What is a surety?
When a person is charged with a criminal offense, a Judge or Justice of the Peace must decide whether to release the accused person on bail, or to keep them in custody until their charges have concluded. One of the available options for release is for the accused to be released into the community under the supervision of one or more sureties.
A surety is a person who takes responsibility for making sure the accused attends required court appearances and obeys the release conditions placed on them by the Court. A surety will post a sum of money, or an interest in property, which they risk forfeiting if they do not notify the police of any breaches by the accused. This added level of supervision can often give the Court the confidence they need to release an accused who might otherwise not be suitable for bail.
A person must be approved to act as a surety as not everyone will qualify. In general, the courts are looking for sureties who have stable lives, who have assets to cover the amount of the bail, and who do not have criminal records. A surety should also be capable and willing to supervise the accused. A person who is directly involved in the criminal case, such as a victim or witness, or someone who is financially or otherwise dependent on the accused, will generally not be a good candidate.
Becoming a surety is a significant legal commitment, and in some cases that commitment can last for years. A surety may put their own money or assets at risk of forfeit if the accused fails to attend court appearances or breaches release conditions. It is advisable to seek independent legal advice to fully understand the responsibilities and potential consequences involved before agreeing to be a surety.