If a friend or loved one has been arrested, they may ask you to bail them out. This involves both monetary commitments and legal responsibilities.
You don’t have to accept this role if you’re unable or unwilling to take on the duties involved.
When someone is arrested, they may sometimes be released on their own with a summons to appear in court later. If they aren’t otherwise released, they are legally entitled to a bail hearing within 24 hours or as soon as a judge or justice of the peace is available. The hearing is held to determine if the accused should be released or held in detention pending trial.
At the hearing, one of three things can happen:
- Bail is denied;
- The accused is released on their own recognizance or;
- They are released to a surety.
That’s where you come in.
A “surety” is someone who posts bail for the accused. Being a surety means you’re promising to ensure that the person you’re bailing out will honour the conditions of their bail and show up for their eventual court date.
You cannot accept money to be a surety — this is a criminal offence.
Posting bail involves a financial commitment and acceptance of certain duties.
A surety doesn’t necessarily have to pay money, they have to pledge it as a sort of guarantee that they will carry out their responsibilities. You may have to pay a deposit.
When you come to court to act as a surety, you must provide some sort of financial statement, proof of income or evidence of assets to show you can cover bail.
The amount set can depend on the seriousness of the offence and the surety’s own wealth. If the surety is a millionaire, a $200 bail isn’t a compelling guarantee.
Aside from the monetary commitment, the surety also pledges to see that the accused abides by their bail conditions. These can vary, but will certainly include ensuring the accused attends all required court dates.
Other conditions could include: a ban on travel; a curfew; living in a specified place — possibly with you; or avoiding certain people or places.
At the hearing, a judge will analyze your suitability as a surety. You should be either a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident with no criminal record.
You may also have to answer questions about your ability to supervise the accused and enforce the bail conditions.
If bail is granted
You’re now responsible for ensuring the bail conditions are met until the eventual trial date.
If you find you can’t handle the job, you can revoke bail at any time. If you’re afraid you can’t effectively supervise the accused or that they may violate their bail conditions, you can apply to a judge to revoke bail. The accused then finds a new surety, or returns to custody.
You’re also responsible for reporting any violation of their bail conditions. If the accused breaches bail conditions, you should immediately notify police and instruct the court to revoke bail.
If the authorities learn that bail was breached and you didn’t report it, you may have to pay some or all of the money pledged when you bailed them out.
The court will schedule an estreatment hearing, where you can attempt to explain why you shouldn’t have to pay.
The surety can also face charges if the accused violates bail, whether you participated in the violation or simply failed to report it.
What is bail?
What is a surety?