Bail Bond Confessions Blog

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


Lost another bond

October 7, 2009
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For over a week, I’ve been working on two different bonds. One guy is in for check fraud and the other is in for a variety of problems.  The best deal I can offer the variety guy is $500 up front and weekly payments of $75 for 12 weeks. The problem is that his family and friends can’t come up with the $500. Even his grandmother is refusing to part with $70.  Meanwhile, the guy calls me 5-6 times a day trying to get me to allow him to 3-way call his friends and family to twist their arms into getting him out. I’ve taken on a small percentage of his calls, but even so, I figure I’ve spent over $50 on him. I told him I wouldn’t accept any more of his calls until I hear from his family that they have the money.

The other fellow had to come up with $230, but he couldn’t get his family to do it either.  I talked to him a little less and figured around $30 worth of collect calls. Then, yesterday he tells me he got time served on all but one charge, which would bring his bond fee down to $30.  I told him that I would work with his family and try to get him out first thing in the morning (time served as of Midnight) and that I wouldn’t answer any more calls from him since it’s $3 a call and I’m only making $30.  No problem, right? Even then, he still calls like 12 more times and I ignored the call (mistake?).  I still couldn’t get his mom and brother on the same page to sign paperwork last night (he wasn’t a 1st time offender) and pay $30.  I don’t know what they were thinking, but the mom called me this morning asking why her son was still in jail.

Every time I talk to her, I have to explain the situation.  Then she says she understands, but clearly she doesn’t or why would she have to ask each time? Anyway, I set an appointment time to meet her after lunch (I was meeting with an attorney at lunch to see if I can drum up more business) and collect the fee and signatures.  Just after lunch as I was driving to her house, she called and said that her nephew went to a competitor of mine and bailed him out!

So now I’ve got almost no prospects again and a high Paytel bill to pay.  Great.


Happy Labor Day!

September 7, 2009
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My license and contact info was submitted to four local jails last week. So far, no phone calls have come in. I’m waiting on three more powers that will allow me to submit into three more counties.  Should get them some time tomorrow. Unfortunately, it is $100/county.  That isn’t a heck of a lot to spend on very well targeted advertising, however, it does add up when you don’t have any income. Meanwhile, I have a large stack of blank applications and a small stack of blank bonds.

While I was at one of the jails, a man who had had a newsworthy DUI was receiving guests.  On my way out, I chatted up one of the guests who was also leaving and asked if the guy in jail was going to get bailed out.  From the media reports, I knew that his bail amount was set very high.  The friend said they didn’t know and I told him I was a bondsman and let him know that I would be happy to help if possible.  He asked what I would charge, so I quoted him.  That was my second mistake.  He didn’t like that answer very much (it was 10% of a very large number) and so I gave him a card and we went our seperate ways. That was the third mistake.

What were the mistakes and why?

1) I forgot that it was illegal to “solicit” business in front of the jail.  I have to be very VERY careful of this in the future.  It is not my intention to break the law and I very honestly forgot about that regulation in moment.

2) When quoting a price to a potential client, I shouldn’t just blurt out the number.  I should feel them out and indicate that it is negotiable.

3) I shouldn’t let the potential client walk away without at least attempting to get their contact info.

I am only now starting to realize just how slippery a slope it is in trying to maintain a professional and ethical practice in this business.  Learning experiences.

-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 2 (last day) of Training

July 2, 2009
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Wow…my head is spinning from all the information jammed in there.  I will have no trouble passing the exam(s), but there is just so much information on good or common practices that has me all tizzied up.  Then I find myself stressing about stuff that I don’t even know about, but figure I will need to know!

Went to court today and it was a complete clusterfuck.  The bond agent hadn’t clocked his license in properly and so he was instructed to leave the Federal courthouse and go to the County courthouse and clock in his license before returning to the Federal courthouse to clock in his license so he could write the bond.  “Clocking In” is basically validating your state licenses and authority to write bail with the Clerk of Court and needs to be performed once a year.

So the instructor sent us out to wait in the parking lot.  Only there wasn’t any shade, so we went down the street and hung out.  20-25 minutes later, he comes driving up and tells us that he already wrote the bond and was on his way to the County courthouse.  After he sent us out, he went to the judge and explained the situation and told him that there would be a delay. The judge told him to just go ahead and do the bond and then take care of the paperwork.  He went out to find us, but we were pretty far from the courthouse and couldn’t hear him.  So he wrote the bond and then found us.

So after our aborted trip to Court, we went back to the classroom and “studied” while we waited for him to return from the courthouse.  I guess he stopped for lunch, because when he got back, we hit the books from 11am-2:30pm and then he wrapped up the class.  We hadn’t eaten, but he offered to stick around for Q&A, so me and one other guy stayed until 5:30pm and picked his brain.

He has a pretty good racket going with teaching the instructional course.  He offered both of us the deal of letting us sub under him at 4.5% on Surety and 3% on non-Surety bonds. I’m going to have to crunch some numbers and see if it makes sense or not.  On the one hand, it seems pretty steep, but I haven’t fully discussed it with the Surety Insurance company yet and on the other hand, it gets me access to his wealth of experience, expertise, and advice.  I’ll have to put a mental price on what I figure that is worth before I make my decision.

-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


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