(. . and the for-profit bail bond business that makes the US unique in the world)
- 1 Learn About the Bail Bond Business
- 2 Understand The Process Of Getting Approved For A License
- 3 Additional Services From Bail Bondsman
- 4 Key Considerations Regarding Bail Bondsman Business
Bail bondsmen provide an important service for people accused of crimes even though there are moves by many to reduce or eliminate their requirement in the justice system.
And the United States is one of only two countries in the world (the other being The Philippines) that permit for-profit bail bond companies to operate.
In essence, a bail bond company or bail bondsman will post money to free a person charged with a criminal offense so they are free and will appear in court at some later date.
The regulations regarding becoming a bail bondsman are governed by state law but in general require background checks, a secure financial position and appropriate licensing registration.
The role has been controversial in many quarters with some saying that it is a poor way to pursue justice where those charged and without money, as so many are, are then forced into the arms of an insurer or bail bond agency (which may be one and the same) in order to secure their release from jail.
These people may be waiting for months or years to have their matter dealt with and do not have the money that is provided by the bail bond companies or agents, as has been reported in articles like this in The Atlantic.
The requirements for both becoming a bail bondsman and posting bail is sometimes quite complex. The actual amount posted for bail can be anything from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars.
The first step is to ensure you are eligible to be a bail bondman or bail bond agent and that means finding out what the local state regulations are. More about that below.
Learn About the Bail Bond Business
There is a certain luster or sense of adventure about being a bail bondsman, but you should not be under illusions of what is entailed to work in the industry, however it can be both challenging and rewarding, depending upon how you handle the work.
While some confuse being a bail bond agent as being similar to the more colorful bounty hunter, celebrated in television shows like ‘Dog, The Bounty Hunter’, but there is no direct connection other than the fact that some bail bond agencies also work as bounty hunters. The two roles, however, are entirely different, if overlapping occasionally.
A bail bondsman is someone with a bail bondsman license who can post bail on behalf of an inmate using assets to underwrite the bail.
The bond is posted on behalf of a party wishing to have the inmate freed from custody but who is unable to post bail.
When the bond is posted, the bondsman or bond company will sell a surety bond to the accused or the client (whoever is obtaining the bail) in a similar manner to an insurance policy.
The bondsman will then charge a fee being a percentage of the bail posted and state law can limit the amount that can be charged by the bond company or bail bondsman. Sometimes there will be the imposition of additional security like real estate security, jewelry and the like to secure the amount being posted.
There is a trend among legal activists and others to oppose the use of a bail bond company or a bail bondsman to post bail in this manner and indeed to remove the ability to have cash bail requirements in the legal system at all.
It is also true that while many bail bond companies are small scale operations working from poor communities where their clients reside, many are also owned by major insurance companies that have the bail bond operation as a profit center for their insurance work.
You will need to have some extensive knowledge of criminal law, contract law and finance matters, as well as complying with the necessary requirements of your state, often involving insurance-related agencies.
If you’re interested in starting a new career as a professional bail bondsman, there’s a lot to learn before jumping into the industry.
You should first understand what the job entails, how much work is involved, and what the eligibility requirements are to become a bail bondsman including making the necessary license application.
Although different State requirements will provide the necessary criteria, they will usually include some or all of the following requirements –
- at least 18 years old
- attend and complete a pre-licensing course
- hold a high school diploma or similar
- obtain sponsorship from a surety company
There are several different types of insurance policies available to bail bond agents. These include property damage liability (PDL), commercial general liability (CGL) and workers’ compensation.
PDL protects against claims made by people who suffer injuries while on the premises of the business. CGL covers any damages caused by third parties to the property owned by the company. Workers’ comp provides coverage for employees injured at work.
Understand The Process Of Getting Approved For A License
Bail bond agents or bondsmen do not generally require more than a High School diploma, but a decent level of education is certainly helpful and many bai bondsmen will have degrees in law, finance, business administration and the like.
Any such qualification will be greatly helpful in achieving a pass in the licensing exam and to successfully operate a business as a bail bonds agent.
Most states will have the pre-licensing exam requirement, which is very helpful in outlining the nature and requirements of the job, particularly as many instructors are or have been bail bondsmen.
Some states, such as Kentucky, Illinois and Wisconsin, do not have a requirement for certifying a bail bond agent.
Others like Texas do and will require at least eight hours of classroom instruction about the procedures and requirements to become a certified bail bondsman.
Some states will require 20 hours or more of approved training before qualifying to obtain a license and will also require that continuing education be undertaken.
Background checks are also undertaken to see if there is any felony conviction or criminal convictions of any kind.
If you’re interested in starting a bail bonding business, you should first understand what the process entails. You will need to complete an application with the state’s department of insurance.
This includes providing proof of financial stability, such as bank statements showing a minimum balance of $25,000.
You must also provide documentation of your criminal background check, which includes a copy of your conviction record. Once you’ve completed the application, you will receive a license number.
Additional Services From Bail Bondsman
Some bail bond companies will provide services that go beyond being bail bondsmen or being bail enforcement agents.
They will often include process serving, which is serving legal papers in civil court proceedings, and also providing bounty hunting or private investigator services.
Some may go further by operating surety companies or providing additional insurance services beyond their bail bond agency.
However, as with those who have a bail bond license, there will be separate requirements for running a private detective or process service business and the need to go through the appropriate licensing process to run such businesses is necessary.
All such businesses have different licensing requirements quite separate from being professional bondsmen.
Key Considerations Regarding Bail Bondsman Business
There are a number of factors that should be kept in mind by those thinking about becoming a bail bondsman, including the following –
- The fact that pre-qualification is required, along with background checks
- You will be working within the criminal justice system and local law enforcement which means there will be certain stresses and issues involving in working with those who may have addiction or mental health issues
- If an accused person ‘skips’ bail then you may be required to seize assets from the party putting up security for the bail money to be provided, which may include house or car assets and others. This can be a challenging experience for anyone and is not the happiest part of being a bail bond company or bondsman
- You require to have the sufficient bail bond funds to financially back up the bond that has been posted
- A bondsman may be required to undertake recovery action which involves hiring a bounty hunter who will track the fugitive offender and such agents must be supervised in a manner that will ensure they comply with various state requirements and public safety regarding the apprehension of offenders.
- There is strict supervision of bail bond companies, such as in New York where the insurance laws govern strict requirements of compliance by bonds companies or individuals.
The Problem With Bail Bonds
The issue with bail bonds is one that troubles many, not the least being those who suffer as a result of not having the liquid cash to stay out of jail. More importantly perhaps is the fact that lower-income families can wind up in greater debt while bond companies and insurers who make money from the bail premiums and compound the problems for those falling victim to the justice system in the first place.
The role of insurers, the affordability of bail or the need for money bail in the first place are all issues that will not trouble those seeking to set themselves up as bail bondsmen.