March 25, 2019
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The Role of a Bail Bond Agent

  • November 1, 2017

Generally speaking, a bail bond agent, or a bail bondsman, functions as a surety. For a fee, and the promise of being reimbursed should their undertaking be called due, they undertake the financial guarantee of making sure that the defendant does not skip on their bail, and will be present during their scheduled court dates.

The bail bond agent functions in the world of the criminal justice system, giving criminal defendants the financial capacity to meet their bail and gaining temporary freedom from incarceration pending their trial. Bail bond agents are licensed in the state in which they operate, and are sometimes required to provide insurance of their own as surety that they will be able to meet their obligations, whether property or casualty insurance. When a defendant secures the assistance of a licensed bail bond agent, he can usually be released relatively quickly.

Also sometimes known as the bail bondsman or bond dealer, they get their remuneration from the non-refundable statutory percentage of the total bail amount that they charge. Usually, this is set at ten percent of the total bail amount, bail bondsman in Iowa City charge about 10% for the bail bond. So even if you never skip out on bail and never have to pay a single cent of your bail amount, you can no longer get back the fee you paid to the bail bondsman because this is, in a sense, your payment for their services, for putting up the security sot that you can be released on bail without having to pay the bail at all. Of course, if you do skip out on bail, then the bail bondsman or bail bond agent (who has to pay the court the total amount of your bail) has recourse against you or any security you put up before they approved you for surety bail bond. Typically, this is property collateral or the guarantee of a person, usually a relative, to pay the bail amount if you never show up for court.

Of course, the greater interest that the bail bond agent has is in ensuring that you do not skip bail in the first place. To help ensure this, the bail bond agent can secure the services of a bounty hunter, where they are allowed by the state. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail bond agent can have a bounty hunter bring the defendant back in order to indemnify the bail bond agent for what they might have had to pay the court for the defendant’s absence, including all costs of bringing the defendant back. Or alternatively, the bail bond agent can go after the co-signer or a relative of the defendant who agreed to pay in case of the defendant’s skipping out on bail. It is assumed that the co-signer has the financial capacity to pay the bail if needed, or has put up property that the bail bond agent can get recourse against in case of default. In other words, any property or collateral that has been put up as security for the possible payment of bail will, if the defendant fails to appear in court, be used for the entire the amount. Real estate for instance, could be foreclosed, and other property sold and the amount applied to the lien.

What is interesting is that the licensing of bounty hunters is outlawed in certain states, such as North Carolina, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Therefore, it is up to the bail bondsman or the bail bond agency itself to seek to bring the defendant back to the court’s jurisdiction. Elsewhere, or in other countries, similar arrangements are outlawed outright, and lawyers have been disciplined for setting up commercial bail arrangements. Only in the United States does the law allow defendants to be brought back to the court’s jurisdiction through commercial arrangements such as the services of a bounty hunter.

Bail bond agents are licensed by the state in which they operate, which is dependent on certain educational requirements.  This license is usually backed by property and casualty insurance. Since bail bond agents are independent of the court or the defendant, they also need to manage their own risks. They can do this by getting insurance coverage, as well as making a thorough assessment of the defendant in the first place – such as, are they flight risks, and do they have the ability to pay the bondsman’s fee, as well as the bail amount should the defendant fail to appear in court? Many times, as long as the bail bond agent is reasonably certain that the defendant will not skip bail, an agreement with the bail agent can be finalized.