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What does a bail agent do?

The popular perceptions about bail agents are that they get people out of jail strictly out of greed and without consideration for public safety. The reality is a far different affair. A bail agent is paid a premium or fee to insure that a criminal defendant, released into the custody of the bail agent, fulfills the obligation to appear for subsequent hearings and for trial, as ordered by the court. A bail agent never releases a defendant from jail – rather they are paid to insure the appearance of the defendant. If the bail agent fails to have the defendant in court at the proper time and place and cannot seize him and deliver him, they must pay the civil penalty in the face amount of the bail bond.

The other reality is that bail agents must live in the communities where they do business and contrary to popular belief, they do not wholesale release criminals. Bail agents are as susceptible to crime as their next-door neighbor. They also must face their neighbors, friends and relatives each day and if they wholesale release criminals without fulfilling their obligation, it will quickly affect their personal lives as well as the lives of their family. Contrary to what television portrays, bail agents do a good job knowing who to release and who not to release.

  • It is the bail agents' job to insure the defendant is in court each time he is called to do so, and to "return from term to term and day to day".
  • The bail agent may do whatever is necessary, to insure that the defendant will return to court, including taking collateral, requiring the defendant to report in by phone or in person, requiring a defendant to be monitored and even placing a guard on the defendant, if necessary to insure their return.
  • A premium on a bail bond is not considered "earned" until the defendant returns to court and the bond is exonerated or discharged.
  • If the bail agent fails to return the defendant to court, he is required to either pick-up and return the defendant to jail or to pay the full face amount of the bond as a penalty for failing to produce the defendant.

The commercial bail system in this country is the best form of insuring criminal defendants are returned to court insuring the victims of crime their rights to justice. It is a system paid for by the perpetuators of crime, not by the taxpaying victim and is fair and equitable in guaranteeing an accused their 8th amendment right to bail.

Useful tips when posting bail

  • Make sure you only deal with a licensed bail agent. Ask to see the bail agents license and identification prior to any bail transaction.
  • Make sure the bail agent charges you only legal rates. The premium charged for a bail bond varies from state to state. Additional charges above the allowed premium should be itemized and explained to your satisfaction.
  • Make sure you are given itemized receipts for all charges.
  • Make sure you are given copies of all signed contracts and agreements.
  • If financing is provided, make sure you understand the terms of the financing agreement prior to signing and be sure you are given copies of anything you sign.
  • Make sure the bail agent you contract with will be available to you after the bail bond has been posted. Part of what you pay for is service. Any professional bail agent will be available for questions or concerns throughout the entire process.