Use a licensed Bail Agent
There are scammers pretending to be licensed bail agents. You can verify that the person is a Licensed Bail Bonds professional up to date with your state’s licensure by asking for their full name and/or license information. If you have further reason to question this, you can visit your state's Department of Insurance website to find their license information.
- California Department of Insurance | Check a License
- For other states, use a search engine with this phrase "[your state] + licensed bail agent lookup"
Do they follow the code of Ethics
Ask if they follow the 19 articles of the Professional Bail Agents of the United StatesTM (PBUS) Code of Ethics… or if their company has created their own code that they adhere to without fail.
Review BBB, Google, & Yelp
Note the number and quality of reviews – you’ll get a sense of their reputation as well as their strongest and weakest attributes. Be aware of agencies with few reviews who may have recently opened their doors. Those early reviews could be from friends, family, or overly incentivized customers.
Look for excellent customer service!
Is the licensed bail agent willing to listen to you and consider your questions?
- On the flip side: Be cautious of high-pressure tactics: While most bail agents are ethical professionals, there may be a few who attempt bait-and-switch techniques after they get you to show up in person or have more phone calls.They may ask you for more cosigners than necessary or ask for unnecessary collateral.
- A reputable bail bondsman should not pressure you to make split second decisions or sign contracts before you are ready. If you feel uncomfortable or pressured, consider working with a different professional.
- A professional bail bonds company will have coordinated systems and a structure to follow, while at the same time the flexibility to provide you with personal attention
Always read contracts carefully.
Before signing any agreements, read the terms and conditions carefully and ask questions. Ensure that the fees, payment schedules, and collateral requirements are clear and consistent with what you discussed with your licensed bail agent. Make sure that you are clear on the calculations, and have a satisfactory answer to your preference of payment options, such as Apple Pay, credit card, Venmo, check, etc.
Professional Norms and Practices
- Choose a bail agent who has your best interests at heart.
- In California, for example, the nonrefundable fee for a bail bond is designated as 10% of the court-given Bail amount.
Licensed bail agents exist as a community of professionals. Be wary of those who operate outside of this community by offering to collect fees from you that are significantly lower than the industry standard for your state, as this could be a red flag that they are not fully invested in this industry as licensed bail agents who adhere to a high standard and follow the rules – and they may also charge you hidden fees!
Fully licensed bail agents in the professional community do however offer veteran status discounts and other special categories of consideration; they also are more likely to invest in educating their clients, provide detailed customer service and practical advice (not legal advice), keep up with continuing education, training, and development, and they may offer free-of-charge additional services like client follow-up calls and reminders.
Why make sure professional norms are followed?
Well.. while most Licensed Bail Agents are trusted professionals who provide quality service with a high level of integrity, there exists a handful of agents in each state whom you want to avoid; they may skip the necessary steps in the process or give low quality service to you, which can affect you financially and your (or the defendant’s) future.
e.g. Those agents might pull you in with rock bottom fees, only to demand more compensation, more cosigners, more collateral, etc., only after you’ve put your trust in them and their word.
Trust your instincts
If something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Do not be afraid to ask your bail bond professional extra questions or relay your concerns. If they do not adequately address your concerns or treat you with respect, consider finding another licensed bail bond organization.
If you have special requests or wish to explain special circumstances, do so in a courteous manner. Almost always the licensed Bail Agent wants to help you and address your concerns. They are people who are happy to provide you with an important service and who only get paid when you get results, but courtesy is a two-way street. Do not make demands. Rather, be curious as to how you can work well together and you will often be delighted with the results.
If you are someone who seeks references before working with a professional, do so. A skilled, licensed, bail bonds professional will have more than one past client who is highly satisfied with their work and their help.
Maintain your own documentation
It is your responsibility to maintain your own documentation. Stay organized! Keep copies of contracts or agreements, just as you would with any significant transaction. Ideally in a safe place, both hard copies and digital copies. Should anything arise later, it helps for both sides of an agreement to be able to look back on their mutually agreed upon paperwork, thus minimizing the potential for concerns or disputes.
Representation by a criminal attorney
It is advisable to retain a criminal attorney for the defendant who is familiar with the county or local area in question, when it is financially viable to do so. Make sure to mention this to your bail bonds professional, as it can significantly help your bond.
Be proactive and communicate
Follow through on your communication with your licensed bail agent! They may ask questions that seem invasive, but that is part of the insurance underwriting process and it’s standard practice! This relationship is a two-way street – if you stay in contact with a skilled bail agent when they request it, there is a high likelihood that all involved will feel satisfied with the service provided to the defendant.