Whether it's in the middle of the afternoon or the middle of the night, the call comes when you least expect it—someone you love has been arrested, and they're asking you to get them out. But you don't have the money. What should you do next? Calling a bail bondsman should be your first step. A bail bondsman's job is to help people who can't afford to pay a large bail amount themselves. However, you'll still have to pay something—typically, you pay a bail bondsman a percentage of the bail amount, which they keep even after the court refunds them for the full amount they put up. But what happens if you don't have any money? Take a look at a few ways you can raise the money you need to bail a loved one out of jail.
If you have five minutes and an internet connection, you can start an online fundraiser to help you get the money that you need. There are any number of different fundraising platforms out there. You can use social media networks to boost your campaign. You can have donated funds sent to your bank account or to a digital payment platform like PayPal.
However, there are some drawbacks. For one thing, it's important to check the rules before you start your campaign. Some fundraising platforms may disallow fundraising for bail generally or for people charged with certain specific crimes. If a platform decides that your campaign has broken the rules, they may be able to shut down your fundraiser and refund all donations, sending you back to square one. The success of a fundraising campaign also depends on your social reach. If you have a high follower count—or can get someone who does to share your post—your request will be seen by more people and is more likely to be funded. If you have a small social media footprint and your campaign is seen mostly by friends and family, you may not be able to raise much more than you would have raised by just asking friends and family for a loan.
Find a Community Bail Fund
One thing that you can be sure of is that you're not the first person to find yourself in the position of trying to bail out a loved one without much money. This is such a problem that some activists working on bail reform have a goal of ending cash bail entirely. In the meantime, the same activists are working on ways to help people by establishing community bail funds.
A community bail fund is what it sounds like—a group of community members pool their money, which can then be used to bail out people in the community when they're arrested. You can check a community bail fund directory to find out if one or more community bail funds are operating in your area. Keep in mind that community bail funds have limited funds and also set their own requirements about who is eligible for assistance.
Negotiate A Payment Arrangement
If you can't raise the amount of money you need right away, you may be able to work out a payment plan with a bail bondsman. Each bail bondsman has their own rules and may also be restricted by the laws in your state. However, it's worth asking a local bail bondsman if they can work with you in order to get your loved one out of jail while you pay their fee over time.
You may need to show the bail bondsman proof of employment so that they can confirm that you do have money coming in and will be able to make payments. You may also need to put up collateral—some type of property that you own that you can use to guarantee the bail bondsman that they will get their money in the end. If you own a home, that can usually be used to secure bail for a loved one. Depending on the charge and the circumstances, other property, such as a car or boat, could be used as well.
When a loved one has to stay in jail, it tends to cost their family more in the long run. Lost wages and job opportunities, limited ability to assist in their own defense, and inability to meet family obligations are just some of the hardships faced by defendants who are unable to make bail. Generally, it's worth thinking outside the box and reaching out for help so that you can help your loved one make bail.