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What is a Bail Bondsman?

What is a Bail Bondsman?

A bail bondsman, bail bond agent or bond dealer is any person, agency or corporation that will act as a surety and pledge money or property as bail for the appearance of persons accused in court. Although banks, insurance companies and other similar institutions are usually the sureties on other types of contracts (for example, to bond a contractor who is under a contractual obligation to pay for the completion of a construction project) such entities are reluctant to put their depositors' or policyholders' funds at the kind of risk involved in posting a bail bond. Bail bond agents, on the other hand, are usually in the business to cater to criminal defendants, often securing their customers' release in just a few hours.

Bail bond agents are almost exclusively found in the United States and its former commonwealth, the Philippines.[1] In most other countries the practice of bounty hunting is illegal.[2] The industry is represented by various trade associations, with the American Bail Coalition forming an umbrella group in the United States.

The first modern bail bonds business in the U.S., the system by which a person pays a percentage of the court-specified bail amount to a professional bonds agent who then gives the court cash in the full amount of bail as a guarantee that the person will appear in court, was established by Peter P. McDonough in San Francisco in 1898.[citation needed] However, there is evidence[clarification needed] that the first surety bail bonds were agreed upon in what is today modern Iraq.[citation needed] Citizens were released from jail by having an indemnitor pay a sum in currency and to pledge the defendant will show up to court backed by the indemnitor's property such as his sheep. Stone carvings place these events at over 4,000 years ago.

Modern practice
Based on 1996 figures, one quarter of all released felony defendants fail to appear at trial, but those released via bail bond appear more frequently than other defendants.[3] Bond agents, also referred to as "bond dealers"[3] have a standing security agreement with local court officials, in which they agree to post an irrevocable "blanket" bond, which will pay the court if any defendant for whom the bond agent is responsible does not appear. The bond agent usually has an arrangement with an insurance company, bank or another credit provider to draw on such security, even during hours when the bank is not operating. This eliminates the need for the bondsman to deposit cash or property with the court every time a new defendant is bailed out. The laws on bail bonds are generally inconsistent throughout the United States.[4] Federal laws affecting it include the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which contains the Excessive Bail Clause) and the Bail Reform Act of 1984,[5] which was included in the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act sponsored by the Uniform Law Commission is widely adopted.[4]

All bail bond agents have lengthy bail bond agreements. All agreements in California are to be verified and certified by the California Department of Insurance.[6] Most bail bond agreements are given to the bail bond agents by their insurers, and the insurers have already verified and certified all bail bond agreements for their agents.

Training and requirements
"There are 18 states where theoretically anyone can become a bail recovery agent..."[1] In most jurisdictions, bond agents have to be licensed to carry on business within the state. There are some more seemingly unlikely organizations that often provide bail bonds. AAA, for instance, will often extend its auto coverage to include local bail bonds for traffic related arrests.[7] This provides an extra service to their members, and frees the member from needing immediate cash.[citation needed] Long time bail agents have said that they have never posted a bail bond through AAA, because AAA does not cover any arrest involving drugs or alcohol. AAA drivers who are stopped for traffic infractions are given tickets and those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol are arrested without AAA covering their release from jail.


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