Where Did Bail Bonds Come From?

Bail Bonds

The bail bonds process is an essential part of our American legal process. The process allows individuals to live their lives until they are brought to trial; it gives them a taste of freedom while preparing for their defense. Bail has a fascinating history — and how it has been applied often says a little bit about the relationship between the legal system and those accused of a crime. Bail’s origins are quite ancient, but the concept has been familiar throughout history.

Origins of Bail

There’s always been a significant relationship between money and the ability to stay out of jail. While one can take a closer look at the number of ancient civilizations which allowed accused criminals to pay their own way out of a crime, it’s best to look at bail’s origins in Egland as the start of the modern-day process.

The earliest examples of any bail date to the 13th century, when sheriffs had the right to either hold a criminal or let them go. Sheriffs would often, as one might suspect, allow a potential criminal to make a payment to get free. This would eventually evolve into a formal system; by 1275, certain crimes could and couldn’t receive bail.

Bail Law in 1789

The very first official bail law in all of America was the Judiciary Act of 1789. While bail was practiced before this law was even passed, there had yet to be any legal pose taken on it by the American government. This Act officially established that all bails must be set for all crimes that were not currently punishable by death. This means that everyone not facing a serious crime, such as murder, will hav the opportunity to leave their jail cell and return home.

First Bondsman in America

The passing of the 1789 bail law didn’t mean that bail was an active industry in America yet. It took an entire century for the first bondsman to get established. The first bail bonds agent established himself right inside the state of California in 1898. It did not take long for people to realize how helpful this industry could be, so bondsmen and bail bond agencies were showing up all over the place.

Bail Reformation in 1966

While bail was still legally required for any crime that was not considered too severe, there weren’t any guidelines established by the federal government for what bail should look like until they passed the Bail Reform Act of 1966. The new law created the presumption of release, which meant that people accused of crimes would now be able to get released freely, rather than happening to be held unless they posted bail. Bail was established first with the idea that if people needed to pay the court, then they were less likely to flee their trial date. The passing of the 1966 laws made it so that an alleged criminal could freely leave under the assumption that they would choose to return by themselves without any incentive. It can be rebutted with proper evidence that the defendant would likely flee the court. According to the judge, the alleged criminal can still be out if the evidence is insufficient.

1984-Present: Modern Bail

The modern-day bail system came into existence after a new law, the Bail Reform Act of 1984. This law replaced the 1966 act, primarily because of concerns that too many violent criminals were able to receive bail for their horrendous crimes. This law helped change bail in three fundamental ways:

  1. It allowed the court to deny any bail to those who posed a danger to the community.
  2. It created more categories of individuals who are not eligible for bail, including potential flight risks and repeat offenders.
  3. The 1966 Act established the necessity of bail hearings for any person who might be eligible for bail.


The bail system in the US has got a strange history. From Middle Ages in Britain to the great halls of Congress, the laws have continued to evolve throughout history. As public opinions change and the relationships between the public and crime grow, new laws will undoubtedly go into effect. One thing is for sure; the bail bonds industry will remain strongly connected to the legal system.

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