Bail Bond Confessions Blog

What will next week hold?

September 25, 2010
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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


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!

-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
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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


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


More bitching…

January 19, 2010
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So in the complaint department…the Yellow Pages screwed up the name of my company.  Needless to say, I am not amused and my listing is stuck deep in the bowels of the alphabet in a very ineffectual manner.

In other news, I’m trying to arrange a meeting with arguably the most famous attorney from our state.  If things go well, I might get a referral out of him.  If they go spectacularly, I’ll get some business from him.

Still contemplating going expanding into Federal bonds and Process Serving. Doing Federal bonds will require me to sign on with another Surety company. Not the end of the world, but more $$$ for a build-up fund. Haven’t heard any comments from y’all, but I guess no one really reads this anyway.

FML?  Nah, just get me through this drought.

-bbc


Slow business

November 24, 2009
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So it’s been real slow.  Mostly hampered by the awful cold I got last week and the impending baby birth this week.  I haven’t done any new business in a while and it is sad to say that I have very little in the way of liability outstanding.  This is a tough business to break into.

I have some stuff pending, but pending doesn’t put food on the table.

-bbc


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.

-bbc


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