Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find my court date?
You can find out information about your upcoming in person and remote court dates as well as other court case related information online or by contacting the court clerk’s office. Please see our court information page for the various courts, court contact information, and to find your court date online.
What is the Northwest Community Bail Fund?
NCBF is a registered nonprofit organization advocating for bail reform and working to minimize the harm of the cash bail system by paying bail for people who would otherwise spend the pre-trial time in jail.
How do I contact NCBF?
Phone: (877) 622-6223
What do I owe NCBF?
There is no cost to you or your family for bail assistance. NCBF is powered by thousands of small donations. We use these donations to pay bail when it’s not affordable for a person or their family to do so. There is no cost or other obligation to the person receiving bail assistance. We will not ask you to pay us back or to sign a surety.
Does NCBF give legal advice?
Your attorney is your best source of information about your case and about your court appearances and obligations. You should stay in touch with your attorney throughout your case. We are not lawyers and we don’t represent you in your case. You should not talk about any details or anything to do with your case with anyone other than your lawyer, unless your lawyer has told you it’s ok. We don’t have confidentiality the way your lawyer does.
If you do not know how to reach your attorney, we can usually provide you with the main phone number for your attorney’s office.
Does NCBF provide transportation to court?
If you need a ride to in-person court, we can arrange LYFT service for you. Please contact our office at 877-622-6223 ext 2, or firstname.lastname@example.org a week in advance to provide the date, time and location of your court and a pick-up address.
Does NCBF offer other support resources aside from bail assistance?
If you need supportive assistance, such as housing assistance, food assistance etc, you can find resources at Aunt Bertha.
How can I support NCBF?
We are primarily run through donations and by volunteers. Please see our ‘Get Involved’ tab for more details about those options. If you received bail assistance from us, we value your experiences and would welcome hearing more about your experiences with the criminal justice system. This helps us to tell the story of unjust bail practices, and we can use information collected to pressure authorities to change the system.
What’s a bail bond, and how is it different from a bail fund?
Commercial bail bonds are granted by people called bond agents. In order to have the bail bond paid, the incarcerated person (or their family member or other representative) must pay the bond agent a percentage, typically around 10% of the assigned bail set by the court. So if a judge sets bail at $10,000, the incarcerated individual must pay $1,000 – $1,500 before they can return home. Smaller bails are usually 10% plus a fee, to make it worth the bail bond agent’s while (so a $1,000 set bail may cost $150 – $200).The payment to the bond agent is nonrefundable, and the agent keeps it for profit.
Though they claim they exist as a service that allows folks to leave jail, bond agents’ priority is making money, not securing people’s freedom. Sometimes they won’t accept clients with low bail amounts because those jobs aren’t as profitable.1 Therefore, it’s in bail bond agents’ best interest that the US maintains a cash bail system—a system that disproportionately affects people of color, who often cannot afford bail themselves. Bond agents also take advantage of people’s misunderstanding of bail bond agreements and their financial situations to lock them into contracts that only drive them further into debt.2 The bond agent may also require collateral (like a house, car, or jewelry from the person paying the bond agent) to ensure the defendant shows up for court.
It’s also helpful to understand that bail bond agents do not actually pay the bail to the court. Instead, they make an agreement, or contract, with the court saying they will pay the bail money if the person does not attend court. Commercial bail bonds are usually underwritten by large insurance companies that agree to pay the amount owed if the person fails to show up for court. If the person doesn’t appear, the bail agent can call in a bounty hunter to track them down.
Bail bond companies are even protected by several WA state laws that allow for delays and exceptions to them having to pay out if a defendant doesn’t appear in court. Here are some examples:
- 10.19.105 essentially gives the surety a 60-day grace period before paying on any forfeitures. It’s not a guarantee and is left up to a judge’s discretion.
- 10.19.140 says that if the bail has been forfeited and the surety (bond agency) is directly responsible for apprehending (by coordinating with law enforcement) or bringing the defendant back to court within 12 months, the bond will be refunded minus any costs incurred by law enforcement.
- 10.19.160 gives bail bond agencies the authority to bring someone back to jail if they have a forfeiture notice or an affidavit giving a good reason for the surrender.
- 10.19.090 says if the court does not notify the surety, in writing, within 30 days of a failure to appear (FTA)/forfeiture, the forfeiture is null and void and will be exonerated.
If you click the above links and review the laws themselves, you’ll notice how the language is tailored to bond agencies: principal, surety, bond, recognizance, judgment debtors, etc. There is no language referencing bail in terms of cash or unsecured bail.
Bail funds operate very differently. Funds like NCBF have a goal of getting community members out of jail when they cannot afford to pay bail. NCBF, and other bail funds, will pay the full bail amount directly to the court. In making this full payment, bail funds will also receive the bail money back once the case is finished, assuming the person meets court expectations, including mandatory attendance at hearings. Bail funds can then continue using that money to bail more people out.
Bail funds are not concerned with making a profit off people in need. Though bail funds get the bail payment back if the person shows up for court (just like bond agents do), bail funds don’t prey on the incarcerated person and their families to get that initial payment. The money comes out of the bail fund itself, and community members don’t pay anything for the service.