A bail agent is a person who arranges to pay or guarantee payment of a person's bail so he can be released from jail until his court date. In order to do this, a bail agent may be required to pledge money on behalf of the suspected criminal and guarantee the person's return to court. In exchange for providing this service, a bail agent usually charges a fee, which often amounts to 10 percent of the bail bond.
To understand how bail agents work, it helps to consider an example in which a person's bail is set at $3,000 US dollars (USD). If the person doesn't have the bail amount, he may turn to a bail agent for help. The bail agent may charge 10 percent of the bail amount, in this case $300 USD for his services. When the defendant shows up in court, the agent would get his money back or be released from the guarantee he offered on the defendant's behalf. He would also keep the $300 USD he charged as a fee.
Bail agents provide this service because they are able to earn money doing so. They do risk their own money and assets, however. If the person who is released from jail shows up for his court date, the bail agent gets his money back and he keeps the 10 percent fee he charged for his services. Unfortunately, however, defendants don't always show up for court. If a defendant doesn’t show up and becomes a fugitive from the law, any money or assets the agent pledged on his behalf is at risk.
Often, a bail agent requires the person who needs bail bond help to have a co-signer who promises to pay the bail amount if the defendant doesn't show up for court when he should; this makes providing the bail money or guarantee less risky for the bail agent. Usually, the cosigner is a friend or loved one of the person who is hoping to get out of jail. In most cases, bail agents are only willing to accept cosigners who can demonstrate that they are capable of paying the defendant's bail money if necessary. This often means the co-signer has a steady job or valuable assets, such as a house. Often, bail agents also make sure a co-signer has lived in the area for a long period of time, as this may mean he's less likely to leave town to avoid paying the bail.