Does freedom come at a price? Well, in every corner of America, some may argue that it does.
Let’s say two people have a run in with the law because of drug charges. They both show up to court, and they both get a trial date set a month away from their arrest date. Now generally, these two people (let’s call them Billy and Bob) will wait in jail until their trial date arrives.
However, if the judge decides to set a bail –that is when the defendant pays a fee to get out of jail, a fee that is typically refunded assuming that the defendant shows up to court– then one of two things can happen; Billy and Bob can either post bail and get out of jail until their court dates, or they can choose not to post bail and wait behind bars instead.
Now in the cases of Billy and Bob, let’s say that the judge has decided to set the bail at $10,000 each. You see, Billy come from a well-to-do family. Ten thousand bucks is a piece of cake for him. Daddy posts bail, and Billy is allowed back into society.
Bob however, is not so lucky. Unfortunately for him, Bob is broke. He doesn’t have ten grand just lying around. What he does have, is access to a variety of bail bondsmen shops that litter every corner of his not so welcoming neighborhood.
An appealing option, if not the only option, for someone who can’t afford to get out of jail.
A Bail Bondsman’s Role in a Poor Man’s Life.
So Billy is free because daddy paid a cash bond –a full payment on the bail made in the form of a cashier’s check or cash. Because he’s out, Billy is going to spend the the next month of his life preparing for his trial date (at least we hope so).
Our friend Bob, however, is still stuck in jail. So Bob does what most poor people do; he asks a loved one to go down to the neighborhood bail bondsman to help bail him out of jail.
But how does the whole process work? Let’s meet our fictional bondsman, Agent Brian.
Brain is happy to lend out the $10,000, but for a fee. First there are the mandatory government fees. 10% for state and 15% for federal. These fees are non-refundable and serve as compensation for the bail bondsman.
Then comes the question of how to cover the bond. Usually, Brian will ask the loved one about any collateral that Bob might have.
This can include a car title, a deed to a house, or any other valued assets. If that does not cover the full cost of the bond, then Brain can recommend that Bob find a friend or family member that is willing to co-sign the bond.
If this happens, then our bondsman can take out any securities on the loved who who agrees to sign for Bob in the event that Bob decides not to show up for court. The higher the bond, the higher the stakes are for Bob and any co-signers.
Got Bond? Then Show Up.
So why is Brian willing to help out Bob? Easy, money makes the world go ‘round.
You see, when Bob started dealing with Brian, he entered into a binding contract known as a surety bond. Unlike a cash bond, a surety bond involves an insurance company that backs up the agreement. In a surety bond, the defendant seeking bail puts up the value of the bail in the form of assets.
If Bob doesn’t show up to court, then Brian, the insurance company, or both, can sue Bob and any co-signers and collect all the assets that were stipulated in the surety bond.
So our friend Bob has now successfully posted bail with the help of our bail bondsman, Brian. While Bob is out in society (hopefully getting ready for trial as well), it is Brian’s job to make sure that Bob shows up to court.
Many bail bond agents may require that the defendant they work with have weekly, bi-weekly, or even daily check-ins with them in order to ensure that the defendant is on track to returning to court.
You see, if Bob does not show up to court, then the money that Brian put up for Bob’s bail will not get refunded back to Brian. When a defendant posts bail but then skips out on court, they are skipping out on a refund of their bail.
In a bail bondsman’s case, a defendant is skipping out on a refund that isn’t theirs to begin with. When that happens, some bail bondsman entrust the help of a bounty hunter to retrieve the defendant. B
ail bond agents who choose not to rely on an bounty hunter, often target any co-signers that helped the defendant secure a bail bond in the first place. Often times, this can be just as a convincing, if not more, than relying on a bounty hunter.
The ethics of it all?
In our society, bail bondsmen tend to have negative connotations attached with their establishments. Some argue that bail bond agents are perpetuating the theme of poverty and crime amongst those who cannot afford to post bail.
With their mandated fees, and easy accessibility to those who cannot afford to get out of jail, bail bond agents stand to make profits instead of deter people from committing crimes. Bail bond agents, however, claim that their place in society should be a valued one.
Agents consistently claim that they do not cost taxpayer money –whereas having a person sit in jail for an extended periods of time can cause taxpayers thousands of dollars.
So while you may choose to like, or dislike their existence, one question will always remain, Is it the bail bond system that we need to question, or is it the moral issue of having one pay money to get out of jail in the first place?