You’ve probably seen this in movies a lot. Someone’s arrested and they suddenly get released from jail after issuing a payment – Bail.
A Bail is no way to revoke the crimes that had been done but allows the arrestee to be released until the trial.
Of course, this is fine if you and your family have got the money, but what if you don’t? Well, you could use the help of a Bail Bondsman.
Who is a bail bondsman?
A bail bond agent, known as a bail bondsman is a person (or an agency/corporation) who makes an agreement between the court and the defendant. A surety bond. This type of bond ensures the release of the defendant from jail under the condition that they appear at trial.
They are people who help arrestees get out of jail should the latter have no money to pay the bail amount.
How do Bail Bondsmen make their money?
When one seeks a bondsman’s help, they need to have some amount of money. usually, it’s around 10% of the bail amount.
Then, an agreement is made, and all obligations are agreed upon.
The bondsman secures the remaining 90% of the bail amount in the form of collateral provided by the arrestee of their family. This usually means jewelry, assets or stocks, a car, a house, etc.
Bondsman makes a bail bond with a court, and the arrestee is released.
- In the case that the defendant does not appear in court at a given date, the remaining 90% of the bail is paid by the bondsman, and they are entitled to possess the said collateral to make up for the rest of the money they paid (this usually comes down to selling the collateral and paying the court with that money).
- In the case that the defendant does appear in court at a given date, the collateral is returned to the owner, bail is dissolved and the bondsman keeps that 10% as profit.
How much money do bail bondsmen make?
Being a bondsman heavily depends on your skills as an entrepreneur, thus the pay range varies a lot. Typically, bondsmen earn from $20.000 to $85.000 / year, with the average being $36.000/year.
Top minds in the industry can earn even more than that, as it is a very flexible business, and highly dependent on the market situation.
Entrance level agents earn around $20.000/year, and more experienced ones $40.000 and above.
Is it worth it for the defendant?
Well, it sure is, especially if they don’t have the money to pay the full bail, which is usually quite a high amount. If they appear at trial, the release costs them only 10% of the bail.
Is it worth for the Bondsman?
Yes, it is. The bondsman keeps the 10% of the bail amount as profit if the defendant appears in court at all given dates, which usually does happen, since should the defendant not appear at trial, more legal prosecutions are issued.
Almost 97 percent of bail clients appear in court without incident, thus making it pure profit for the bondsmen.
In the event, the defendant does not appear in court, you lose the money. This happens rarely but does happen, so be prepared to deal with that, especially if you’re a business owner. Bondsmen usually hire a bounty hunter to get the jumper to face justice or handle things on their own.
Oftentimes, families of the person help bring them to justice, fearing greater punishments and consequences.
Nevertheless, being a bondsman is correlated with risk, and it’s up to you whether you’re able to take it.
What does it take to become a bondsman?
You need to be at least 18 years old and acquire at least a high school diploma.
Bail bond agents are usually educated in fields of finance, civil and/or criminal law.
In fact, most of the agents have diplomas in business administration, law, finance, or economics.
Again, it’s not technically required but helps a lot, especially when it comes to licensing exams.
In order for you to become a bondsman, you must acquire a license. This means completing a pre-licensing course and passing the state licensing exams. The exam is multiple-choice type, and you have an hour to complete it. It costs around $40-$100, depending on the state.
After you receive your score, you apply for the state license. The exact procedure is to be found at the state’s department of insurance website.
The license usually is viable for 1 to 3 years, after that needs to be renewed, meaning you’ll have to complete a set (by the state) amount of educational hours over the course of that time.
After you’ve completed all the requirements to work as a bail bond agent, It’s time to work.
You either join an existing company or start your own. Most newly trained agents join an existing company to learn more about the industry and get an established network of financial partners.
After you’ve gathered enough experience, you can start your own company, or continue working for someone.
How to start a bail bondsman business?
Assuming you’ve got the knowledge of industry and experience, you’ll need some kind of capital.
Firstly, you need to register a business, as all businesses in the U.S. must be legally registered. The exact process can be found at the state’s website, but keep in mind you’ll need a couple of hundreds of dollars to cover all the registration fees. Again, the amount depends on the state, but it’s usually around $300 – $800.
Secondly, you need an office. This mostly means renting one. Make sure it’s in a good spot. The location plays a big part in your advertising campaign. ideally, you’d want to be located next to the jail, or a police station.
You’ll also need a phone, computer, fax and all the stuff required to run a business and office.
It would be a good idea to start advertising. Give your contact information to people who deal with people who get arrested. You need to think like an entrepreneur, target those who might be in need of your service.
Usually, new bondsmen need to have around $50.000 of assets or properties to make sure they can pay out the bail in case the defendant mitigates to face justice. This rarely happens, but there’s always a risk, and as a business owner you need to be prepared for that.
Bail bondsmen earn their money by writing surety bonds to release the defendant. They usually take 10% of the bail’s amount as profit if the defendant shows up at all set dates in court.
Should the person fail to show up, Bondsmen are secured with an agreement that allows them to possess the arrestee’s collateral and pay the remaining 90% of the bail.
Although the risk is slight, nonetheless it’s still there, that’s why it’s up to the bondsman to have a way of ensuring the defendant arrives at a given date. As a bail bond agent, you’d need to have a way to monitor your clients, and ensure everything goes accordingly to plan.
Some bondsmen, for instance, require their clients to check in at their office every now and then.
As with every profession, there are risks, and there are rewards. It all comes down to your valuation of those.