It is understandable for a defendant not to be thinking clearly in those stressful days when they are being charged with a criminal case, are in jail, and are confronted with the prospect of staying in jail for a long time unless they can come up with enough resources to pay for their bail.
The temptation then would be to sign on with the first bail bondsman who offers to help you. The overriding interest would be to secure your release from prison as soon as possible, which can be done more quickly the sooner you engage the services of a bail bondsman.
Prudence, however, dictates exercising a bit of discretion before finalizing an agreement with a bail bondsman. You might want to spend some time satisfying yourself that you feel comfortable with the bail bondsman that you are hiring, that you understand everything provided for in the contract before signing it, and that the person you are hiring will be able to provide you the kind of service you are looking for.
Here are a few questions you might want to ask your prospective bail bondsman before hiring them:
- Are you licensed?
States regulate the operation of the bail bonds industry, and for this purpose, bail bondsmen are often required to be licensed by the state not only to practice their profession as a bail bondsman but also to make sure that their business has all the necessary paperwork to operate legally. You might ask to see the bail bondsman’s license, his identification, and proof that he is currently in good standing as both a bail bondsman and as a businessman.
- How much will they charge?
Depending on the state you’re in, bail bond companies charge a percentage of the total bail amount, which is usually set at 10 percent. This percentage amount is determined by the state, which means that anybody offering you their services as surety for your bail, for a discounted rate of less than what is statutorily required as the bail bondsman’s fee, is quite possibly operating a scam. Many unsuspecting individuals might gravitate towards this bail bondsman company because of the reduced rate of the money they are supposed to pay when compared to other bail bond companies. Be aware, however, that this percentage is a determined by law. Bail bondsmen who conducted business for the last few years are not allowed to arbitrarily reduce this rate, which means that you may be dealing with a scammer.
- How fast can you get someone out of jail?
There is no catch-all answer that addresses this question, and you may have to be satisfied that the bail bondsman is acting as quickly as humanly possible. As an alternative, you may want to ask instead about the process they will follow to secure the defendant’s release from jail. You might also ask about the shortest and the longest times they had, in their experience, before they could process a client’s release from jail.
- What will happen if the defendant skips bail?
There is a bottom line in every contract, and in your agreement with a bail bondsman, the bottom line is what will happen if the defendant should skip out on his bail? In addition to what will happen to the surety bond that they will file on your behalf, the bail bondsman should also inform you about how they will proceed against you. Will they file a lawsuit against you? Will they go after the collateral that you put up? Will they also be taking additional measures to try and locate you and bring you back to attend court? Will they hire a bounty hunter for this purpose?
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