Bail Bond Confessions Blog

Uh Oh…

June 19, 2010
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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

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Need advice

May 27, 2010
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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


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


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


Week in Review

December 17, 2009
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So I haven’t had any real business since the last time I posted. Yesterday, I turned down a transfer bond because it would have netted me $25 after expenses, not including 100 miles or so of round trip driving.

Today, the situation was a little different and I was happy to do a different transfer bond.  I basically made $1/mi. and it took most of my afternoon dealing with a screwed up bureaucracy, but I had the law on my side and prevailed.

I don’t want to go into too many details, but essentially this small town in the middle of nowhere wanted me to pay for a business license before they would let me bond the guy out.  It took a while and I had to cite a court case, but the city admin relented and allowed me to go ahead and post the bond.  But she “threatened” that I would have to pay a penalty if I wanted to come back and post a 2nd bond.  That penalty would include me getting a license (which I readily agreed would be required by law as I am no longer just doing a “one-off”) and paying a 5% penalty retroactive to today’s date.

As I was leaving her office, I asked her if the business licenses run annually there as in most places.  She said “Yes”.  So then I clarified…we’re talking Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, right?  She said “Yes”.

So…as long as I don’t have to post any more bonds in her town between now and the end of the year, I’ll avoid the penalty. Next year, I would contend that it resets.

-bbc


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.

-bbc


The good, the bad, the ugly

September 9, 2009
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In my state, when you get your license, you have to go to every county you wish to do business in and submit your license to that county’s clerk of court.  Every county is different, but the fee structure is the same.  Once you are in the clerk of court’s computer, you can then get your contact info posted in the jails.

My state has lots of counties and I’m not planning on servicing all of them.  I’ve used a formula that includes geographic distance, amount of crime, and amount of competition in choosing where I want to work.  Today, I went to the last three counties on my list.  They are fairly rural and unfortunately spread out from each other by a bit of distance.  I got to the first one around 10am and discovered that out of an office of eight people, only two people could process my license.  Both of those people were in the court (which was in session).  I was told I could wait till lunch, which was to be around 1pm.  I had little choice but to wait.  I attempted to sit in the courtroom to at least view the proceedings, but a bailiff would not allow me in there because I admitted to having a cell phone, even though the phone was turned off (PER THE SIGN POSTED OUTSIDE THE COURTROOM).  He insisted that I lock my phone in my car or I would not be allowed in the courtroom.  Instead, I planted my ass in the clerk of courts office.  Eventually, one of the other six workers took pity on me and arranged to have one of the two workers in the court room come out and process my paperwork when she had an opportunity.  She told me that they push the contact info to the county detention center, so I didn’t need to stop there.  Total time spent, about an hour.

Then I get in my car and drove an hour to the next county.  It was a pleasant drive though I had a hard time finding the courthouse. The street name listed on my directions and GPS didn’t exist any longer.  I found the “Square” which many of these old southern towns have, but the building had burned down so many times that eventually they moved it a few blocks away.

Once I found it, it didn’t take long to get my license processed and they were very friendly.  The deputy at the door even recommended a lunch spot. Next, I stopped by their detention center.  There is a small air-conditioned hallway that was packed full with about 15 people waiting for visitation.  Another 20 or so people were waiting outside smoking.  I got in “line”, but the line wasn’t moving.  Being the only white male, well dressed, and carrying paperwork, eventually one of the women in line asked if I was here for visitation.  I told her no, I was just trying to drop off some paperwork.  She was like “Child, get your ass up here then.  We’re all waiting on these damn guards and they ain’t in no rush to help us.”  The line (all black women) seemed amused that I would wait patiently (I was out in the heat) and not make any fuss and they seemed happy for me skip up to the front.  I explained what I was there for and a deputy took my information.  She posted a copy of my license next to her desk, started to say something and then got called away in a big hurry.  I waited a few moments and started to leave.  I said “I guess I’m done…” and one of the women in line said “Hell no. You stay right there and wait for her to get back so you are sure its done right.”  So I stayed put.

After a few moments of waiting, I asked the ladies in line if everyone was there for visitation and I got a minor chorus of “uh huh, yup”.  I mentioned that this was my 5th detention center in two days and none of them had more than two or three people waiting at any given time.  This caused a lot of snickering about how backwards this particular county can be.

Then another woman asked if I was with the State government.  I explained that I was a bail bondsman and I was trying to get my contact information posted in the jail so I could do business.  She asked if I was local and I told her I was about an hour away, but it isn’t a far drive or anything.  She asked if I would give her a business card so I said sure and handed her one. Then another woman asked for one also.  After that, the deputy said I was done so I wished them good luck and went on my way.  This time, I think I did it right.  No one can accuse me of soliciting business, they asked me for my card.  My only mistake?  I gave them only one card each.  I need to remember to hand out at least two cards per person.  They can keep one and pass one on if needed. Still learning, I guess.

I skipped the deputies suggestion and instead had a nice lunch at one of my favorite fancy restaurants.  It’s in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere, but you would swear you were in NYC.  $15 for French Dip with Truffle Fries.  I tipped the waitress well and included a couple business cards.  You never know.

Finally, I got in the car for the last hour and a half drive to the border county. My route took me through many small towns and picturesque farm fields.  I got to the courthouse at around 4pm. Made my way through the maze of offices to the clerk’s office and was directed by six office workers to another part of the building.  None of those six were doing anything, they were just hanging out talking, playing solitaire on the computer, and reading newspapers.  I get to the right place and explain myself.  The woman behind the counter takes my paperwork and walks away.  She comes back a little while later with another lady.  This new lady explains that they only process bail bondsman licenses on Tuesdays between 11am-3pm and that I should come back then! I pleaded my case being from out-of-town and all.  They took my paperwork and payment, but reiterated that they will not process me until Tuesday 11am-3pm.  I kept my cool and thanked them.

Pardon my french, but that is just FUBAR.  They spent more time telling me they won’t process my paperwork than any one of the other counties spent actually processing it.  I understand it is a two part process.  They have to stamp my license and give me a copy(s).  Then they have to enter it in the system.  I begged them just to stamp and copy it so I could go to the detention center and get my contact info posted.  Since I don’t have any clients, it doesn’t matter to me if they wait until Tuesday to put me in the system.  No luck, she refused to budge.  She told me that the clerk of court has decided that they are just way to busy in that office to have to stop and process bail bondsman’s licenses every few minutes which is why they only do it between 11am-3pm on Tuesdays.  She might be able to mail it to me, she said she would call once she talked with the clerk of court.  I told her, I would be happy to pay for mailing.  She told me that it is $2.50 a copy (HIGHWAY FRIGGING ROBBERY!), so I wrote her a check for $5 and told her to just give me one copy and use the rest to mail it.  We’ll see what happens. Unbelievable.

-bbc


Paperwork sucks

July 16, 2009
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Paperwork is just a necessity of this business, I guess.  Anyway, there was a little hiccup in the form of a typo on my LLC paperwork and it all trickled down into the bank accounts too.  I spent all day getting it all corrected and cross your fingers, I think its fixed.

I also wrote a couple of thank you notes, but I only have some cheap cards right now.  Once I start getting some decent income, I’m going to invest in letterhead and branded thank you cards.  Its embarrassing to to be sending stuff out like this, but something is better than nothing.  Right now it is critical to keep my overhead low, which makes typo mistakes that cost $110 to repair very very annoying.

In other news, my license application is completed and ready for mailing. Again, cross your fingers and lets hope everything goes smoothly there.  I have approximately 3 more weeks before I open the doors on my business. Those would be virtual doors.  I’m still fighting the good fight with the City over getting a zoning variance so I can pay my business license fee.  Never have I had to struggle so hard for so long to give people money!

-bbc


Day 1 of Training

July 1, 2009
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In my state, you are required by law to complete 20 hours of classroom training before you are allowed to take a 60 question test to become a bail bondsman.  I’m not really clear on the math seeing as how Day 1 lasted from 8:30am-5:30pm with 1hr lunch and probably 30 minutes for breaks and the last day (Day 2), is scheduled from roughly 8am-4pm with a lunch break.

Anyway, there are only 4 instructors in the state licensed to teach the class.  My instructor has been in the business for 25 years and as near as I can tell is likely a multi-millionaire.  The dude carried two cell phones and took so many phone calls during class that I lost count.  But on almost all of the calls, he put the phone into speaker mode so we could hear.  I found the majority of the calls to be quite illuminating to say the least.

There were 5 or perhaps 6 participants in my class today, depending on how you look at it.  One guy showed up late and the instructor clearly asked him if he was there for the 2 day class and went through what this means with the guy.  The guy insisted he was in the right place.  At 4pm, he discovered that he was not in the right class and had signed up for an 8 hour/1 day course for a different test.  By the time he figured it out, that other class had finished and I guess he was SOL.  The kicker?  This dude has been a practicing bondsman for 5 years!

The rest of the class broke down like this:

  • Woman who has been assisting her brother for years in his bail bonds business.  The brother has recently been subject to some Federal charges for something.  The woman has a regular day job in the Education sector.
  • Young guy who used to be a jail guard, but isn’t doing that any longer.   But his daddy is the #2 guy at the jail. Apparently, he is hooked up with some Mexicans and plans to expand into bounty hunting for them.
  • Older guy who works as a repo guy and is looking to expand into human repos (i.e. bounty hunting).
  • Guy in his 30’s, it, clean cut, ex-military.  Owns his own business, but is getting pushed out by illegal workers who can undercut his services by 70%.  Looking to change careers and figured with bail bonds, his military training will come in handy.
  • Me.

I wore jeans, a nice white button down shirt, and sport coat.  I was the best dressed guy there, and it worked out for me.  I explained to the instructor that I am looking for a mentor figure to employee me short-term (up to a year) while I learn the business.  After that, I told him I wanted to open up my own firm.   The instructor told me he would be willing to take me on. Later, I discovered that I would be like bail bondsman #120 working under him.  The guy has quite an empire.   Hmm…no wonder he is only “semi-retired” and still teaches the classes!

He also put me and the ex-military guy (I think he gets the same offer) in touch with local Surety company.  The company representative was in town and came by for a visit.  We talked a while and he told me that I could expect to make up to $100,000/yr if I listen to them and avoid dumbass mistakes.

What was interesting to me is that a month ago, when I was writing my business plan, I had a lengthy e-mail conversation with the president of the Surety company (fairly small operation).  That guy refused to answer any of my questions until I was licensed, yet here is this other guy who is practically kissing my ass and answering every question I had!  Something to be weary of, to be sure.  On the other hand, there is no law requiring me to work with only a single Surety company, so I can (and should) sign up with a couple of different ones.  In any case, the guy invited me down to his HQ (approx 2 hr. drive) next week to spend the day learning about them and what they have to offer.

The training class was at times mind-numbing boring as the instructor just read the text on the page…for roughly 35 of the 52 pages we covered today.  But then at other times, he would take a call or tell us a story based on his experiences and everyone would perk up.  We lucked out in that tomorrow he has to be in Federal court at 10am to write a $50k bond (took him 3 weeks to put it together) and he is going to take us with him so we get a “hands-on” experience!

-bbc


1st Post

June 30, 2009
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So this is my first post, I’ll try to make it snappy…

Last week, I was laid off from my dull office job of nearly 3 years.  It didn’t bother me much as I didn’t really enjoy the people and for sure my career was going nowhere.

A couple of months ago, an attorney friend was visiting from out of town.  He asked what my latest big idea was.  Oh, I do that btw.  I’m a planner who likes to plot new ways to take over the world, one business enterprise at a time.

So I tell him that I didn’t really have anything in mind, but that I was generally unhappy with work.  He told me that I should look into bail bonding.  I believe his exact words were:

“I’ve seen a lot of dumb people drive some really fancy cars because they were making good money in bail bonds.”

Well darn it, I’m dumb.  Why shouldn’t I be rich too?  I went home that night and immediately started researching bail bonds.  I didn’t fall asleep until 4am, once I was satisfied that I had read every wikipedia entry, blog, and half the bondsman’s websites out there.  The next week, I purchased or borrowed from the library every non-fiction bail bond book published in the last 30 years and even a couple of fiction ones…(Yes, those Stephanie Plum novels)

I’ve since read and re-read those books and written and revised my business plan.  The goal was to quit my job just before Labor Day and then open up my own Agency.  It’s nice to have goals.

So did I mention I got laid off last week?  You might think that I would go ahead and accelerate my schedule, but you would be wrong.  Indeed, if anything I’m going to push it back.  Now my new goal is to get a job working for an existing agency and get some experience under my belt.  I can always open up my own business next year.

Next stop:  Mandatory classroom training.

-bbc


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