The bail laws of the United States were based on English law and were adapted as early as before American Independence. The states of Virginia and Pennsylvania, for instance, made provisions in their state constitution against excessive bail. That same provision in the United States Constitution after the Declaration of American Independence was largely based on the Virginia Constitution.
But what about the practice of bail bonding and bail bondsmen?
The services offered by bail bondsmen consist of providing the necessary bail for a criminal defendant in exchange for a fee lower than the total amount of the defendant’s bail.
The first recorded practice of bail bonding was in 1898, by Peter McDonough in San Francisco. He and his brother Tom are considered as the founders of the modern bail bonds industry in the United States. Interestingly, however, they are not the first bail bondsmen in the world.
The earliest records of a bail bond agreement are based on records dating back as far as ca. 2750, made in the ancient Akkadian city of Eshnunna. Eshnunna was located in what we now know as modern Iraq.
Not so far back in time, but still of interesting historical precedent, is 13th century England, when the practice of commercial bail bonds became common practice. Then, as today, the difference in financial capacity of the have’s, and the have not’s made an unequal playing field in the legal system, and efforts to provide those who were poor the ability to pay their bail gave rise to the bail bond industry.