Should I act as a surety?

Like the phone-a-friend option on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, you may be on someone’s short list in an emergency – except this time instead of helping your friend win money, you are putting your own finances on the line.

Before agreeing to act as someone’s surety, you should find out as much information as you can about the charges. This will give you a better sense as to the seriousness of the allegations and help you confirm if you want to get involved. If you decide to offer yourself as a surety, you will most likely be interviewed by your friend’s lawyer, which will include questions like:
  • Do you have a criminal record?
  • Are you currently a surety for someone else or have you been a surety in the past?
  • What is your relationship with the accused and/or the complainant?
The lawyer will then move on to personal questions concerning: your living situation; job details; monthly income; property ownership; and the proposed release plan. If the lawyer feels you are a suitable candidate, you may be asked to testify under oath in the courtroom. If approved as a surety, you will be asked to “promise” a certain amount of money that you may have to pay in full should your friend breach his/her bail conditions. The amount of this “promise” will vary depending on the circumstances and the respective financial means. If you have further questions about being a surety, do not hesitate to seek out the advice of a criminal lawyer.