Buffalo, NY Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain How Bail Bonds Work

Bail Bonds in Buffalo, NY: A Helpful Guide for Defendants and Their Families

Getting arrested and going to jail can be an incredibly stressful and scary experience. Many people find themselves struggling to understand the legal process and what comes next. One of the first big questions is usually about bail – how much will it be, and how can I pay it to get out of jail?

This article provides a helpful overview of how bail bonds work in Buffalo, NY. We’ll explain what bail is, how it’s set, your options for paying it, and what happens when you use a bail bond. Our goal is to make this confusing process much simpler so you can focus on your case and get back to your life.

What is Bail?

After an arrest, defendants are taken before a judge for an arraignment hearing. This is where formal charges are read and a plea is entered[1]. The judge then has a few options:

  • Dismiss the case entirely
  • Set a trial date and terms of release (bail)
  • Order the defendant be held in jail with no bail

If the judge sets bail, it is an amount of money the defendant must pay to be released from jail before their trial. The purpose is to ensure the defendant returns for all court dates[1]. Bail can be in the form of cash, bond, property, or other assets.

The 8th Amendment prohibits excessive bail. Judges consider factors like flight risk, danger to the community, and ties to the area when setting bail[2]. They cannot set it higher than needed to reasonably ensure the defendant’s return.

How Bail is Set in Buffalo City Court

In Buffalo, bail is most often set during arraignments in City Court. Judges typically follow bail schedules with “standard” amounts based on the charges[3]:

  • Violations (tickets): $100 – $500
  • Misdemeanors: $500 – $5,000
  • Non-violent felonies: $5,000 – $15,000
  • Violent felonies: $15,000 – $100,000

However, judges can deviate from the schedules based on factors like[4]:

  • Severity of charges
  • Prior criminal record
  • History of missing court
  • Employment status
  • Ties to community

Defense attorneys argue for lower or alternative types of bail. Ultimately the judge decides the amount and type of bail[4].

Paying Bail with Cash

Paying the full bail amount in cash is one option. The court holds the cash until the case ends. Then they refund most of it, minus fees if convicted[1].

Cash bail can be paid:

  • At the courthouse during business hours
  • At the holding center jail 24/7
  • By the defendant using commissary funds

You’ll need the receipt to get refunded. Make sure to keep it safe throughout the case!

Using a Bail Bond instead of Cash

For most people, coming up with the full cash amount for bail is impossible. This is where bail bonds come in handy!

A bail bond allows the defendant to pay just a small percentage of the total bail (usually 8-10%) [5]. This is paid to a bail bond company, who takes on the risk of covering the full bail amount to the court.

Here’s how bail bonds work[2]:

  1. Research bail bond companies and find one you trust
  2. Meet with a bondsman to discuss the case and charges
  3. Sign a contract and provide collateral (like a house or car)
  4. The bondsman pays the full bail amount to the court
  5. Defendant is released from jail

The contract requires the defendant to appear at all court dates. If they miss court or violate release conditions, the bond is forfeited. The bondsman can then seize the collateral and the defendant must repay the full amount[5].

Bail bonds are regulated by New York’s Department of Financial Services. Bond amounts are capped at certain percentages based on the total bail[5].

Getting Bail Money Back

Bail is refundable at the end of a case, minus fees if convicted. Here’s how it works for different types[1]:

  • Cash bail: Get 100% back if charges dismissed, 97% if convicted
  • Bond: Get back any collateral and a portion of the premium fee

Be sure to keep receipts and paperwork to get refunded. File a motion with the court clerk if issues arise[1].

Impacts of Not Making Bail

Most people assume you just wait in jail until your trial if you can’t afford bail. But research shows pretrial detention has many damaging effects[4]:

  • Higher chance of conviction
  • Longer sentences
  • Loss of income, jobs, housing
  • Separated from children and family
  • Mental health deterioration

Even a few days in jail can upend someone’s life. And taxpayers foot the bill for unnecessary jail costs[4].

Bail reform advocates argue we need more alternatives to cash bail. Options like unsecured bonds, text reminders for court dates, and supervised release allow pretrial freedom for low-risk defendants without money.

Judges in Buffalo do use some alternatives, but cash bail remains very common[3]. There are efforts to change that through new laws and policies directing judges to consider least restrictive options.


Paying bail and bonding out of jail is a critical first step after an arrest. Understanding the process and your options is key to navigating it smoothly. We hope this overview has helped explain how bail works in Buffalo City Court. Reach out to us if you need help with your specific case.


[1] Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo. “Bail FAQ.” https://legalaidbuffalo.org/bail-faq/

[2] Tsigler Law. “How Do Bail Bonds Work in NY?” https://www.tsiglerlaw.com/how-do-bail-bonds-work-in-ny/

[3] Partnership for the Public Good. “Cruelty and Cost: Money Bail in Buffalo.” https://ppgbuffalo.org/files/documents/criminal-justice/cruelty_and_cost_money_bail_in_buffalo.pdf

[4] Federal Criminal Lawyers. “What is bail bonding and how does it work?” https://www.federallawyers.com/criminal-defense/what-is-bail-bonding-and-how-does-it-work/

[5] Infinity Bonds. “Bail Bonds | Buffalo New York.” https://www.infinitybonds.com/bail-bonds