What You Need to Know About Bail Bondsmen

There are a variety of reasons you may need a bail bondsman but it is important to understand what they are. Here is what you need to know about bail bondsmen.


Eleven million times, every year, American jails process an arrest. This “jail churn” consists of individuals who are innocent until proven guilty. Though they are innocent in the eyes of the law, there are only a few ways to go free.

Some may “bond out” within a few hours with the help of a bondsman. Some lucky people can pay their bail in cash. Those who cannot do either may stay in jail until their trial begins.

In places such as LA county, this can take years. The pressure and stress of jail are hard enough. The threat of losing employment or relationships makes matters worse. This causes many to take a “deal” with the prosecution to get out. Even if they are indeed, innocent.

Choosing to hire a bail bondsman gets them back into their life. And, more time to prepare for their defense.

Here is what everyone should know about the process.

How Bail is Set

There are set bail amounts for every charge. And, if there is more than one charge, judges can set bail for each offense.

In California, there are set amounts. Charges for misdemeanors, felonies, and traffic violations include a bail amount. Penal codes set the amounts, and they can range from $20,000 up to a few million dollars.

For some, the lowest bail is not affordable. California’s bail amounts are one of the highest in the nation. Many will make a plea before they have a trial to get out of jail.

But, more than half of the arrests are eventual “not guilty” decisions. Or, there is not sufficient evidence for trial. Those who post bail often have better results at trial than those who remain in jail.

The decision to plead before trial leaves many with a record. This preempts employment, credit scores, and financial aid for higher education.

How a Bond Works

The bond is an insurance policy. The contract allows individuals to pay a percentage of the bail.

Then, they can use collateral for the remaining amount.

The guarantee can include a home, property, credit cards, or jewelry for example. A bail bondsman then “covers” the entire amount of the bail with a surety bond for their customer.

The percentage the bail bondsman receives up front is theirs to keep no matter the outcome of the arrest. If the individual fails to show up for court appearances, the court will revoke the bond.

Then, the bail bondsman will attempt to recover the customer and bring them to jail. This process is famous on “Dog the Bounty Hunter”. Once the individual returns, the court revokes the bond.

Requirements for Bail Bondsman

Each state may vary in their requirements for bail bondsmen. In California, training and licensing is a rule. Applicants must prove residency of two years and have a clean criminal background.

A pre-licensing course of 20 hours is the first rule. Since a bond is an insurance contract, they must also get an insurance license.

And, they’ll need to have sponsorship from a surety bond company to work in the field. The license is good for two years, and continuing education is necessary to renew.

The Power of a Bail Bondsman

The median amount of bail in California is $50,000. There are very few who have this amount of cash at the ready. Those who want to help someone in trouble may find the legal process overwhelming.

A bail bondsman with experience can help navigate the system and speed up the process. They have contacts within the system and will assist their client. The rules of release and legal procedures are critical to understanding.

And, when it comes to securing collateral, a professional will support families. They will ensure filings with the court go right the first time.

Without unnecessary delays, individuals can resume their life with their family. This article will explain more about reputable bond processes.

Innocent People Need Help

A significant percentage of those who are awaiting trial are not found guilty of any crime.

Sometimes prosecutors drop charges due to lack of evidence. No matter the situation, these are innocent people.

Security of a bond, or any insurance policy for that matter, should follow the rules. There are federal and state laws for insurers as well as policyholders. There are also ethical standards for those who provide them.

Bail bondsmen requirements are more than mere licensing. Treating their clients with respect, dignity and protecting their privacy is paramount. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous actors in every business.

But, when facing an uncertain legal process, it is vital to trust those who help navigate it. Look for current licenses and reviews from clients. They should also have support from the legal community and insurers.

With much at stake, choosing those with a strong background ensures the best outcome.

What Defendants Cannot Do After Release on Bond

Family members who offer cash or collateral for a bond should be aware of the rules. They don’t want to lose their money or assets in the process. Defendants will lose their bond if they do any of the following:

  • Fail to Appear at Court Dates
  • Leave the State Without Permission
  • Take part in Illegal Activities
  • Attempt to Communicate with Other Defendants
  • Attempt to Communicate with Victims

In some cases, there may be mitigating factors for the revocation of the bond. For example, suffering health issues may prevent an appearance in court.

Or, not understanding the rules of the bond. Either may be a reason to reinstate. If there is enough evidence, the court can rule to reissue a bond.

What a Bail Bondsman Cannot Do

There are controls in place for doing business. It’s important to be vigilant in choosing a bail bondsman. If there are incentives such as fee discounts, there may be problems with the service.

Here a few things a bail bondsman cannot do.

  • Offer Legal Services for Court Proceedings
  • Retain Collateral Items After Release of Bond
  • Allow License to Lapse
  • Offer Services Without an Insurer
  • Secure a Contract Without Full Understanding by the Client

This is not a comprehensive list. The regulations for ethical bonding are under both the department of insurance and court systems in each state.

And, bondsmen have professional organizations on which they rely for standards. Every step in due process is essential. A professional and ethical bail bondsman will step up when families need it most.

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