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


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


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


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


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


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