Bail Bond Confessions Blog

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!



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.


NPR has it wrong

January 25, 2010

NPR’s “All Things Considered” has a 3 part scathing story on bail bonds in America.   I have to say it is a seriously flawed report. First, the reporter focuses on a few individuals in three different jurisdictions and then uses their experiences to paint a picture across the whole nation.  If one baseball player is caught using steroids, does that mean that every baseball player does? Of course not.

Next, she conveniently ignores the fact that judges set bail and the conditions for bail.  Bondsman have absolutely no control over this, yet they are vilified as being “in control” of who gets free and who doesn’t. Poppycock.

Then, she ignores four other jurisdictions that ban the use of commercial bail bondsman (Oregon, Kentucky, Illinois, and Wisconsin) rather than comparing the experiences of defendants in those systems to those in the rest of the nation or even just in Lubbock, Broward, and NYC where she focuses. Probably, the reporter choose to ignore these other states because they did not support her supposition that the system is flawed and corrupt and if we got rid of commercial bail, the system would be better for it. Instead, those states have massive problems with defendants not showing up for court dates.

She also tries to tie the entire country together under the umbrella of flawed system, though clearly every state regulates their bail industry differently. There are radical differences between states on the fees that can be charged, conditions that can be set, and the way forfeitures are dealt with.  Instead of highlighting these differences and showing which states are most successful, she focuses on the weaknesses and alleges that every state has the same problems when clearly this is not possible.

Finally, and most importantly, she tries to make the point that poor people who can’t afford bail and that are not accused of major crimes are suffering here and they should be let “free” under PTI.  I have nothing against PTI and I support its use in the appropriate circumstances.  However, if these poor people who didn’t commit major crimes are really not a flight risk, why did the judge issue them bail in the first place?  Why not just let them out on their own recognizance?

I’ll tell you why.  Because when you are poor and you are a repeat offender, regardless of your guilt or innocence, you are not likely to have very many ties to keep you in the area, much less to ensure that you show up for your court date.  So if you are let out on a PR bond, you will likely skip out on court.

This is the point that the reporter is missing about why bail is set in the first place.  Bail is not a punishment nor is it an assumption of guilt.  It is just a tool that the courts can use to ensure that a defendant will show up to court.

PTI is really no different than a bail bondsman.  Both systems provide a check and balance function to ensure that individuals accused of a crime show up for court.  The main difference is in how they are funded.  PTI is funded by tax payer money.  Bail Bondsman are paid by the Defendants and/or their family.


48 min. and a pounding headache

November 13, 2009
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Last night, I got a call from a dude in jail.  This was a new name, he has around $8k in charges.  Like most everyone that calls me from jail, I know that I’m not his first choice and the he is shopping around.  I told him the best I could do was 50% up front and payments, but that I would need collateral on the $8k. This guy must not have heard me right because he was all excited and was like “My brother has the collateral, call him and he’ll get me out!”.  I called and left a message for the brother and didn’t hear anything.

Tonight, I get a phone call from the guy in jail.  I ignore it.  I get another one.  I ignore it.  He calls over and over and over again.  Finally, he switches tactics, instead of giving his name, he says “call my brother” “He has the collateral”  “his number is xxx-xxxx”.  After that one, I call the brother.  The brother had just gotten home from visitation.  He tells me that the dude in jail told him I said I would let him out for $100 + his car title as collateral.

I explained that it isn’t the case.  I was honest with the brother and he had lots of questions.  I answered them and let him talk a bit.  I learned quite a bit more about he guy in jail, his previous record and personal problems.  I told the brother I couldn’t compete on the price other bondsman were giving, but I could offer better service.  I could try to help the guy in jail get into substance abuse programs, etc.  This struck a strong cord with the brother.

It took nearly an hour, but by the end of the conversation, I would say that there is around a 50% chance that I might actually see this business (which is worth approximately $800) if and when the brother gets the down payment money together.





Otherwise, I just wasted an hour of my life.


Its quiet…too quiet

September 28, 2009
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There hasn’t been much to write about lately because there hasn’t been much going on.  I learned an important lesson in making sure you only have family members as indemnitors because I have a defendant who’s girlfriend’s sister signed for her.  Now the girlfriend is pissed at the defendant and wants her sister off.

Other than that, there hasn’t been much going on.  A poor kid who stole a car and ran from the cops is trying to get out.  I’m trying to help him, but it sounds like he is playing me for phone calls and planning on bonding out with a different company.

I’ve had a few calls for various guys that violated parole.  I’m not touching them, based upon recommendation from a couple of sources.  Violation of parole seems to garner big time punishments around here.  So they are very likely to run.

Lastly, I have another young kid that is in for Armed Robbery. He has a $50k bond and has been in jail since early this year. He called out of the blue and swore that he has $$$ and a house for collateral, but he didn’t have a phone number for his mother. WTF is that about?!?

I’m scrapping the bottom of the barrel and frankly there just isn’t much there. I verified that my name/number is in several other jails, but no one is calling from them.


Vacation time is over

August 14, 2009
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I’m back and sort of ready to go.  Unfortunately, the state has something to say about it.  It took the past week of phone calls back and forth between me, the surety company, the state, and the surety company’s vendor to figure out what the delay is in getting my surety license.  Ultimately, I had to drive downtown and drop off a $25 check and fill out a separate application yesterday.  However, the hope is that today I will be processed and issued the new license.  Finally!

I’ve already started putting my name up in jails, but the phone has not rung yet.  I need to set myself up with some accounts for collect calls, purchase bail bonds software (Captira), get some blank contracts from my attorney, purchase a receipt book, and get setup for accepting credit cards.  Then I will feel confident about really going strong.  On top of all that, I still need my web site designer to design the website and I need to purchase Quickbooks.  A new version of Quickbooks comes out in early October, so I’ll probably hold off until then.

The zoning department approved my home office, so I’ll be getting my business licenses today.  I also need to redo my telephone line.   I’m just not satisfied with it.  Once I get the new numbers, I’ll need new business cards.  It is always something.

Yeah, I know this wasn’t the most interesting of posts, but it does illustrate just how much work and effort is involved in setting up a business before you even open your doors.  Maybe someone out there appreciates it.


Balancing Act

July 8, 2009
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Today, I formed my LLC and I ordered a regular land-based telephone line installation.  Though I’ve been cell-only for over 6 years, I need the ability to accept collect calls and send faxes, so it was the only reasonable solution.

Next up, I need to decide if it is worthwhile to take 1/2 of my capital and devote it to the alternative form of being a licensed bondsman.  You see, in my state, you are allowed to do it via Surety (most common) or this other method where you post collateral (cash or real estate) with the court.  The court lets you leverage the value of your collateral at a 4x multiplier and that becomes your bond writing limit.  There are a few more restrictions, but if I can swing the risk of tying up the capital as collateral, it is probably well worth it to license both ways.  I could use this other method for the small stuff like municipal bonds which tend to resolve themselves quickly and save the big guns (surety) for criminal cases that take years.  If I do that, I would be retaining 100% of the fee on the small stuff, and believe me it adds up.

On the flip side, I could sign up as a sub-Agent under another established bondsman and use his collateral.  I’d have to pay him 30% of the fee (even more than I pay the Surety!), but I would have direct access to the guy and all of his knowledge and experience.  Decisions decisions.


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