Bail Bond Confessions Blog

6 Weeks

November 20, 2010
3 Comments

And as usual, things have been exceedingly slow.  I’ve started to adapt.  I’m opening a second business at the end of the year which will likely keep me busy yet still allow the flexibility of posting the once a month bond.  In the past six weeks, I’ve had two new clients.  One was a $100 deal and the other was a $1200 or so bond.  I make enough to keep afloat, but I seem to always be just one more client away from making a profit.  Oh well.

In the past two days, I’ve been called to bond hearings by attorneys, only to have both defendants get out on their own recognizance.  There is a catch-22 with limiting myself only to attorney referrals.  The quality of defendant is much higher and risk of skip is much lower.  But the judges know that and set bonds accordingly.  Still, I’m pretty happy with how things are going and it seems like I get about one client a month.

I’m having a slightly harder time convincing attorneys to call me, though.  I wonder if they feel like they have to pay me something if I go to the bond hearing and then don’t get the bond?  Yesterday I turned down $500 and today I turned down $100 from attorneys/defendant’s families.  I explain that I’m not allowed to accept any money unless I actually perform the service, but they just don’t seem to grasp that and clearly look like they think I’m nuts.

One attorney even said that he has paid other bondsmen in the past for their time.  I just shrugged and told him that my understanding of the rules is that I can’t accept the money. I appreciate the gesture, but just consider it part of the service. Call it a free consultation if you will.

-bbc

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What will next week hold?

September 25, 2010
3 Comments

Things have been exceedingly slow, yet again.  I’m at 10 clients currently.  My last one was a $100 fee, so its not like I’m exactly rolling in it.  I have a potential client who is turning herself in on a drug charge next week.  Not sure if she will even get a Surety bond of if the judge will just give a 10% option.

Our bail bond association is in complete disarray and I’ve been approached to see if I was interested in serving on the board. I’m thinking it isn’t worth my time since the association only represents maybe 10% of the bondsman in our state.  The rest have no interest in paying dues and honestly, the association has no income and thus no power.  It’s mainly a tool for a few old timer’s to get their own legislation and special interests passed, though they are ineffective at even doing that. Also, none of them ever listen to me when I voice my opinion.  I mean literally, they turn away from me, talk over me, and start other conversations.

Finally, one of my clients still owes me $800 on his original $1,200 debt.  He ducks my calls whenever I try to contact him, avoids answering the door, and does not check in on a weekly basis the way he is supposed to.  The last time I talked to him, I offered to make him a deal:  I can hold off on collecting the $800 until he has paid off his attorney (he’s a referral), as long as he promises to check in each week and agrees to pay an additional $50 fine for each week that he misses.  So far he missed the first one and has not made himself available to sign updated paperwork.  I called his attorney last week and explained the situation and we will see what happens.  If he misses another check in, I don’t know what to do.  Call his employer?  Call his brother (out of work indemnitor)?  Mail him notice via certified mail and then revoke his bond if it comes back unreturned?

Ideas?  Suggestions?

-bbc


4 in 3

September 11, 2010
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So what does that title mean, eh?

It means in the past three months, I have lost four very solid potential clients. These are clients who hired attorneys, had the resources to pay my fee, and were motivated to show up to court. How did I lose them? The judges.

Lately, more and more often our local judges seem to be invoking a rare used option when setting bail:  The 10% option. The story goes that the judge sets the bail and then tacks on the 10% option and explains it that if the family posts 10% of the bond amount in either cash or property, than the defendant is let free and at the end of their case, the court returns the cash or property.

So yeah, now the courts are muscling into the bond business and cutting the bondsman out. This means that there is no collateral to secure the bond nor is there a motivated party out there keeping watch on the defendant and maintaining control over the situation. Furthermore, the courts get to earn interest on the money posted and that does not get returned to the family. In many cases, if there are penalties, court costs, or any other charges, it gets deducted from the posted amount. Oh and that goes for attorney’s fees too.

It’s damn hard to compete against the government.  I’m still trying to do this for a living, but between that and the general slowness of my current business model (only deal with attorney referrals), I’m keeping my eyes open for other business opportunities.

Who knows, I may have to change the title of this blog!

-bbc


Dose of Humility

August 21, 2010
1 Comment

So the other day, an attorney called me in to the jail for a bond hearing.  He thought that the client would need me, but turns out the judge was quite lenient. This happens from time to time and it doesn’t bother me a bit. I’m just happy the attorneys call me at all.

In any case, the interesting part of the story is that there was this huge media circus surrounding the case.  There were maybe 40 people waiting in the lobby and all of our local news networks were covering it.  I just sat in the corner with a book until I could identify the mother of the defendant I was called in to help.  I had talked to the mother several times in the previous few days so she knew who I was, just not what I looked like.

So I walk over to her and introduce myself. We talk for a moment and I tell her if she needs me, I’ll be in the corner, just come get me.  As I walk away, one of the guards says “Hey champ!” to me.  I didn’t know he was talking to me so I kept walking.  He said it again, so I stopped and looked at him with that ‘do you mean me?’ face.

He comes over to me and says “I don’t want to see you soliciting in my jail.”  I told him I wasn’t soliciting and he continued “And I don’t want to see you advertising either!”

“I’m not advertising”, I said.

“Your shirt has your company’s name on it”, he said.

I said “That’s just identifying me. Besides, I have a letter in my bag from the regulator saying that this is acceptable.”

“Not in my jail”, he said.  “And you are in my jail right now.  Next time don’t wear that shirt!”

And he started to walk away.  At this point, I should have just licked my wounds, but I stopped him and said that I wasn’t soliciting business, but that the family had invited me to be there.  He kind of grunted at me and walked away.

Time passes and I talked with the attorney.  I asked about the guard and the attorney identified him as a captain in charge of the jail.

Oh.  Oops.

Once the hearing was over and most of the crowd had filed out, I walked towards the exit with the attorney.  We stopped so he could talk to the Captain and one of the court workers.  I found an appropriate moment to pull the Captain aside and I apologized for wearing the shirt.  I told him next time I would bring a sport coat to wear over it.

This seemed to please him, so I chalk it up as a win.

-bbc


Vacation?

August 13, 2010
3 Comments

Is there such a thing for a bondsman?  I recently took a week off and went somewhere else.  There was a time difference.  It really screwed with my clock when people called me at times thinking it was business hours when it was sleeping hours or just getting to sleeping hours.  I was tempted to turn the phone off, but I actually got a new client while I was away.  Through the miracles of wifi, e-mail, telephone, and hotel fax machines, I was able to get her sprung.

However, it also took the use of a transfer bond and though she had multiple charges against her, the bondsman that did the transfer bond only posted her main bond.  I about had a coronary screaming at people over the phone and it took another 24 hours before he was able to go out there and post the rest of the bonds.

I used to think my clients were a little slow.  It’s nice to know my competition is even worse.

-bbc


Not there yet

July 28, 2010
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So for weeks months, I’ve been saying as soon as I get my next bond I’ll be able to start paying myself.  But there has been no bond.  Until maybe now.  I met with the parents of a 20yr old that had consensual (doesn’t exist in our state) sex with a 15yr old.  He’s been locked up for a while and his parents don’t have a lot of money.  Today they got the bond reduced to 25k surety only.  I received a referral call from an attorney and quoted them $2,100 with $700 up front and payments for the rest.  This was exceedingly generous on my part, mostly because I wanted to curry favor with the attorney who had never referred me any clients before.

The thought was that at $700 up front, at least I would be able to make a little bit on the deal up front and then the rest of the payments would be “profit” though it will likely go towards my monthly expenses in future months.

The problem is that I’m leaving for my annual vacation in 2 days and I’ll be gone for over a week.  The family has to borrow the $700 from an out of state family member and the check is now in the mail, but won’t be received and cleared until next week.  The attorney is graciously offering to hold the money in escrow for me, but that means the little profit I was hoping to eek out on this up front payment is going to be used to pay another local bondsman a transfer bond fee to go down to my local jail and file some paperwork!  The indignity pains my ego, but the amount of money we are talking about is not significant enough to justify me delaying my trip nor purchasing an airplane ticket to fly back just to do the bond and then return to my vacation.

Annoying, but not fml sort of stuff.

-bbc


Judge decides, bondsman shrugs

July 14, 2010
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So last week, my client checks in with me and tells me he has court coming up. I’m surprised by this and ask what he is talking about.  He said he got a letter from his attorney saying there is a bond revocation hearing.

This is news to me.  He reads me the letter and it sounds like the prosecutor is proactively seeking to revoke bond based on my conversation with him a few weeks ago when I was gathering papers to submit for revocation.

Since then, there has been a date switch and what not, but much to my chagrin, I’ve yet to receive notice of the actual bond hearing, much less the date changes.  I only knew about it because I kept in contact with my client.

Anyway, we show up to court today and his attorney asks me if I would stay on bond.  I’ve given it much thought and because a) I feel like the parents share some responsibility in allowing the client to be in a situation where he was arrested and b) because the client is not a flight risk, I tell the attorney that I will stay on bond if given the option.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m trying to curry favor with the attorney.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor throws me right under the bus at the start of the hearing by telling the judge, attorney, and my client that he is initiating the hearing based on a conversation he had with me a few weeks prior. UGH.  At least he tempered it by adding that to date I have not submitted paperwork to revoke the bond.

The judge listened to both sides (and I was able to get more details of the somewhat horrific nature of the client’s crime) and finally ruled that the client can stay on bond as long as his official conditions are changed to include GPS monitoring and a 9pm-7am curfew.

Once that was over, I realize in discussions with the family that the client is currently residing at the grandmother’s house and clearly with GPS monitoring that will have to change.  I explain the situation to the attorney who calls the mother and smooth things out.

I get a call from the mother a few hours later.  I explain to her that the option is GPS monitoring and him staying at her house or he goes back to jail.  She seems ok with it, but then grows alarmed at the cost of the GPS monitoring. She calls me back a 2nd time to confirm that she would indeed have to pay for the court ordered monitoring.

Um…who else should pay so her son can have his freedom?  I’m sure as tootin’ not paying.

-bbc


Situation update

July 2, 2010
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Well it has been a couple of weeks and I know you are all sitting on the edge of your seats with anticipation wondering what happened.  The short answer?

Not much.

I spent a day running around town getting paperwork in order to surrender the kid back to jail.  I kept in touch with the various parts of the family, juggling the parents and grandmother and trying not to tip off the kid.  Finally I was all prepared to go arrest and return the kid.

I called the parents to give them the heads up (I was literally heading out the door) when the mother asks “So, when do we get our money back?”.

WHOA Nellie.  Each state is different and I know in California, you get some sort of refund if you are returned to jail.  But this is not California.  I had to politely explain to the parents that according to our state law, I’m prevented from refunding any amount of the bond fee, so there would be no refund.

This changed everything and they told me they would get back to me.  We talked several more times over the following week, though it was often because I called them, not because they called me.  I last talked to the mother 8 days ago and she said she would get back to me.

Needless to say, I stopped holding my breath on this one a long time ago.

In other news, no new bonds.  A couple of potentials that I turned down, though.  The first was a $75,000 bond for 20 charges of burglary, but Mom has no collateral and only $2,000 to pay for the bond fee, though they have a good attorney (pro bono).  The other one was a $10,000 bond on a young adult drug dealer whose mother could pay the entire bond fee, but once he gets out he would have no place to live and no job.

-bbc


Uh Oh…

June 19, 2010
2 Comments

So it has been a month since my last bond.  That part is worrisome enough, though I have enough reserves to keep going a few more months.  However this morning I got a surprise phone call from the parents of THIS guy. Seems they took the family on vacation to the beach.  While they were there, the kid got himself in trouble again.  Two charges, 1) leaving the scene and 2) Petit Larceny.

I don’t have the details yet, but the parents were insistent that they want to revoke his bond and they have no intention of paying the $600 to bond him out from the jail at the beach.

Here is where it gets interesting.  You may recall that the mother and the grandmother are indemnitors on the bond. Well…the grandmother wants the kid to stay on bond and says her other daughter is willing to step in as an additional indemnitor.

This is one big hot mess and as long as the kid is at the beach, I can’t really do much of anything since he is out of my jurisdiction and no warrant has been issued yet.  I’ve consulted with an attorney and with my surety company and it seems that the correct path right now is to wait until Monday.   It looks like the Aunt has gone out to the beach to bond the kid out and the Grandmother assures me he will be staying with her.  On Monday, I’ll go down to the court and file paperwork telling the court that the kid has violated a condition of his bond.  I’m going to leave it up to the judge to decide (as if I have a choice!) whether or not to revoke the bond.  If he decides to revoke it, I think I will offer to re-bond him (assuming the judge sets a new bond amount) to the grandmother, thus pissing off the parents.  If he decides to revoke the bond and not set a new one, I come off fairly clean two both parties since I’m just doing my job and it is out of my hands.  If the judge decides not to revoke the bond, then I’m stuck with a mess on my hands since the parents want off bond.  I think I’m going to tell them that I won’t be able to let them off of indemnification unless I’m able to secure collateral.

Any advice or ideas is more than welcome…

-bbc


An interesting question…

May 29, 2010
2 Comments

Predatory/payday lenders, like bail bondsman, are almost universally reviled and highly regulated.  Most states place a maximum cap on how much a payday lender can charge.  Most states place a maximum cap on how much a bail bondsman can charge.  Here is where it gets interesting:

Lenders do not try to compete on price.  They all charge the maximum and keep that as the status quo.  Bondsman (at least in my state) all try to undercut each other on price.

I wonder why that is?

-bbc


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