The incarceration rate in the US has risen to 716 per 100,000 citizens over the past few years, the highest rate in the world. Most people will never need a bail bond to get out of jail, but the whole idea of the criminal justice system is still a public concern and fascination. Bail agents are one of the least understood parts of it. Here are three common misconceptions about bail bondsmen.
1. Bail is negotiable
Bail amounts are not subject to haggling. Some people believe that if they have no criminal record bail will be low. But someone arrested for a crime receives a standard bail set by the county’s bail schedule. However, a judge can raise or lower bail as he sees fit. This will depend on both the circumstances of the crime and the history of the defendant.
2. Bail is refunded once the defendant appears in court.
A bail bondsman is basically making a loan to people who need to get out of jail. The fee for this is customarily 10% of the total bail amount. This is not refunded, however the court will return the other 90% when the case is completed. Bail bondsmen may forfeit the entire amount if the defendant flees or fails to appear. They may sometimes ask for collateral to cover their own risk beyond the 10%. This collateral is returned after the defendant satisfies his obligation to appear in court. The 10% is the bail bondsman’s profit, and does not get refunded.
3. Bail agents are bounty hunters
Bail is the court’s requirement of assurance that released prisoners will return to court. The court accepts the 10% bail bond on the assumption that the bail bondsman will be good for the rest of it if the defendant doesn’t show. If the defendant does, bail is dropped and the bondman keeps the 10%. But it he is held accountable for the rest, and the defendant has failed to appear, the judge may sign an arrest warrant, which a bail agent can enforce by returning the defendant to custody and thus satisfying the bond. However, bail agents do not normally go out to apprehend defaulting arrestees.
This is the job of the bounty hunter, who generally works for the bail agent to locate and re-arrest defendants who have failed to show in court on the scheduled date. In return, the bounty hunter gets a percentage of the bond as his fee.
Being trapped in jail with no hope and no money can have tragic consequences.But a bail bondsmen is a businessman, and very few of them become rich doing it.