Bail Bonds

By Erica Edwards, Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office

Leaving the installation for a night on the town can be a great way to end a strenuous
workweek for a service member. In a city like El Paso, there is a plethora of
opportunities for entertainment, fine dining and spirits. Unfortunately, a night out can
sometimes lead to lapses in judgment and trouble with law enforcement. If that trouble
ends in a night in jail, bond may be required before release. A bail bond is a security
given for the release of a criminal defendant or witness from legal custody (usually in
the form of money) to secure appearance on the day and time set by the court.

Bail bondsmen see a service member in the custody of law enforcement as a risk. A bail
bondsman is a professional agent for an insurance company who specializes in
providing bail bonds for people charged with crimes and awaiting trial in order to have
them released. By posting bail, the bail bondsman guarantees to the court that the
defendant will appear in court each time the judge requires them to. Since a service
member’s duty stations frequently change and job requirements take them to the field or
to other installations for training, there is no guarantee the service member will make it
to court appearances. Failure to appear, to inform the court of their whereabouts and
keeping open communication with a bondsman can lead to expensive court costs and
fees. Subsequently, this puts great financial strain on a bondsman who has put up a
percentage of the accused’s bond in exchange for the accused’s freedom.

Therefore, if a service member is fortunate enough to find a bondsman willing to post
bond for them, the bondsman will most likely ask for an amount above their usual fee.
The typical fee for a state bond in Texas is 10% of the full bail amount plus jail posting
fees. The typical fee for federal bonds are 15% plus collateral. For example, a state
offense, such as a DWI, with a $1,500 bond would normally require $150, plus fees, to
the bondsman. For an accused person deemed a risk, there would be an elevated price
and/or collateral, such as a vehicle title or home, depending on the severity of the

In addition, the accused would need to provide three verifiable references as well as a
person to cosign for them. This is much like cosigning for a vehicle or any other line of
credit and should not be taken lightly. The cosigner will also be required to supply three
verifiable references of their own. Any balances accrued by the accused with the court
or bondsman become the responsibility of the cosigner as well. This means being
applied to the accused as well as the cosigner’s credit. For these reasons, any Soldier
who is asked by a “buddy” to cosign for a bail bond should definitely think twice before
doing so, and it may very well be in that Soldier’s best interest not to cosign at all.

As a representative of the U.S. Army, a service member at any rank bears the
responsibility of being an example to the community. When faced with civilian criminal
legal issues, the profession of being a Soldier is deemed a risk for those in the business
of assisting persons accused of crimes. Cosigning for someone to post bail is not an
easy decision for even the best of friends, since it is a great responsibility. It is best to
exercise caution in these matters, as well as when enjoying the nightlife in any duty
station. If you have questions about bail bonds and want to speak with an attorney,
contact the Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office at (915) 568-7141 or usarmy.bliss.hqdaotjag.
to make an appointment.