Getting Out of Jail Often Isn’t Free — Here are 7 Ways to Raise Bail Money

Far too many of us live paycheck to paycheck.

That means it would be a real struggle to come up with $100 for an emergency — to say nothing of $400 or $500 — without going deeper into debt.

Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes: unexpected medical expenses, car trouble, getting laid off — or even jail.

People don’t usually expect to wind up in jail, and it can be expensive to bail out yourself or someone else.

The average bail amount can range from a few hundred dollars for a misdemeanor charge to $55,500 for a felony.

In fact, the expense can be so prohibitive that some people end up staying in jail longer than they have to.

Gothamist reports that half the people sitting in New York City jails are there because they don’t have the bail money they need to get out.

“In addition to exposing people who are presumed innocent to the many hazards of [local jail complex] Rikers Island, pretrial detention disrupts people’s ability to work, pay rent, and take care of their families, and drastically increases the chances that one will be found guilty of a crime,” writes Gothamist’s Nathan Tempey.

If you got a call from a friend or family member who needed to quickly raise bail money, would you know where to turn? Here are some easy ways to get cash.

  • If you have an emergency fund, this may be the time to dip in to it.

If you’ve exhausted all your options and are still short on the money you need to bail out a jailed  friend or family member, consider going to a bail agent.

You’ll pay a bail bond premium, which is just a percentage (often 10%) of the total bail amount.

“The premium is a fee for the bail agent’s services to manage the defendant and make sure he or she shows up to all required court appearances,” explains Nolo.

Just be aware that while cash bail money you pay directly to the court is refundable, but any money or assets you put toward a bail bond premium is not.

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Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.