If you've just been contacted by a friend or loved one who has been incarcerated across the country, you may be wondering how you can help without leaving the area. Fortunately, a number of bail bond companies have now made their services available over the phone or internet, ensuring that you can provide assistance to your loved one when needed at little personal hassle. Read on to learn more about how these types of bail bonds work, as well as how you can best protect your finances in this transaction.

What documentation will you need to provide for an over-the-phone bail bond?

Most bail bond services require an in-person exchange of cash or property from the person seeking bail to the bail agent at a place like All Star Bail Bonds. However, in some situations you may be able to provide sufficient collateral for bail over the phone or internet. When seeking an over-the-phone bail bond, you'll need to provide the full name of the defendant, the defendant's date of birth, and the name of the county or facility in which the defendant is incarcerated. You'll likely also need to provide information on the total dollar amount of the bond, although in some cases the bond agent may be able to look up this information.

In addition to this preliminary information, you'll need to provide the bail agent with sufficient cash or other liquid collateral to cover 10 percent of the total bail amount. This fee is not refundable, even if the defendant shows up for all court proceedings and his or her bail is eventually discharged. Many bail companies that accept payment over the phone will only accept automatic drafting of a checking account, credit card, or wire transfer -- so be sure you have your banking information handy.

By providing collateral for bail over the phone or internet, you can ensure that your loved one can be released from jail as quickly as possible. Rather than scrambling to get to a bail agent, you can simply provide your banking information and have your money instantly drafted to the bail agent.

What laws govern the transaction if your friend or loved one forfeits bail?

In exchange for the 10 percent non-refundable fee you provide to the bail agent, this agent puts up collateral for the full amount of the bond. Because bond is revoked if the defendant fails to show up to trial (or even just a hearing or status conference), the bail agent has a vested interest in ensuring that the defendant appears at all scheduled court proceedings. In many cases, the bail agent may even personally transport the defendant to court to ensure his or her presence.

However, if your friend or loved one misses a court proceeding and cannot be found, the judge will generally revoke bail and order the defendant incarcerated until the end of his or her trial. The laws governing the transaction vary by state, and the laws of the state in which the defendant is facing charges will apply to the transaction (even if you or the bond agent is in a different state).

Some states will permit reinstatement of bail if the defendant has a valid reason for missing the court date (such as a last-minute emergency or car problems). However, you may find it difficult to post bail through a bail agent if the defendant already has a reputation for missing court -- and in these situations, the bail agent may charge more than the customary 10 percent fee because of the higher risk. If you're posting bail for a loved one, encourage him or her to make adequate arrangements to ensure presence at all court proceedings.