If you've recently been arrested and taken advantage of the services offered by a bail agent or bondsman to secure your release from jail pending trial, you're likely relieved at the opportunity to live your life relatively normally until your criminal case has been concluded. However, missing your next court date could not only subject you to the forfeiture of your entire bail amount, it could also see you facing the inside of a jail cell. Even if your original criminal charge is dismissed, your failure to appear in court before dismissal could allow your bail agent to arrest you. Read on to learn more about the arrest and detention powers that can be legally exercised by Ohio bail bond agents.

What is a bail agent's role?

For the majority of criminal charges, from misdemeanors to major felonies, judges will assign a specific monetary sum (bail) to be paid before the defendant can be released from jail. If the defendant can provide this amount to the court in cash (or sometimes in collateral, like a home or car), he or she can be immediately released. Upon the conclusion of the criminal case, this bail money is refunded to the defendant -- unless he or she fails to appear for a hearing, in which case the bail is forfeited. 

Assessing bail helps ensure compliance with court dates and minimizes jail overcrowding by allowing those charged with most non-violent crimes to spend the time before trial at home, rather than in a jail cell. 

However, most individuals don't have tens of thousands of dollars in cash just waiting to be paid to the trial court -- particularly when there's no guarantee on how quickly a trial will take place. For those who don't have the full amount of bail themselves, a bail bond agent can come in handy. This bail agent will assess a fee (generally a percentage of the total bail amount) and provide a guarantee of payment on your behalf. Because the bail agent puts his or her own collateral at risk in this process, he or she has a significant motivation to ensure your presence at all scheduled hearings, and may even drive you to court.

Can you be arrested by a bail agent in Ohio?

Ohio state law permits bail agents to arrest individuals who have forfeited bail by refusing to attend scheduled court hearings. While these bail agents are required to notify a law enforcement agency before this arrest takes place (to avoid confusion or overlapping efforts to detain an individual), at least one recent case has shown that this notice can take a variety of forms. Bail agents are required to abide by the same arrest and detention procedures as sworn law enforcement officers.

It's important to attend all scheduled court appearances, even if you feel it's likely your case will be dismissed. Failing to do so could subject you to arrest (and the imposition of even more bail before you can be re-released from jail). If you're not sure when your next court date is scheduled, a quick call to the courthouse (or your bail agent) should clear this up. 

However, while this may apply in Ohio, every state has their own rules and regulations. Consider contacting a local bail bond agents, such as Absolute Bail Bonds, to discuss your questions or concerns.