Bail bonding is likely the most misunderstood profession in our legal system. Lawyers, clerks, even magistrates within the criminal justice system who are exposed to bail bonds on a daily basis can often on give the most basic explanation of the process. Compound this with the fact that most citizens who find themselves in the position of needing a bail bondsman (or at least thinking they do) will often be in a confused state due to the stress of having a loved on incarcerated. Needless to say bail bondsman tend to enjoy more than a competitive edge when it comes to negotiating the terms of their service, if any negotiating is done at all.
So how does an individual without any knowledge about what is really involved with this mysterious profession make sure they are not paying more than what is reasonable?
Let me start by clearly stating that the intent of this article is to explain only enough about bail bonding itself to give the reader enough knowledge to get the best price. I do not intend to outline the entire bail bonding process because, in reality, it is not necessary to understand the details to get the best price. In addition we are talking about LARGE bail bonds. No bail bondsman is going to be interested in getting into a heated negotiation over a $1,000 bail bond. You either pay the fee or your bailee will likely just stay incarcerated.
There is one mandatory subject that must be covered so that you limit your negotiations to bail bonding companies that are in a position to actually help you and that is the difference in Surety and Property bail bondsman. That will be covered shortly, first lets look at the typical bail bond.
The generally accepted price for a bail bond is 10% of the bond amount, so for example a bondsman will charge you $100 to post a $1,000 bail bond. It’s common practice in this industry to tell clients that this price is completely non negotiable because the percentage rate is set by law and cannot be altered. This is only partially true. This is where the importance and understanding the two types of bail bonding companies comes into play and it has everything to do with collateral.
Surety bail bondsman- Surety bail bondsman make up the bulk of the bail bondman in the world. These are individuals who’s companies have no real collateral of their own to back up the bail bond they are writing. Instead of using real property the bail bondsman partners with an insurance company who actually provides the collateral for the bail bond. Because an insurance company is involved Surety bail bondsman are really a type of insurance agent and as such must have a property and casualty insurance license. Because these types of bail bonds are really a type of insurance the “premium” or rate (the 10%) IS set in stone and cannot be altered by the bondsman. This is the rate that the insurance company filed with the Comissioner of Insurance and therefore must be adhered to.
This is why when shopping around for a better price the first question that should be asked is “are you a Surety or Property bail bondsman?”.
Property bail bondsman- In contrast a property bail bonding company has pledged real estate as the collateral for the bonds they write and therefore are not obligated to follow any pricing at all. The only limiting factor on price with a property bail bondsman is profit vs risk. And risk is everything.
So now knowing you must first find a property bail bondsman, how do you get the best price?
As stated earlier as property bail bondsman we look at discounting as profit vs risk. The way to get me to discount my rate is to take away risk.
How do you do that? The number one most important thing to a property bail bondsman when calculating risk is the cosigner. A bail bond is a three party contract with the bail bondsman, the defendant, and the cosigner on the bond (an individual who is agreeing to be held civilly liable for the full amount of the bail should the defendant fail to appear at all their court dates) all being parties to the contract. Simply put, find the right cosigner and you can start looking prices in 8%-4% range. The bottom line is the bigger the bail bond, the better the cosigner, the lower the price.
So what is a good cosigner? Well, essentially a bail bond is a loan for the face amount of the bond. So you have to understand that these are risky loans and the bail bondsman wants a cosigner who they know they can 1-Easily locate (Lifelong local resident, has financial or family obligations that would make it difficult to relocate like school age kids and a mortgage) 2-Could feasibly pay back the full face amount in a reasonable amount of time should there be a forfeiture (has a high income and or extremely stable job, a government employee with a long work record)
What the bail bondsman wants is that warm fuzzy feeling that even if the defendant runs out of the country they can recover their loss in a short amount of time. Obviously the warmer and fuzzier you feel the more likely you are going to be willing to take less profit even though the bondsman’s liability will remain the same. We do not have the benefit of payment plans and time. When the Stafford County Virginia court system says pay, we have to pay 100% immediately or be shut down by the Department of Criminal Justice Services.
In closing, this information should be helpful to those who may come upon it because they have been confronted with an extremely large bond and are taking the time to research before they buy. Find a reasonable property bail bondsman and you could save yourself a good amount of money.
With that said keep in mind that bail bondsman are just human beings, some are friendly good natured people, some are extremely ill tempered downright dirtbags. Find a bondsman who you feel you can trust and work with them. Price is not everything, remember a bail bondsman has full arrest rights on the defendant without naming any reason whatsoever to the court system. I know many bail bondsman who have written very large bonds and then simply re-arrested the defendant a few days later to discharge their liability on the bond. This is generally perfectly legal and the bail bondsman is under no obligation to return your money. Is it ethical, absolutely not, is it legal? Read your states bail laws very clearly.