A bondsman posts a criminal suspect’s bail while awaiting trial in exchange for a commission-based fee.
In essence, it’s a loan. This enables a suspect who lacks the resources to post bail to remain at large until their trial date without having to pay the entire bond sum personally.
The bail sum is reimbursed to the bondsman when the suspect later shows up in court, and the defendant often pays the bondsman 10% of the entire bail.
Bondsmen help the judicial systems by reducing jail overcrowding and completing tasks that would be challenging (or impossible) for law enforcement personnel to complete. By enabling defendants to get in touch with their support networks in the family and community, they also help defendants. They can move through the judicial system more quickly and have a better chance of getting back to contributing to society by waiting for trial at the same time.
Are Bondsmen and Bounty Hunters the Same Thing?
A bondsman and a bounty hunter (officially referred to as a bail recovery agent) are listed under the same title in most states’ legal definitions. In reality, they are frequently two separate tasks. A criminal suspect can go free until their trial by receiving the necessary funds from a bondsman.
On the other side, a bail recovery agent looks for suspects who don’t show up for the trial. The recovery agent’s responsibility is to apprehend the suspect and deliver them to law enforcement custody so they can face trial and obtain the court’s permission to return the bondsman’s “loaned” funds. Despite not being a member of the police force, a bondsman is legally able to detain “bail jumpers” for as long as is required to return them to court custody. Bondsmen are expected to have professional identification when doing these tasks.
In the US, bondsmen charge about $14 billion annual bond turnover.
Some bonds, like other kinds of loans in the business sector, call for the suspect to put up collateral, such as a car or other possibly valuable item, which the bondsman keeps if the suspect doesn’t show up in court. To get his money back, the bondsman can then sell the collateral.
A defendant with no assets to use as “securing” for a bail bond must sign a contract promising to pay the bondsman if the defendant doesn’t show up in court. There may also be a need for a co-signer.
Only a tiny portion of the total bond amount, typically 10%, may be demanded by the judge from a defendant. When the defendant shows up for a trial, the money is refunded to them, less any small administrative costs.
This phrase refers to secured or unsecured bonds that follow the common percentage-based fee structure explained at the beginning of this article.
Personal recognizance bond
When a judge waives bonds based on a defendant’s pledge to show up for court and determines that they pose a low flight risk, no bondsman assistance is necessary. The judge may add an additional condition to a personal cognizance bond.
In a federal criminal case, a suspect’s bond is what is being discussed here.
This is specifically relevant to immigrant crime. The Department of Homeland Security, the defendant, and the bondsman are all parties to this agreement.
Do Bondsmen Specialize?
With 15,000 bondsmen currently employed in the United States, many have specific specialty areas. Here are a few areas of expertise within the bail bond industry:
General bail bondsman
This is the “general practitioner” that most of us are familiar with from literature and television, and they are licensed at the state level. A general bondsman deals with a range of offenses, including first-degree murder and infractions of the law.
As the name implies, a federal bondsman represents defendants in federal criminal trials, which requires them to become familiar with the federal court system. Compared to being a general bondsman, this is a riskier specialization since federal law gives its bondsmen more obligations. They might be held accountable for making sure the defendant not only shows up for court but also complies with any further demands made by the judge, such as limiting travel or business commitments, submitting to drug testing, etc. If the defendant doesn’t follow the court’s rules, the bondsman may risk losing the bond.
It is not unexpected that federal bondsmen frequently charge their clients more significant costs than general bondsmen. Add to this the fact that federal suspects are typically thought to be higher flight risks than in state and local cases.
When an immigrant is detained on bond, the danger of flight may be considerably greater if they have few lines of contact with the local community but strong connections elsewhere. Some immigrant defendants might be more likely to breach bonds than domestic defendants, given the threat of consequences like deportation or incarceration.
Because prisoners are frequently booked into local jails despite being in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the legal requirements for an immigration bondsman may also be more demanding. An immigration bondsman may charge a more significant fee at the federal level to make up for the increased risk of flight.
Why Work as a Bail Bondsman When the Risks Are So High?
A specific skill set is necessary to succeed as a bondsman. They approach money conservatively and have good people skills. When a defendant can offer security, or a co-signer is ready to guarantee the bond on the suspect’s behalf, most bondsmen much prefer to work on secured bonds. Before putting money on the line to ensure a court appearance, a bondsman must assess the suspect’s financial status, degree of community ties, personal background, and criminal past.
Bondsmen are also skilled at helping suspects of all income levels find payment management solutions, frequently providing financing choices that suit the demands of their clients.
In some jurisdictions, when a defendant skips bail, the court does not retain the bond amount that the bondsman paid. This is a little known fact outside of the bond market. Up to 95% of it might be returned, significantly lowering the dangers involved in this line of business.
Do You Qualify to Be a Bail Bondsman?
So, how do you train for this profession? Technically, as long as you’re at least 18 years old and can pass the license exam, most states demand a high school diploma to become a bondsman. You may also need to finish a pre-licensing course in some areas.
Several states also offer online and in-person courses on bail bonding. By passing the test, you can show that you have an essential awareness of the laws, customs, and principles governing your field. However, as said before, an effective bondsman also needs other abilities.
It takes persistence and a desire to assist someone struggling and has no other way to reclaim control of their life. Since you’ll have to sort through a ton of documentation that needs to be filled in precisely, you should have an eye for detail.
And a solid ability to “read” people is crucial. In this industry, having good intuition can help you succeed.
Many bondsmen pursue degrees in finance since the bond industry is so ingrained with financial systems. The financial aspect of things must come naturally to you, given all the other essential abilities in this field. States additionally demand that you have the financial means to fulfill all of the obligations associated with the bonds you post. You can also be required to be sponsored by a surety firm.
It’s a business that may be both exhilarating and tedious at times, but the proper person can find great satisfaction in it.