BAIL BONDS 101
Everything You Need to Know About Bail
The most common reaction to a friend or family member being arrested is, "What do we do now? Who do we have to call?" It can be very unsettling and frustrating trying to get information on an arrestee's whereabouts or why he or she was arrested, especially when you have no idea who to call first or which telephone numbers to call. By making your first call to a bail agent or bondsman, you can alleviate some of that uncertainty and tension before it even has a change to build up. A bail agent will be able to determine the location of an inmate, explain his/her charges, and perhaps most importantly, help you be proactive and not reactive when it comes to getting someone out of jail immediately.
The Bail Process: Post-Arrest
Booking & Setting Bail
Once an inmate has completed the booking process, it is then possible to determine the total fees and/or collateral deposit required for one's release. However, in some cases, completion of the booking process does not always mean that a defendant's bail has been set, and it may be necessary for him/her to go before the magistrate judge in a bond hearing to have his/her bond amounts set. Bond hearings (or magistrate court sessions) are typically held in the morning, though some counties may have bond hearings twice a day. Keep in mind that any bonds that are set during the booking process can be changed by a magistrate judge if an inmate's bonds aren't posted before the next bond hearing.
If a defendant has multiple charges (e.g., is accused of multiple, separate offenses) or receives multiple counts of the same charge, then each charge will have a corresponding bond amount. In order to be released from jail, the sum total of one's bonds must be paid in full at the jail, which is referred to as "posting bail" or "bonding out." Technically, as long as the total bond amount is being paid, it can be posted by anyone, including the inmate if he or she has access to the necessary funds, etc.
So, why use a bondsman or go through a bond agency? There are several reasons why people elect to post bail through a bondsman or bail agent. For most, using a bail bondsman is more economical and affordable. While you may not be able to come up with the full bond amount to get someone out of jail, perhaps you're able to come up with a portion or partial amount of the bail. This is where a bail agency or bondsman comes in handy. A bondsman will post the full amount of the required bail on the defendant's behalf for a fee which is a percentage of the bond amount. This fee is called a "bond premium fee" and is non-refundable. Bonds posted by a bondsman or bail agency are called "surety bonds."
The Cost and Fees of Posting Bail For Someone
BOND PREMIUM FEES
In Florida, the bail bond premium fees are set and regulated by the Florida Department of Financial Services and start at $100 for bonds set under $1,000. For bonds $1,000 or more, the premium fee is ten percent (10%). In other words, the bail premium fee is ten percent of each charge, with a minimum of $100 per charge. Because these fees are state-regulated and non-negotiable, it may be necessary to use a bondsman who offers payment plans or financing options if you are unable to pay for the full premium all at once. At David Stern Bail Bonds, these fees may be paid using cash, credit card, check or money order.
The reason why a bondsman is willing to put up the full amount of an inmate's bail while only charging a ten percent fee is because that money is returned to the bondsman or agency once the defendant's court case is resolved. But if the defendant fails to appear in court when he or she is supposed to, then the bond(s) is forfeited and the bondsman loses his or her money. Consequently, a bondsman is taking a financial risk and assumes liability for each bond he or she posts for an inmate. To offset potential financial losses and guarantee the bonds of a defendant, it may be necessary to hold some type of security deposit or collateral. To ensure that an inmate will appear in court once he or she is no longer in custody, bail agents require that bonds be guaranteed by someone or using real property. Therefore, a bond can be collateralized in a number of ways, such as by using a co-signer's signature, with fine jewelry or watches, and/or with actual monies in addition to the bond premium fee(s). For bonds greater than $30,000, it may be necessary to put up unencumbered real estate to fully collateralize the bail bond. Collateral is fully refundable upon completion of the case, when the bonds are discharged by the court.
Once a bond is posted, it generally takes 8 to 10 hours for the defendant to be released. This delay has nothing to do with the bail agent. It is the procedure which the jail uses to process the release of an inmate.
Inmate: Mary Joe
Charge(s): Possession of cocaine
Bond Amount: $1,000.00
Bail Premium Fee: $100.00
Bond Collateral/Deposit: $0.00 (because her bond was secured with the signature(s) of a Florida resident in good financial standing)
Therefore, the total amount required to get Mary Joe out of jail using a bail bond agency is $100.00. Assuming she goes to all of her court appearances until her court case is closed, this is the only money that will ever be owed or needed for Mary Joe's bail. However, if Mary Joe doesn't check in with her bail bondsman once a week and misses court because she didn't know she had a court date, then Mary Joe and whoever co-signed for her bond owe the bondsman or agency the full bond amount of $1,000.