As if being arrested isn’t stressful enough, now you also have to find someone to post bail for you, too. It’s just one thing in a long list of tasks you’ll have to take care of if you’ve been arrested but it’s extremely important that you get it right since it quite literally means your freedom! Here are some tips that will help you find the right bail bondsman quickly and what you should expect from the company.
1. Ask Around Provided you’ve been able to maintain a fairly healthy relationship with jail staff, you should be able to ask for their recommendations as to where you can find someone to post bail. It’s likely that bail bondsmen have fostered good working relationships with people connected with the system, so the staff are likely to know who might be able to help you.
If you can’t ask the staff, you should ask your lawyer or public defender. You’re likely to find lots of advertising around the courthouse and on the internet and their opinion can help you separate the good from the bad.
2. Check qualifications You’ve been arrested – could things get any worse? They could if you end up with a shady bail bondsman. Your bail agent should be licensed by the state and should carry the license and identification with them. You have every right to request to see these documents before agreeing to make a transaction.
3. Know what you’re paying for A bail agent should only be charging you 10% of the bail, as approved by the state insurance department. No matter what the charge is, this price should remain the same. You should enquire about any other charges and make sure they’re explained to your satisfaction.
If you require financing, a bail bondsman can help you with this. Loan interest rates are likely to vary from company to company, but since the market is highly competitive, you should be able to procure a manageable rate.
4. Get receipts Make sure you get an itemised receipt for the transaction, detailing all charges. The invoice should be a surety company numbered receipt with the company’s name, address and telephone number, and it should state the amount you paid, the total being charged and your name as the defendant on whose behalf the bail is being paid. If you sign anything else during the transaction, get copies.
5. Know your rights Because you’re paying to get out of jail – that means you don’t have any rights, right? Wrong. You are paying for a service being rendered by a professional company, and therefore you have every right to ask questions the same way you would of any other company, even after the bail has been posted. Your bail agent should be available to answer questions and should be as helpful as possible during the process. A bail company that is contactable by a variety of means is a great place to start.
Kate Lee is a freelance writer and contributes to a number of websites, writing about bail bonds and the legal process. She works with a variety of companies, including Bail Bonds Direct in California.