cause, charges may be dismissed. (However, the state’s attorney may refile charges later.)

If you are charged with a felony or crime which must be tried in circuit court and you have not been indicted by the grand jury, you have a right to a preliminary hearing. You must request one within ten (10) days of your first appearance before the commissioner. If you waive your preliminary hearing, or if it is held and the court finds there is sufficient probable cause, the state’s attorney must file within thirty (30) days a charging document in the circuit court, enter a nol pros (unwilling to proceed) or stet (a stay of proceedings) in the District Court, or amend the charges so that they can be tried in the District Court.

Applicable Statutes

Annotated Code of Maryland (ACM) 10-101 et seq. Subtitle 3: Bail Bondsmen

Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 31.03.05

Maryland Rules, Criminal Causes Rule 4-217

Licensing Requirements

“Bail bondsman” means a surety agent who is appointed by an insurer to solicit, procure, negotiate, and effectuate bail bonds on behalf of that insurer. [COMAR]

Bail agents in Maryland must comply with the following for licensure:

  • Be appointed by an authorized insurer to act as the insurer’s agent in the placement of bail bonds; and [COMAR]
  • File with the Insurance Commissioner and the Chief Clerk of the District Court the general power of attorney executed on behalf of the surety [COMAR]
  • Be of good character and trustworthy, [ACM 10-104]
  • Be at least 18 years of age,
  • Have some knowledge of bail insurance,
  • For three years preceding application, have at least one year as an employee of a bail agent/insurer,
  • Pass the examination given by the Commissioner.

Under certain conditions the examination or experience requirement can be waived by the Commissioner.

The Commissioner shall require continuing education for agents to renew the certificate of qualification, but may not require them to receive more than 16 hours of continuing education per renewal period for those who have had a certificate for less than 25 consecutive years, or not more than 8 hours for those having the certificate for 25 or more consecutive years.

The regulatory body is the Maryland Insurance Administration.

Notice of Forfeiture

If a defendant fails to appear as required, the court shall order forfeiture of the bail bond and issuance of a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. The clerk shall promptly notify any surety on the defendant’s bond, and the State’s Attorney, of the forfeiture of the bond and the issuance of the warrant. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(i)]

Forfeiture to Judgment

If an order of forfeiture has not been stricken or satisfied within 90 days after the defendant’s failure to appear, or within 180 days if the time has been extended, the clerk shall forthwith:

  • Enter the order of forfeiture as a judgment in favor of the governmental entity that is entitled by statute to receive the forfeiture and against the defendant and surety, if any, for the amount of the penalty sum of the bail bond, with interest from the date of forfeiture and costs including any costs of recording, less any amount that may have been deposited as collateral security; and
  • Cause the judgment to be recorded and indexed among the civil judgment records of the circuit court of the county; and
  • Prepare, attest, and deliver or forward to any bail bond commissioner appointed pursuant to Rule 16-817, to the State’s Attorney, to the Chief Clerk of the District Court, and to the surety, if any, a true copy of the docket entries in the cause, showing the entry and recording of the judgment against the defendant and surety, if any.

Enforcement of the judgment shall be by the State’s Attorney in accordance with those provisions of the rules relating to the enforcement of judgments. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(i)4]

Defenses to Forfeiture

If the defendant or surety can show reasonable grounds for the defendant’s failure to appear. the court shall (A) strike out the forfeiture in whole or in part; and (B) set aside any judgment entered thereon. and (C) order the remission in whole or in part of the penalty sum paid pursuant to subsection (3) of this section. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(i)2]


Within 90 days from the date the defendant fails to appear, which time the court may extend to 180 days upon good cause shown, a surety shall satisfy any order of forfeiture, either by producing the defendant in court or by paying the penalty sum of the bond.

If the defendant is produced within such time by the State, the court shall require the surety to pay the expenses of the State in producing the defendant and shall treat the order of forfeiture satisfied with respect to the remainder of the penalty sum.

When the defendant is produced in court after the 90 or 180-day period (if extended), the surety may apply for the refund of any penalty sum paid in satisfaction of the forfeiture less any expenses permitted by law. If the penalty sum has not been paid, the court, on application of the surety and payment of any expenses permitted by law, shall strike the judgment against the surety entered as a result of the forfeiture.

If, within the 90 or 180-day period (if extended), the surety produces evidence and the court finds that the defendant is incarcerated in a penal institution outside this State and that the State’s Attorney is unwilling to issue a detainer and subsequently extradite the defendant, the court shall strike out the forfeiture and shall return the bond or collateral security to the surety.

If, after the expiration of the 90 or 180-day period (if extended), but within 10 years from the date the bond or collateral was posted, the surety produces evidence and the court finds that the defendant is incarcerated in a penal institution outside this State and that the State’s Attorney is unwilling to issue a detainer and subsequently extradite the defendant, the court shall (i) strike out the forfeiture; (ii) set aside any judgment thereon; and (iii) order the return of the forfeited bond or collateral or the remission of any penalty sum paid. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(i)3]

Bail Agent’s Arrest Authority

A surety on a bail bond who has custody of a defendant may procure the discharge of the bail bond at any time before forfeiture by:

  • delivery of a copy of the bond and the amount of any premium or fee received for the bond to the court in which the charges are pending or to a commissioner in the county in which the charges are pending who shall thereupon issue an order committing the defendant to the custodian of the jail or detention center; and
  • delivery of the defendant and the commitment order to the custodian of the jail or detention center, who shall thereupon issue a receipt for the defendant to the surety.

Unless released on a new bond, the defendant shall be taken forthwith before a judge of the court in which the charges are pending.

  • On motion of the surety or any person who paid the premium or fee, and after notice and opportunity to be heard, the court may by order award to the surety an allowance for expenses in locating and surrendering the defendant, and refund the balance to the person who paid it. [MD Rules, Rule 4-217(h)]

Noteworthy Appellate Decisions

Pantazes v. State , 834 A.2d 975 ( Md. App., 2003).
The defendant was convicted of child abuse but failed to appear at his sentencing. At that time, the trial court “revoked” the defendant’s bail, but did not formally declare it forfeited. 264 days later, the court became aware that the bail was never officially forfeited and an administrative judge took corrective action and forfeited the bond, issuing formal notice to the bonding company. The bonding company moved to strike the forfeiture. The Court of Special Appeals declared that the delay did not prejudice the bondsman and he was still obligated to produce the defendant.

Wiegand v. State , 363 Md. 186 (2001).
Defendant was charged with possession of marijuana and released on a bond issued by the bond company. At the time of the undertaking, the defendant was required to stay in the state of Maryland . However, the court later modified the release conditions and allowed the defendant to return to California without notifying the bondsman. The defendant failed to appear in court and the court moved to forfeit the bond. The bondsman filed a petition to strike the bond forfeiture. The Circuit Court denied the petition. The bondsman appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which held that the bail bondsman was not entitled to be discharged from obligation of the bail bond when the court amended the pre-trial release conditions.

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  • Accept payment by all major credit cards over the phone
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  • Provide free bail advice and information
  • All our employees are educated and licensed by the Maryland Insurance Administration
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