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Bail Bondsmen
March 3, 2010 9:24 PM   Subscribe

What should I know about using a bail bondsman?

I may have to bail someone out of jail. The court set the bail at 10% of $200,000. The bail bondsman told me he can do it for 1% of the bond set by the court.

What are the pitfalls and benefits of using a bail bondsman?
posted by Jandasmo to Law & Government (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Depends: Is the person you're bailing out likely to jump bail or not show up for court?
posted by fatbird at 9:28 PM on March 3, 2010


No, not likely at all. Fully trust him not to.
posted by Jandasmo at 9:31 PM on March 3, 2010


benefit: money now.

pitfalls: you're on the hook for 200K if your friend's bond is revoked because he violates the conditions of his bond or he fails to appear in court; there's a fee
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:45 PM on March 3, 2010


pitfalls: you're on the hook for 200K if your friend's bond is revoked because he violates the conditions of his bond or he fails to appear in court;

It's my understanding that he's not, the bail bondsman is. That's the point of a bail bondsman. They issue the BOND (guarantee) that the guy won't jump bail, and if he does they'll go hunt him down to ensure they don't pay the dough.
posted by meadowlark lime at 10:03 PM on March 3, 2010


It's my understanding that he's not, the bail bondsman is.

I think the bail bondsman is on the hook for the 10%. IIRC, for bail, you put up 10%; if you don't show up for trial, you forfeit the entire bail and owe the court the rest.

If you can't come up with 10%, you pay a bail bondsman 1%, he puts up the 10%, and the court lets you go pending trial. If you skip, the bondsman's 10% is lost, and he can only retrieve it by catching you and bringing you before the court. To prevent that, you sign a contract with the bondsman that he can enter your home, question your family, basically do a lot of things that cops can't do without a court order, to retrieve you. But if you do skip and he can't find you, then you're still liable for the whole amount, not the bondsman.

Jandasmo, I think the pitfalls of dealing with a bondsman will be largely written into the agreement you have to sign to engage him. If your friend shows up at trial, then there's no likely no problem. But if your friend skips, you could be on the hook for a lot of bad treatment and possibly money if you're the one signing the agreement.
posted by fatbird at 10:33 PM on March 3, 2010


The Stuff You Should Know podcast just covered Bail last week. It's worth checking out for a casual overview. They lean heavily on this NPR story for information.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 12:54 AM on March 4, 2010


The intrinsic trade-off surprisingly few people realize: the bail bondsman's fee, unlike bail paid to the court, is non-refundable.
posted by deeaytch at 3:19 AM on March 4, 2010


It is essentially a loan with ass-backwards terms. Instead of paying the court 20k which they will return to you when the defendant shows up, you pay the bondsman 2k, which you will never see again. In both cases, you are on the hook for 200k if your friend skips. In effect, the bail bondsman is loaning you 20k for 2k in interest.
posted by Lame_username at 5:33 AM on March 4, 2010


I think the bail bondsman is on the hook for the 10%. IIRC, for bail, you put up 10%; if you don't show up for trial, you forfeit the entire bail and owe the court the rest.

No, this is not true. You pay the bail bondsman 10% ($20,000) so that the bail bondsman is on the hook for the whole bond ($200,000).

When a defendant is considered a particularly bad risk or lives out of state, someone could agree to indemnify the bail bondsman for the whole bond if your friend skips town, but typically you are paying the 10% fee so that the bondsman is on the hook for the whole fee.

That's why bonding companies employ bounty hunters to find fugitives -- they don't want to lose that money. (When a defendant fails to show up for court, the courts where I practice set a "final forfeiture" date, which is the deadline for the bonding company to return the defendant to court, or else they will have to pay the amount of the bail. If a defendant failed to show up to court and the bonding company can establish a good reason for its failure to return the defendant to court --- for example, the defendant is incarcerated in another state --- the bonding company can be "exonerated," that is, they are no longer liable on the bond).

When a bonding company says they can get the loved one out for 1% of the bond, typically that means that you will pay them 1% up front, and you will enter into payment plan to pay the remainder of the 10%.
posted by jayder at 5:54 AM on March 4, 2010


I may be wrong -- the family or friend who posts the 10% may actually be on the hook for the whole bond in every case, but so is the bonding company. In most cases that I deal with, the family members/friends would be judgment proof, so the bonding company would end up paying the $200,000. It would be a rare criminal defendant's family who could pay any significant judgment.
posted by jayder at 5:59 AM on March 4, 2010


This Blog entry from Houston chef Bryan Caswell has some good info:

Restaurateur 101: Put Your Bail Bondsman’s Number on Speed Dial
posted by IanMorr at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jayder: The person who posts the bond is technically an indemnitor and is clearly liable for the amount of the bond. However, as you say, the family of the accused are typically judgment proof, so it doesn't come up that often. Furthermore, the contract usually holds the indemnitor liable for all court costs and recovery costs. Here is a typical example. When they run into someone with means, they generally try to get collateral or a lien.
posted by Lame_username at 10:53 AM on March 4, 2010


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