How To Find A Quality Bail Bondsman
If you are contacted by a friend or loved one who has been arrested, you’ll need to find out where he is incarcerated and the amount of bail that has been set. Speak with the booking officer, either by phone or in person, and ask for help in finding a bail bondsman (assuming you are unable or unwilling to advance the entire amount yourself).
Although law enforcement personnel are not permitted to give you a specific recommendation, they are able to guide you through the process of locating a licensed, legitimate bonding company. Often, there will be an office on the premises of the police station, in which case you can rest assured that you are dealing with a trustworthy legal entity. If you have any doubts as to the legitimacy of the bondsman, ask to see his license or check out his particulars on-line to verify that he does have the required qualifications, which include a mandatory state license.
Anyone who has ever watched a legal or police procedural television show has at least a perfunctory knowledge of bail, but not everyone knows exactly what it means. Briefly, a bail or surety bond is a sum of money posted by a police detainee which is designed to ensure the appearance of the defendant at his trial. Often, minor infractions incur a predetermined amount that can be paid on the spot at the time of arrest. Greater offenses, however, require a hearing during which a judge decides the amount of surety necessary.
It should be noted that a surety bond is not meant as a punitive measure, but rather as a financial incentive to keep a suspected miscreant from fleeing, while still allowing him the freedom to go about his business while awaiting trial. This opportunity is provided because everyone is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law.
Bail is granted in virtually all civil cases and in a large percent of criminal cases, as well. Only when the offender is accused of homicide or other heinous felony, presents a serious flight risk or appears to be a danger to the community will bail be denied. The amount set by the judge is decided on a case-to-case basis and is often a subject of argument between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Generally speaking, the greater the crime, the greater the amount required to release the defendant. Depending on circumstances, the amount can range from less than a few hundred dollars to seven figures in high profile cases.
Four states have banned commercial surety bonding (Oregon, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin). These states have a state-run program that generally requires you to pay ten percent of the bail amount. In all other states, expect to pay a commercial bail bondsman ten to fifteen percent of the total amount. For example, if the amount is set at $10,000, you will need to provide $1000 to $1500 to secure the release of the prisoner. This portion of the money is a non-refundable fee charged by the bonding company; the balance is returned to them after the trial begins.
Until that time, the defendant will be placed in your custody and may proceed with his normal activities until the trial date. One word of caution: if the defendant skips town, you will be responsible for the entire amount, so it’s in your best interests to see that he shows up.