Bail is designed to guarantee your appearance in court for a criminal charge, and is what allows you to get out of jail after you are arrested.

Unless charged with a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death, every person charged with a crime is entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure your presence at trial, or assure the integrity of the judicial process, you may be denied pretrial release. Bail is the type of pretrial release that involves using money to get out of jail.

When the court “sets bail”, it is requiring that a specific amount of money be deposited with the clerk of the court or sheriff to allow you out of jail[1].  This is also known as “setting bond”.  Most bonds are eligible to be posted by a bondsman. Typically, a bondsman will charge 10% of the total bond fee. For example, if the court sets a $5,000 cash or professional bond, you would have the option of either posting the full $5,000 in cash, which would be placed in the court registry, or you could pay a bondsman $500. In either case you would be bonded out of jail. Usually a member of the family must get the money, give the money to the clerk or sheriff and then show the receipt in order to get you released. Private bail bondspersons can be called from the jail[2].  Money paid to a bondsman will not be given back to you at the end of your case; it is considered the fee for the bondsman.  It is basically how the bondsman makes a living.  If you deposit a cash bond into the Court registry, that money, minus any court costs or fees (if you enter a plea or are found guilty), will be returned to you at the close of your case. If you fail to appear in court for your court dates, an arrest warrant will be issued and your bond will be forfeited.

[1] Chapter 903, Fla. Stat.

[2] Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.131