In order to become a bail bondsman a person requires training, insurance, basic knowledge of the legal system, understanding that the job does not follow a set schedule hours and awareness that employment in the bail bonds industry does not allow for much growth opportunity.
A bail bondsman acts as an agent for a person who has been arrested, has appeared in front of a judge, and had their bail amount set. The arrested party calls a bail bondsman, tells the bondsman the amount of their bail, and the bondsman tells the arrested party how much they’ll have to pay to them so they may be released until their next court appearance. The bail bondsman usually charges a percentage (10-15%) of the total bail amount set by the judge, and may ask for additional collateral to reduce the risk of the prospective client from fleeing the area and not appearing at his/her next court hearing. The percentage charged to the client is income to the bail bondsman and is not returned to the client. Additional collateral provided to the bondsman is returned to the client, provided he/she appears at the scheduled court appearance.
Since the bail bondsman does business with persons accused and charged with criminal activities, appropriate training is required so the bondsman is familiar with the characteristics of a variety of crimes: armed robbery vs. theft or drug sales vs. drug possession, for instance. In addition, recognizing the potential physical danger of dealing with criminal offenders and the financial risks associated with assuming responsibility for their clients should be thoroughly assessed prior to a person investing significant time and money into licensing programs to become a bail bondsman.
The bail bondsman, once licensed, must obtain insurance so as to protect themselves financially from clients which fail to appear at their assigned court date, referred to as jumpers. Should the client fail to appear in court, the bail bondsman is required to pay the full amount of the offender’s bail originally ordered by the judge within a certain time frame. Bond amounts can vary from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the nature of the crime, the offender’s history, and other variables such as input from prosecuting and defense attorneys. Since the nature of a criminal personality lends itself to less than stellar moral values, the bail bondsman faces a high probability that a considerable number of their clients will not appear at their court dates. Bail bondsmen enlist the help of bounty hunters to track down offenders who have jumped bail, apprehend them and return them to the jail they were released from.
A successful bail bondsman’s working day doesn’t follow a traditional nine-to-five schedule. The bondsman is often contacted in the wee hours of the morning and is on call seven days a week. Though the careers of a bail bondsman and the bounty hunter have been glamorized on reality television shows, the work is dangerous and unpredictable, physically and psychologically demanding, and is not a suitable career match for many people.
There are professional bondsman organizations which can be contacted for more information on how to become a bail bondsman.