Bail bonds will get your friend or family member out of jail quickly, but you may want to think twice before you cosign that legally binding document. Be sure to know all of the facts and rules of bail bonds before you undertake this responsibility. Don’t sign without knowing what you’re getting yourself into!

As an indemnitor (a person who co-signs a bail bond) you will sign a promissory note or indemnity agreement stating that you are financially obligated to pay the full amount of the bond if the accused person does not appear in court. You may have to pledge collateral with a substantial resale value, such as a vehicle, jewelry, electronics, or a real estate mortgage to ensure that the bail bondsman will get the money back that they have pledged to the court.

As an indemnitor you are guaranteeing the bail bondsman that the suspect will show up for every assigned court date and meet any other bond requirements. If the accused flees, you can contact the bail bond company with the location of the accused so that he or she can be picked up and returned to jail, pay the entire bond, or surrender the property that you pledged to the bail bond company for collateral. If you do not pay this debt, your account will be turned over to collections and will be reported to the three major credit bureaus. This will have a negative impact on your credit score, and could affect your ability to rent an apartment or get a new job.

As an indemnitor you can request stipulations before co-signing, such as a requirement that the accused submit a drug analysis, attend a drug treatment program, or undergo a mental health evaluation. Also, if you become uncomfortable with the accused’s actions (illegal acts, etc.) you can ask the bail bond company to cancel the bond and return the accused to jail. If you believe that the accused will not appear in court, you can contact the bondsman and request that the bond be withdrawn. The bondsman will then have the accused picked up and returned to jail. You have the right to cancel the bond at any time and the accused will return to incarceration.

In the end it is up to each individual to decide whether or not they feel comfortable co-signing a bail bond, but be sure that you know your responsibilities before you sign your name on the line.