What Do Bail Bondsmen Do?
Say you’ve been arrested, for whatever reason, be it for a DUI or breaking and entering. You’re taken into police custody, booked and placed in a holding cell to await your pre-trial. On the day of your pre-trial, you’re asked to plead your guilt or innocence. You comply. The judge sets your bail, which you quickly realize you’re unable to pay. You’re now faced with the distinct possibility of spending the remaining time before your trial in jail. What do you do?
In this situation, your best option would be to seek the services of a bail bondsman. There are about 15,000 bail bondsmen currently working in the U.S. When hired by a defendant, a bail bondsman will pledge a bond as payment for a defendant’s bail, and in exchange, he’ll receive a small fee. This carries with it the risk of the defendant not showing up to his court dates, in which case the bail bondsman may forfeit a small portion or the entire bond.
Bail bondsmen have found an easy workaround for this predicament. Instead of paying a defendant’s bail without the slightest assurance that he’ll fulfill his obligation of showing up to all his court dates, a bail bondsman will have the defendant sign over his property as an insurance policy against happy feet. If the defendant skips town or just fails to attend a court date, the bail bondsman can choose to track down the fugitive or risk having to reimburse the court. A bail bondsman can contract a bounty hunter to track down the defendant and return him to police custody. If, however, the bail bondsman fails to return the defendant to police custody, he has the legal authority to take possession of the defendant’s property.
Apparently, the strategy is such a good deterrent that only 3 percent of defendants fail to attend their court dates.
Bail bondsmen provide a number of bonds to their clients. There’s the surety bond. The most common type of bond issued by a bail bondsman, which is used to cover the bail of defendants charged with a wide range of crimes, from driving citations to murder.
Most states allow bail bondsmen offering surety bonds to take a percentage of the bail amount, usually ten to twenty percent, as payment. In some jurisdiction, if a bail bondsman pledges a surety bond and a defendant fails to attend his court date he won’t be responsible for covering the entire bail. Instead, he’ll pay a small portion of it.
Then there’s the federal bond. Federal bonds are used as a pledge to cover the bail of a defendant charged with a felony should he fail to appear in court. Not only do they act as a guarantee that a defendant shows up to court, but they also ensure that the defendant fulfills the pre-trial conditions set by the court. Such pre-trial conditions include submitting to regular drug testing, restricted travel, or limited business activities. If the defendant fails to meet the pre-trial conditions or fails to show up to court then the bail bondsman may have to forfeit the entire federal bond.
The federal bond is issued with less frequency than the surety bond and with good reason: There’s a higher risk of forfeiting the federal bond than there is with a surety bond.
Finally, we have the immigration bond. It’s used to secure the release of individuals held at detention centers. Much like federal bonds, it carries a higher risk of forfeiture because immigrants are more likely to run when released from custody.
New bail bondsmen earn an annual salary of about $25,000. More experienced bail bondsmen, on the other hand, can earn an annual income that ranges between $50,000 and $150,000.