Bail Bond Confessions Blog

Need advice

May 27, 2010
3 Comments

This morning I found myself in a court room waiting for proceedings to begin.  I struck up a conversation with the bondsman next to me.  This is a guy I’ve talked to a couple of times.  I’ve heard some pretty disgusting rumors about him, but nothing confirmed.  I believe he is also the same guy that threatened to charge the indemnitor of one of my clients additional bond fee’s in order to stay on my client’s initial bond, when I got the larger 2nd offense bond (here).

In any case, I stayed cordial and even bordered on friendly.  I asked him for advice on how his company (largest in town) competes with the 6% shops. He told me it isn’t a big deal and suggested that when quoting/collecting funds from new clients, that I don’t clarify/stipulate/mention that this is not a one time fee.  Instead, after a few months, he then suggests I send them a bill for the other 4% (6+4=10) of the bond fee.

Then I asked what you do when they don’t pay and he says “Oh, you get off the bond then.”  I asked how, since it is illegal to revoke a bond for non-payment here.  He then suggested that I send out regular reminders for court to addresses on file (I currently make telephone calls instead) and hope that the notice gets returned to me because the defendant has moved. Then, even if I happen to know where the defendant is, I can take that returned piece of mail to the judge and ask for revocation since it would seem that the client is being evasive and I “don’t know where the defendant is and/or if they are trying to flee”.  He said you just need a little excuse to get off the bond.

So…what do you think I should do?  I find these suggestions abhorrent, but I’m not sure what, if anything, I should do about it.  I considered contacting our regulator and discussing it with him, but no one likes a tattle tale and more importantly they are a big player in the area and I have no protection.

Let me put it this way…they are such a big player in the area that I have reason to believe that they have secure access to the local jail database, whereas I only have public access and am limited to only very basic searches and information.

-bbc

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Update!

May 21, 2010
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Wow…over a month since I last updated.  Unfortunately, thats because I just haven’t been very busy.  In that time, I’ve only done one bond and it was just a baby bond for a $1,000 ($100 fee) and nothing significant to note.

In other news, the founder of one of my largest competitors died recently.  But he had been in poor health for a while, so I don’t expect much change or adjustment in the marketplace.  I’m pretty sure that he hasn’t been playing much of a part in the business for some time.

Oh…there is one little story I can tell.  Last night, I got woken up at 2am by a woman who led off with the phrase I’ve come to hate:  “How much would you charge for a $xyz bond?”

Yes, I know I advertise that I’m a 24/7 business.  Honestly, I really don’t mind being woken up in the middle of the night by a distraught loved one who needs some answers and is half-frantic with anxiety. But in my state, we have bond court twice a day in most counties.  Once in the morning and once in the afternoon/evening (say by 7pm).  So there is really no reason for someone to be looking through the phone book at 2am calling everyone to ask them how much they would charge.  If it wasn’t important enough to call about 5 hours ago, than it can wait until 8am.  None of the jails around here will release anyone out at that time of night anyway.

At least I can say she led out with the question right off the bat so she didn’t waste my time.  But then she seemed annoyed when I quoted her 10% which is higher than several of my competitors.

I don’t know you and you don’t know me.  Why should I give you a discount? How can I trust that your loved one would even show up to court?  That’s my risk, so that’s my price.

-bbc


Exhausted

April 18, 2010
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So yesterday afternoon, I received a phone call from a distraught mother located several states away.  Her son and two of his friends were arrested for drug possession on their way to a concert. She needed my help bonding her son out and we started with e-mail and faxing documents. I received most of the documents that I needed by dinnertime and was ready to go get the kid first thing this morning.  Last night, before bed, I ran the credit card and it was denied.  It took hours to get this resolved and I didn’t go to bed until well after midnight, but I knew I had captured the full 10% fee.

This morning, I drove out to get the kid.  He is a couple of counties away so it took about an hour.  I then waited nearly two more hours for the judge to arrive and do his thing.  My part of the paperwork took 5 minutes and I was on my way back to the parking lot.  An hour and a half later, my new client was released and I took him out to Lunch.  It was my treat, not that he could have paid if he wanted to, since all of his cash (over $300) was seized by the police because it was a drug related charge.

After lunch, we drove all over the county looking for the impound lot.  Took about an hour and we finally found it.  The GPS was less than useful in the rural county as it directed us to a big empty farm field.

Once at the impound lot, we waited 2.5 more hours for my client’s Aunt and Uncle to arrive.  They were driving up from two states away to pick him up and take him to his Mother.  It worked out because they were moving up there anyway in search of new work opportunities.  It took another hour to get home after that.  So after fees, I made just about $1,000 and it took a tank of gas plus 10 hours of my day.  Not to mention the 2-3 hours that I’ve spent on the phone with the guy’s mother. Assuring, reassuring, and answering all of her questions is a fulfilling job, but time consuming.

I found the mother and son’s extreme gratefulness quite satisfying and I hope that he keeps up his end of the bargain.  It was those kinds of thanks that reminded why I’m in this business to begin with.  I could have just taken the fee and let the kid out of jail and ditched him to make his own way home.  It would have taken maybe 3 hours of my time, but that isn’t the quality of service I try to provide to my clients and I feel it sets me apart from the competition in a very good way.

-bbc


Quick update

April 13, 2010
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So I’ve been busy and yet not busy at the same time.  No new clients, but I’ve been out there pounding pavement and developing my other business. Anyway, I got a call tonight from a lady that was about 100 miles away. Her nephew was arrested on simple possession and given a $10k bond.  She had $400 and would pay the remainder in a week.

She called me while I was on the road.  We talked it out and figured out how to get the paperwork back and forth through e-mail.  When I got back to my office and started the process, I called her and she told me that her family that was in town here found another bondsman that would accept the same deal and they went ahead and paid him.

It’s funny.  This time, I wasn’t even really pissed.  Yeah, these things happen, but the whole deal sounded like it was going to be a bit of a pain in the ass. The defendant lives far away, the indemnitor wasn’t paying all the fee up front, even the paperwork was a pain in the ass.  Honestly, I didn’t feel bad about letting this one go.  And compared to the bonds I’ve been writing recently, $10k is pretty much the upper end of what I consider small now.  3 months ago, I would have been super pissed, but then 3 months ago, $10k bond would have been 3x the largest bond I’d written.

Funny how things change.

-bbc


Thought of the week

April 4, 2010
3 Comments

I recently had a thought about this business I’m in.  It’s rather unusual in that families that are strangers to crime that find themselves in the position of having to bail out a loved one will often end up paying the full price of a bond from a bondsman, whereas a family of a career criminal will often pay a much lower price for a bond because they know how to negotiate and shop around. Personally, I would prefer our legislature to pass a law making the minimum amount a bondsman can charge 10%.  If all the bondsman were on a level playing field, it would be safer for the community and they would be forced to differentiate themselves by providing better service.

-bbc


Milestone!

March 23, 2010
1 Comment

So I’ve hit my next milestone.  I had a $30k bond this past weekend, which is a story in and of itself.  But on the bigger picture, at least on paper, I’ve become profitable.  I’m still not in a position to pay myself, but if you subtract all my liabilities from all of my assets (ignoring the concept of my current clients full bond amounts being liabilities) and you are left with a little bit of lucre.

If things can continue to progress, I might be able to cut myself a paycheck this summer.  Then again, I had a very painful slump from Dec. 1-Feb 1, so its possible that this is just regression to the mean, so I’m not ready to cut a check just yet.

-bbc


Stupid Stuff

March 15, 2010
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Quick update:

My $25,000 bond client’s case still hasn’t been officially dismissed in the system, though all parties involved agreed to end the case.

My $237.50 bond client is still stuck going to court even though he paid $237.50 directly to the court.  Rather than applying it to his fine, they gave him a cash bond so now he’s bonded out twice for the same offense.  They won’t release me from the bond because the people working in the magistrate office are idiots.

My $1,395 bond client that I sprung last week missed his first check in.  This dude was pretty lax when it came to keeping his license/tags/insurance up to date.  I don’t know why I expected him to be able to check in with me on a regular basis.

My $30,000 bond client that I got out last week is back in jail. The other bond company that has him for a $5,000 bond was semi-unsuccessful at revoking it.  He gets 30 days in jail and then when he gets out, they have to stay on his bond. Meanwhile, he’s in jail for 30 days.  In jail = not working. Not working = not making his payments. That sucks. I’m going to try and see if he can send me some good business while he is in there.

-bbc


Crap day

March 12, 2010
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I got a call from the big dog attorney.  He has a client in need and the money for the fee is in escrow held by the attorney. The bond hearing is in a few hours. I go out to the jail and catch not the big dog attorney, but one that is there in his place. The bond hearing just ended and the potential client was given a $35,000 bond.  Cash, Surety, or 10%.  Great. So much for that. The big dog attorney and I both agree there is no point in using a bondsman if they can post 10% of the bond with the county and in theory get that money back at the end of the case.

So then I drove 100 miles to a small town to serve a single paper. Got to the house without problem, but it was half abandoned. Waited for 3 hours and was told by a neighbor that they moved a bunch of stuff this morning and told him they would be back tomorrow for the last of it and to say good bye. I got on the road right at dinner time and fought some really bad thunderstorms to get home. Took 3 hours to drive 100 miles back!

I get to drop the kid at the parents tomorrow morning and do the drive all over again.

-bbc


Good days starting to outnumber bad ones

March 10, 2010
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Lots to report here!  I’ve been sick, busy, and sick, and busy all over again.

The $25,000 guy I bonded out a few weeks ago has had an update.  Everyone involved in his case agrees that the charges have been dropped in exchange for his agreeing to move out of state.  Well, everyone but the Court.  I’m waiting for the paperwork to go through and I’ve even confirmed it with the investigator on the case, but the Court doesn’t have any record of it.  Court is on the 29th so it’s going to be a race to see if the paperwork goes thru before a bench warrant.  As far as I know, my client has moved out of state.

I got a small bond on Monday.  It was a referral from one of the professors of one of my college project teams.  That was nice. Stupid bullshit charges like driving uninsured, no license, incorrect plates.  No biggie and I netted like $100.

Today, I got a call from one of the first attorneys I tried networking with.  He has a client that got turned himself in on a CDV warrant.  It is a “He said/She said” situation with an alleged “psycho ex-girlfriend” that won’t leave him alone and broke into his house more than once.  I heard the attorney’s side and offered a good deal, 8% on a $30,000 bond with half up front and monthly payments for 6 months.  I picked up the fee and filed the paperwork. Again, there was some stupid red tape crap to deal with since this was a city charge (city shares jail with the county).  I filed the papers at 1pm, client wasn’t released until nearly 7pm!  As I was leaving the court after filing the papers, I get a call from the indemnitor.  The client was on a $5,000 bond with another company (a large well established firm).  That company heard he was in jail and threatened the indemnitor with revoking the bond unless they did the $30,000 bond! Words were said.  I gave the indemnitor my two cents.  He calls back a few minutes later.  He talked with the other company again and they realized that the deal was done, so now they told him if he pays them an additional fee, they will stay on the bond.

I was furious.  I called the DOI and reported the situation, but understandably it is heresy on my part.  The DOI regulator told me to have my client and/or the indemnitor file a complaint with him directly so he can investigate.

In our state, what they did was borderline illegal, but extremely bad manners and crappy business practices.  By law, they are allowed to revoke the bond. By getting arrested again, it is clear that my client violated the terms of his bond.  However, trying to strong arm them into using them for future service and even demanding more money to stay on the bond is clearly extortion. This is a company thats been in business for over 30 years and the principals are getting up there.  I don’t know if it is willful on their part or if they aren’t keeping a close eye on their employees, but it is just wrong.  While he violated a condition of his bond, there has been no material change in his risk to show up to court.

My client now has a bail revocation hearing on Monday.  His attorney is pretty confident that he can convince the judge to make the company stay on his bond.  I told him that if he can’t, I’ll give him a sweetheart deal and let him finance the payments.  I figure around 5%.

The one thing about this business that I struggle with is taking advantage of people when they are down. Sure, I could use the money, but the dude already paid 10% on his $5,000 bond. Now, just because the company he choose wants to be a jerk about it, he may have to pay me a fee on the same darn thing. It feels wrong for me to take advantage of the situation.

As I explained to my new clients today:  If you provide good service at a fair price, business takes care of itself.

-bbc


Yesterday sucked

March 2, 2010
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Yesterday afternoon I got a call from an upset woman, lets call her Rae.  It became pretty clear that she was pretty poor and that her fiancée has been locked up for over a month on a criminal domestic violence charge.  It was a small bond, the standard 10% fee would only be $215, but she didn’t have it.

My choice is usually to avoid these types of cases because they tend to have so many complications.  But Rae was willing to pay the 10% as long as it was on a payment plan and she was so upset and desperate…She insisted that he never laid a hand on her, it was just a verbal threat and that she called the cops. She also told me that she’s asked for the case to be dropped.

I’m a sucker and I agreed to bond him out.  I met her at her house which is in a very sketchy part of town and she filled out the paperwork. She explained that part of the reason why she needs him out is because it is dangerous to live there alone. She then arranged a ride (she doesn’t own a car) to an ATM. She paid me part of the fee and I went on my way to the jail. She and her ride went to get some dinner and would pick the guy up at the jail later.

I get to the jail and start the paperwork to bond him out.  Just as I’m finishing up, I see that the judge put a clause in there that the guy can’t have any direct or indirect contact with Rae!

Crap.  I have to leave my cell phone in the car, so I trekked back out to the car in the parking lot and I try to call her, but the only number I have is a house number and she wasn’t home.  It’s like 6pm and I haven’t eaten dinner yet.  I call home and let them know the situation.  I wait a few minutes and call Rae again, no answer.  I think it through and decide I’m not going to bond the guy out.

As soon as I shut the door on my car, I realize I’ve locked the keys in there. Along with my paperwork and cell phone.  I didn’t need the paperwork since I’m not doing the bond and I didn’t really need the cell phone, but damn, I needed the keys!  I go inside and explain the problem to the front desk.  Then I go to the court and let them know I’m not doing the bond.  The front desk was going to arrange for one of the deputies to help break into my car, but I blinked and it was shift change and the front desk lady left and the deputy never arrived.

I asked the replacement, but she didn’t know anything about it. So she calls her supervisor and they tell me to call AAA.  Great, except my AAA card is attached to my key chain!  I wheedle a local call out of them and call home.  It takes hours between the baby, the dogs, and the fact that they’ve never been to the jail before, but eventually someone is able to bring me the spare key.  I paid in spades for that one!

Meanwhile, while I waited and waited, eventually Rae shows up. I explained the situation to her and she isn’t happy.  Heck, she can’t even understand why the condition is there since she’s been to the jail twice in the past few weeks to visit the guy and they allowed physical contact.  I told her that if she can get the judge to remove the condition, I would do the bond.  She tries to speak to the judge and instead is directed to a victim advocate (VA).  The VA has her write a letter to the judge, but she’s told that the same judge has to make the decision and he isn’t in and they don’t know when he will be back.

Yes, the NPR story was wrong, but this is clearly a case where being poor is a disadvantage.  If she could have afforded an attorney, they could have gotten this all resolved weeks ago.

She called me late last night and said she had a friend that would sign for him and he would stay at the friend’s house.  She had an address, but she didn’t have a name or number for the friend.  This time, I stuck to my guns and told her I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t help her.

I feel bad, but I am not going to bond someone out when I know the whole point of getting him out will cause him to directly violate a judge’s conditions. I don’t make the rules, but I do follow them.  Yet, this is definitely not a case for PTI as the guy was on his second CDV charge and he has been convicted of some other minor crimes (shoplifting, bad checks, simple assault) in the past.

-bbc


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