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Road Law
Your word isn’t always your bond

Jeff McConnell & James Mennella
Attorneys at Law

Black’s Law Dictionary defines a bond as a “monetary amount for or condition of a pretrial release from custody, normally set by a judge at the initial appearance. The purpose of bail is to ensure the return of the accused at subsequent proceedings. If the accused is unable to make bail, or otherwise unable to be released on his or her own recognizance, he or she is detained in custody.”

There are many different types of bonds but the one that most drivers encounter is called a cash bail bond. This type of bond, as defined by Black’s, is “a sum of money, in the amount designated in an order fixing bail, posted by a defendant or by another person on his behalf with a court or other authorized public officer upon condition that such money will be forfeited if the defendant does not comply with the directions of a court ...”

Plainly put, a court can make you post a cash bond when you receive a ticket if you want to plead not guilty and have a trial date set. If you’re a no-show for trial, the court may order your bond money forfeited. The judge may convict you of the charge and close the case, or issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

We get a lot of questions regarding how cash bonds work and other various ways courts make sure you appear or otherwise dispose of your ticket. Here are a couple of our most recent questions.

Q: I got a ticket yesterday for doing 65 mph in a 55 mph zone and the officer said that I had to give him money, right on the spot, before I could leave. I didn’t have any cash on me and the officer couldn’t take a credit card.

Instead, the officer told me that I could give him my driver’s license as bond. I didn’t want to give the officer my license, but did because I didn’t have any other choice. Can an officer require me to give up my driver’s license as bond?

A: Yes, a state, or someone designated by a state – such as a police officer – can require you to post your actual driver’s license as bond when you don’t have the cash to post.

First, even if you do give the officer your driver’s license as bond, you can still drive. In most cases, your ticket will, in effect, become your temporary driver’s license and afford you all the privileges of your regular license.

Second, you can usually get your license back by simply writing to the court and asking for it back. Be sure to include the requested cash bond amount in the form of a money order.

The states where this occurs most frequently are Illinois and Michigan. Many residents of Illinois have a bond card that can be posted in lieu of cash, which they obtain through their insurance company. Also, if you are a member of AAA and have a bond card, your card may be taken in lieu of cash; however, not all agencies will take the AAA card.

If you are concerned about not having your actual license in your possession and you don’t have the money to post bond, you may be able to get a duplicate license issued. It is up to your state’s licensing authority to determine if they will issue a duplicate license and many have specific requirements in order to get a duplicate.

Q: I got a ticket in Texas for speeding. I pleaded not guilty and had a trial in the Justice of the Peace court where I was found guilty. I appealed my conviction to the county court and had to post twice my original fine amount as bond. I had a new trial at the county court but was convicted again. Before I left the court, the clerk said that I had to pay my fines and costs.

I explained that I had already posted twice as much money as required, that I wasn’t going to pay more money and that they should just take my fine monies out of my bond amount and give me a refund for the rest. The clerk said they couldn’t do that and I’d have to pay my fines and costs a third time. What’s going on?

A: Bizarre, isn’t it? This is usually the standard procedure for most Texas county courts when you’ve appealed your case. Although you already gave the court double the amount of money that you truly owe to hold as bond, the court, nevertheless, makes you pay a third time and then refunds the total amount you originally posted.

Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; fax to (405) 463-0565; send e-mail to or call (405) 463-0566.