A judge sets bail based on the danger and flight risk posed by a defendant.
Bail is money put up by a criminal suspect to buy freedom before a trial begins. If he can’t pay himself, he can pay a fee to a bond agency, which puts up a percentage of the bail in the form of a surety bond. A bail bond agent, also know as a bail bondsman, works independently or as a representative of the agency. His role is to complete bonding paperwork with an accused person, receive payments and track down the person if he fails to appear in court.
Normally, the first step in a bond process is an assessment of the defendant’s or his representative’s qualifications for bond. The agent investigates the background of the suspect to determine whether he is a flight risk, or likely to appear in court. He also assesses his ability to pay the bond fee and cover the financial recourse of failing to appear in court. In essence, the agent qualifies a prospect similar to the way a salesperson does. A decision to provide the surety bond is normally made if the agent is comfortable that the suspect will appear in court as necessary, which means bond money is returned to the agency. In some cases, agents participate in aggressive marketing and prospecting for potential clients.
The next step after a positive bond decision is to accept the payment of fee from the defendant and complete paperwork. The paperwork is filed with the court, formally executing the bond and resulting in the defendant’s release from jail. The common legal name for the document clients sign is a power of attorney, which turns over to the agency the right to represent the defendant on the matter of bail.
Though the agent spends much of his time out prospecting for new clients, meeting with defendants and completing paperwork, he must also maintain regular communication with the agency. Agencies often call agents when a new prospect is found. Time is often of the essence as defendants typically want bail release as soon as possible after an amount is set. Agents must also submit paperwork and sales receipts to the agency office within a certain period of time, often 24 hours, to retain employment and collect commission payments.
The role of a bail bond agent that many people are most familiar with is that of client apprehension. This is the function often depicted in movies and on television shows. If a defendant fails to appear in court, he typically owes bail. The bond is intended to ensure his appearance. When an agent’s client doesn’t appear, he is generally expected to track down, apprehend and bring the suspect to jail or present him before the court. This protects the financial interests of the agent.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.