When a person anticipates arrest the bail bondsman rises to the occasion to deliver the bail bond which is by far the best way to secure bail and to avoid remaining in jail till a trial date is fixed. The bail bondsman, therefore, plays an important role in ensuring freedom from incarceration. The freedom can be leveraged by the accused in a number of ways to fight for dismissal of the case, besides enabling him to continue earning his livelihood through his job.
As consideration for rendering his services, the bail bondsman would normally charge 10% of the bail amount as his fee. If for example bail is set for $100,000, the bail bondsman will be paid $10,000 as his fee. The fee payable to the bondsman is not refundable when the case is completed and judgment is delivered. On payment of the fee, the bondsman furnishes a bail bond as surety to the court for the release of the accused. If the accused successfully appears in all hearings till the case is completed, the fee remains with the bondsman. If the accused fails to appear in court the entire bond amount (including the bondsman’s fee) becomes payable by the bondsman to the court.
The bail bondsman carefully assesses the veracity and reliability of the accused before agreeing to furnish bail bonds to the court on behalf of the accused. In a sense the bondsman sees and evaluates the accused through the eyes of the judge to assess whether the accused is worth the risk. For this reason the bondsman normally asks for a co-signor to add weight to the bail contract. Such a person could be a friend or family member of the accused who guarantees and ensures that the accused will appear in court. So the bail bondsman furnishes the bail bond to a court on the strength of the assurance of the co-signor acting on behalf of the accused.
Before approaching the bail bondsman the accused/ co-signor needs to come prepared with all relevant details of the accused such as name, designation, work place and home address verifiable through personal identification, as well as bank account details and contact numbers. The bondsman could also ask for details regarding collateral. Having every relevant piece of information readily available will prove that the accused and co-signor are well organized and this will make the bondsman doubly efficient in doing what he does best – bail bonding. Becoming a co-signor to any bail contract is a serious obligation because it can be enforced if the accused absconds or misses hearings. Some co-signors have lost substantially because the accused failed to make it to the court room.
After collecting 10% of the bail amount upfront as his fee payable as cash, or by way of check or credit card payment, the bondsman may request collateral to secure the balance amount. This is the norm for the bigger bail amounts and collateral of one’s property (home), jewelry, car or any other asset can be offered to the bondsman in lieu of cash. The hidden threat in any such arrangement is that if the accused fails to appear for the hearing the bondsman can foreclose the property to pay the bond money to the court.
If the collateral is paid in cash and the accused has fulfilled his obligations to the court, the bondsman is liable to refund the cash collateral after deducting his 10% fee. In the event that the accused disappears or fails to attend a hearing, the bondsman pays the bail amount to the court and recovers the money by foreclosing the home or disposing any other collateral of the accused. Some bondsmen utilize the services of bounty hunters who track down offenders and hand them over to the court to be re-arrested and jailed.
The problem for the accused is that the bail bond has to be renewed annually and the bondsman will demand another 10% to issue a fresh bail bond if the case continues beyond 12 months. To avoid this, the accused can request the court through his lawyer to lower the bail amount or to waive the bail amount on grounds or penury or allow collateral to be posted directly in court. As a last resort the premium (10%) can be negotiated to a lower amount if the bondsman agrees.
In all such instances it is worthwhile to have a frank discussion with a lawyer before approaching and finalizing a bail bondsman. It is possible that a crime that attracts bail upward of $100,000 might get reduced to a more affordable bail amount of $20,000 by hiring a skillful lawyer. The accused stands to save a substantial amount and also prevents unnecessary funds from getting locked up with a bondsman.
Insisting on verifying the antecedents of the bail bondsman
Every bondsman will be properly licensed and validated to do his job and asking to verify his ID and business card isn’t considered a sign of rudeness but a mark of practical wisdom. There will be a lot of paperwork involved in furnishing the bail bond to the court, and the accused and co-signor can demand copies of all relevant papers including signed receipts for payments made to the bondsman and collateral offered.
If you can raise the bond money through friends or from your own resources you could probably avoid approaching the bail bondsman. You immediately save the 10% nonrefundable fee that would be deducted by the bondsman. In any case it is best to advice co-signors or friends whether they should consult a good lawyer or the bail bondsman or both.
If you can afford a good lawyer you could risk remaining some days in jail and wait for the hearing to decide your application for lowering the bail amount. This may not be feasible when the accused cannot afford to kill time in jail and needs to come out urgently for personal or official reasons. In such instances the bondsman can move things faster.
When matters become sticky and a jail term looms on the horizon nothing ensures your release faster than a bail bondsman, and a 10% fee is a smaller misfortune than having to serve jail time for a crime you may not have committed as charged. Bail bondsmen have established a definitive niche for themselves, relieving the accused of the distress associated with incarceration and giving them the opportunity to taste freedom so that they can fight their case backed by sound legal advice.