If you live in a grey state on the map (above), you may find that your bail bond money is kept, even after you ‘show up in court’ in case you end up owing the court fees. If you find yourself thinking, “But that’s not the purpose of bail,” you’re not alone. Read our new article that uncovers the hidden practice of holding, or converting, a bail bond into payment for court costs and fees.
Cash bail payments are generally imposed to ensure an individual appears in court after arrest. Lesser known is the practice of bond conversion, wherein bond money is held to pay for legal financial obligations if the individual is found guilty. Procedural justice theory is a useful framework for understanding bail processes. Individuals subject to bond conversion may experience distrust towards a system whose policies are not transparent, potentially reducing compliance with the law. We conduct an assessment of statutes relevant to bond conversion for all 50 states and the US Code. Nearly half of all states and the US Code permit bond conversion via statute; statutes most often authorize conversion to pay for fines, costs, and restitution; most do not require the depositor be given notice, do not include language making exceptions for low-income individuals, and do not exclude third parties. Suggestions for future research on bond conversion are discussed.