Don't Get Fooled By Promises of Cheap Bail
More of us have been there than care to admit publicly: a late-night phone call from a loved one, probably in tears, saying they've been arrested and begging you to get them out.
You, of course, want to do everything you can to bail them out of jail quickly. No one wants their friend or family member having to spend hours, days, or even weeks, in jail.
So you get up and start flipping through the phone book or searching the Internet, looking for a 24-hour bail bondsman.
5% Bail? The Real Cost of a Bail Bond
For many people, the most important factor when it comes to choosing a bondsman is price.
You may see ads for local bail bondsmen who promise to be the "cheapest in town" or "5% bail." This is just underhanded marketing on the part of the agency.
While the majority of bail bondsmen conduct a genuine, honest business, there are a few out there who will use every trick they can think of to win you over.
Beware, however, of the bait-and-switch or the fine print. The truth is that bail bondsmen, no matter how reputable or how long they've been in the business, can't reduce the cost of a bail bond.
In most states, the cost of a bail bond is determined by the State Department of Insurance. And for most states, including California, this amount is 10% of the total bail amount. In some cases, you may qualify for an 8% bail bond, but that's rare.
So, for example, if your loved one's bail is set at $10,000 you should expect pay a bondsman $1,000 to secure a bail bond. If you encounter an agency that says they will "negotiate" the cost with you, be wary.
Any agent saying they have the lowest cost in town is simply trying to get your business, because the bondsman has little choice what to charge.
Work With An Expert BondsmanBefore you enter into an agreement with any bondsman, be sure to ask the following:
- Are you licensed? Can I see your license?
- Are you rated with the Better Business Bureau? What is your rating?
- Can you explain the entire bail bond process to me?
- What does it cost?
While the total cost of a bail bond is not negotiable, there are some agencies who will work with you to help make paying easier. Many will accept bail bond payments made with credit cards, and others will offer to make a payment plan. There should never be any additional costs or fees if the agency offers a payment plan.
Once your loved one is released from jail, it's important to help them get back on track. Make sure that they show up for all of their court appearances and follow the rules set by the court and bondsman. The last thing either of you want is for the bond to be revoked and your loved one to have to return to jail. Remember, once you sign for a bond, you will be held responsible for the defendant.
There is no such thing as a "cheap bail bond." That's just a ploy some agencies will use to draw you in. Keep in mind that if they are willing to break the law in this instance, in what other ways will they bend the rules? Don't get fooled by these empty promises by unscrupulous companies.
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- Michelle in San Fernando Valley