In contrast to a regular bail bond, a signature bond does not require a defendant to make a cash deposit or put up any collateral with the court. Known also as a recognizance bond, the bond requires the defendant to sign an oath to appear before the court for trial on a given date. If the defendant fails to return for the trial, the court imposes a monetary fine and issues a bench warrant for arrest. This bond is generally permitted for defendants without prior criminal records accused of misdemeanors or minor felony charges. Only defendants who pose no threat to society and can be trusted to come to the trial may qualify for a signature bond.
The courts allow four forms of bond to be issued after an arrest. In addition to the signature bond, defendants may pay a cash bond for release, in which the arrestee advances bail money before his discharge. A ten-percent bond permits the detained individual to pay ten percent of the full bail amount before his release. With the surety bond, a bail bondsman, approved by the court, guarantees the return of the arrestee on his court date. If the defendant does not appear on the court date, the bail bondsmen must remit the bail amount in full.
It is up to the court’s discretion whether an accused person may have a recognizance bond. Cases in which courts accept the signature bond include trespassing, vandalism, or disorderly conduct. Judges also accept signature bonds for charges of theft, lewd and indecent behavior, and drunken driving. Some jurisdictions may allow the recognizance bond for cases of fraud, federal corruption, drug possession, child pornography possession, and sexual intercourse with a minor. In addition to the nature of the offense and the defendant’s criminal record, courts also take into consideration the patient’s employment, home ownership, and family circumstances before accepting a signature bond.
The amount of a signature bond depends on the gravity of the crime. For example, a bookkeeper that embezzles $10,000 US Dollars (USD) of a company’s money may be liberated on a $1,000 USD signature bond, but a suspect accused of a home invasion theft may be released on a $10,000 USD bond. Most signature bonds are less than $25,000 USD. Courts may also impose conditions to the bond, such as not discussing the matter with another suspect and staying away from the victims or witnesses. Most bonds restrict travel and restrain the use of drugs and alcohol by the defendant.