Bail bondsmen pledge money or property as bail when a defendant is unable to post his own bail. Bail is set to allow a defendant to leave police custody while awaiting their trial. It acts as insurance. If a defendant turns up for his court date the money or bond is returned to the individual or agency that paid it. If the defendant fails to show up for all his court dates then his bail is forfeited, and the court takes possession of it.
Of course, covering the bail of complete strangers carries with it the risk that they’ll skip their court date, leaving the bail bondsman with the conundrum of paying the bail in full. This is why bail bondsmen will have their client sign over property, be it a house or a car, as collateral in the eventuality that the defendant fails to show up to court.
So how does one go about becoming a bail bondsman? Well, that would depend on the requirements of the state you live in. Some states require aspiring bail bondsmen to complete a pre-licensing course before they can receive their license, while others have no such requirement. However, the process of becoming a bail bondsman typically includes completing a pre-licensing course, applying for and obtaining a license, and joining a bail company. There is also the age requirement of 18 years and older to consider.
The profession only requires those aspiring to become bail bondsmen to possess the minimum of a high school diploma. But that doesn’t stop some individuals from pursuing a degree in finance, economics, business administration, or law in preparation for the role.
A pre-licensing course touches on subjects like bail bond principles, laws, and practices, information that will help an individual carry out his duties as a bail bondsman. The bail bond licensing board in many states actually requires aspiring bail bondsmen to complete a pre-licensing course that it has instated. Though unnecessary in some states, completing a pre-licensing course can actually be beneficial for a candidate because it can increase his chances of passing the licensing exam.
After completing a pre-licensing course, you’ll need to take and pass the state licensing exam. The exam usually consists of 50 or 60 multiple choice questions that must be completed within the time limit of an hour. Typically the fee for this exam will be between $40 and $100 and many states will allow their candidates to repeat the exam as many times as necessary to acquire a passing grade.
If you’ve taken the exam and have received a passing grade, your next move will be to apply for a license from the state’s department of insurance. You’ll need to fill out and submit an application, pay a licensing fee, and submit the scores from the state licensing exam. The license expires in 1-3 years and some states will require that you continue your studies during this time as a prerequisite for renewal of the license. Those who have obtained their license can then join a bail company where they’ll gain experience and build a network.
From start to finish, this process typically takes a couple of months to complete, so you’ll be a licensed bail bondsman in a couple of months should you choose to pursue the career.