10 questions your Bail Agent doesn’t want you to ask

10 Is the bail premium a one time payment or an annual premium?
  Many bail companies will not reveal to you the full extent of the charges that are called for in a bail contract. They will list the upfront premium and any additional posting fees, recording fees and the like. What they will not reveal to you is that the bail premium is an annual fee, payable as long as the underlying bail bond is in effect. Luckily, the vast majority of bonds are cleared before that year is up. Families with a loved one in jail who faces a complicated case (be it because of multiple defendants or multiple charges) should be very careful about this. If you expect the case may last for some time it is best to contact one of our approved bail agencies.
9 Will you itemize all your expenses on a bond forfeiture?
  If a person on bond fails to appear in court, and the bail agency is put to any expense, you owe them that money. Many bail agents will only tell you how much money you owe, and demand payment. DO NOT ACCEPT THIS KIND OF TREATMENT. The more reputable bail agencies will properly invoice you, providing a an explanation of the nature and extent of the charges. In most cases, this will be all that is needed. If you have reason to question the charges, especially if the dispute goes to court, request an itemized statement from the bail agency. They at least owe you that, and many bail contracts allow for an itemized statement be accepted as prima facie evidence of the fact and extent of the charges.
8 Will you put in writing all the financing terms?
  Some bail agents will allow for partial payment up front, and regular payments on the balance. Ask for all the terms of the financing to be spelled out in writing. If they just give you a payment amount, ask for the number of payments and the interest rate they are charging. Some bail contracts will leave this information in vague terms. If there is a dispute, you run into a he-said, she-said situation. Avoid that by getting the terms in writing, and getting receipts for all payments made.
7 How many homes did you start foreclosure on last year?
  This is a very important question. If you are sent to foreclosure it could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars more. Many bonds will require real estate to be pledged as collateral. In this situation, the home can be sent to foreclosure for unpaid debt, or if the bond is forfeited by the court. Many bail companies will start foreclosure quickly on unpaid debt, or automatically if the bond is forfeited. Ask your bail agent how long they will wait before foreclosure if the bond is forfeited. If they do it quickly, you are soon out the hundreds or thousands of dollars you spend to get it out of foreclosure. Look for a bail company that will give you some time to help get a debt paid or a forfeiture cleared before they send it off for collection. At least 90 days on a debt, and 30 days on a forfeiture.
6 Have any clients sued you in the last year?
  This will give you a good idea about whether or not you are dealing with a good company. Some bail agencies are the defendant in dozens of lawsuits based on the shoddy service they give their clients. They put you to the time and expense of hiring an attorney and having the court force them to do what a good bail company would do automatically. One common reason for lawsuits against a bail company or agent relate to unreturned collateral. The good thing is that you can verify the answer your bail agent gives you with the court to see if they told you the truth. You can contact the court in the county where your bail agent or company does business. If they do a lot of business in other counties, search there, too. Search the civil court records for cases naming them as the defendant for at least the last five years. The search can be done easily with the help of a clerk. Also, many courts now provide this information free over the internet.
5 Has your license ever been suspended or restricted, and why?
  Some bail agents or companies have been issued a restricted license. Others have had their license suspended or revoked and reinstated. Find out if your bail agent has been subject to discipline by the licensing board. Most of the time this is the State Department of Insurance. You can contact them directly, or most will provide this information free of charge over the internet.
4 How long have you been a licensed bail agent/ how old is your company?
  Generally speaking, a more experienced bail agent or agency with a track record of satisfied clients will provide better service and better advice than somebody who is new to the business. Look for a company that has a long tradition in the business. Many strong, reputable bail bond companies are family owned businesses passed on for generations. Some of our approved bail companies have been in business for 40 or even 70 years. They have a strong incentive to treat their customers right and stay in business.
3 Where/in what state is the home office of your general agent/surety?
  The Insurance Company or General Agent for each company may be located hundreds or thousands of miles away from your bail agent. If the bail agent goes out of business, you may be forced to deal with a large company several time zones away. If there is a dispute with the bail agent or bail company the Insurance Company or General Agent may be your last resort. If they are difficult to reach, it makes it that much tougher on you.
2 Will you list any reporting requirements or other conditions of bail?
  In addition to the standard bail contract, there may be other terms or conditions of bail. They may include the drug treatment, maintaining a job or schooling, or reporting your location on a regular basis. Each case is unique, and these terms should be very clearly understood by both the person getting out of jail AND those who get that person out. If these conditions are not met, they can result in the person being thrown back in jail AT YOUR EXPENSE. If your bail agent will not give you these terms and conditions in writing, leave. Go to another bail agent or bail company that WILL put them in writing. If you accept just their word for it, you may find yourself in court being sued for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Your defense will be “But I thought they said…” while they are pointing to the fine print of the bail contract that allows them to throw the person back in jail for practically any reason.
1 Will you throw the defendant back in jail if the bond is not forfeited/under what circumstances?
  This is the most important question you can ask. The bail company you choose can throw you or your loved one in jail at any time while the bail bond is in effect. The answer you get can save you thousands of dollars and some jail time. Some bail companies will throw people back in jail for trivial matters, like failing to call in one day, or going on vacation without notifying them. Avoid them at all cost. You are better off with a company that will normally only surrender a defendant after the bail bond is ordered forfeited by the court.

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