Bail is an amount of money, or the equivalent, that you give to the court as a guarantee that you'll appear for trial as ordered. You can post bail in the form of cash, a check, property, or a bond. When you appear for trial, the bail is returned to you, generally minus a small administrative fee. If you don't appear in court as ordered, your bail is forfeited. The amount of bail is generally decided during your first court hearing or arraignment. The U.S. Constitution states that bail can't be excessive or used as a form of punishment. In some states, there's a standard bail schedule for stipulated crimes. If you can't afford bail, you can apply for a reduction of the amount at a special bail hearing or purchase a bond from a bail bondsman. In this case, the bondsman requires that you pay a non-refundable premium, generally about 10 percent of the bail amount. The bondsman may also require you or your family to provide certain financial guarantees or collateral.