It’s 3 a.m. Your phone rings and on the line is an arrested client.
“I’m in jail — get me out,” they demand.
Understandably, the average client is not likely to have an association with a bail bonds agent and might search Yelp with fingers crossed that he will find one who knows what they’re doing.
However, criminal defense attorneys should already have an association with a known and trusted bail bonds agent. This client will perceive this ally as a positive reflection of your practice. For the noncriminal attorney, it’s helpful to have an association with a criminal attorney with such a relationship. Even better, you should have your own relationship because at some point you will have a client in trouble and in need of a bondsman.
Therefore, we wanted to share some basic things every attorney should know about bail bonds.
To create an attorney-bail bonds agent relationship built on reliability, professionalism and trust, seek out a bondsperson who has been in the business for a long time. The experienced bondsperson can usually attain a large bond (over $1 million) for your client and do it within 24 hours.
Many companies simply can’t do this. However, the quality bond agent has the experience, relationship and trust built with the insurers to finalize large bail bonds that often can be difficult to attain approval. As bail goes upwards of $1 million, the number of bail bond companies that can help diminishes.
Also, look for flexibility in the premium collected up front. If an attorney’s fee is $8,000 and the bond agent’s fee is the same — but the client only has $10,000 — a good bail bond company may be willing to forgo a portion of their upfront fee in deference to the attorney receiving their full portion first. Also, if the defendant has a private attorney, the bonds agent has the option to make available a discount overall on the entire cost.
Does the bondsman assist in performing extra services for the attorney, such as assisting with motions and hearings? This can be a big bonus for the attorney. Also, ask if they provide 24-hour emergency services, offer payment plans for the defendant and would give the defendant a ride home upon release. All of these can be beneficial to both attorney and client. However, not all bail bond firms offer them.
Almost every state has its own nuanced bail system. Sometimes it even varies from county to county. In California, it is no different. So, it’s important to work with a bail bond agency that knows the ins and outs of the system statewide.
For instance, if someone jumps bail in California or Dallas, Texas, the bail bond agency is allotted 180 days to find the defendant or pay the full bond to the court. In other areas, the allotted time can be as short as one to three months or as long as a year.
There are different rules in place when it comes to apprehension and the forfeiture of the bond. Everybody has to play by the rules and a good bond agent will know them through and through to the smallest detail.
For instance, did you know that in some counties the attorney can contact the detention release officer on duty and ask that bail be reduced prior to the first court date? A detention release officer is on duty 24/7. If this happens, it can save a large sum of money in bail bond fees.
On the other hand, the attorney might choose to wait on bail until after the first court hearing. This is because the attorney can often convince the judge to lower the bail bond fees or reduce bail at the arraignment.
The judge may even choose to release the client on his own recognizance. Again, the trusted bail agent is there in the catbird’s seat to advise when needed. Each day, they observe how the police, prosecutors and judges work and develop a sharp understanding of how to help a defense attorney.
If you have a good relationship with a bail bondsman, when possible, also make sure that your client receives the white glove treatment when arrested and is walked in to the station, fingerprinted and walked out, never spending a day in jail.
In all of the above, trust is vital. The attorney absolutely needs to trust the bail bond company to do what they say they are going to do to be able to execute. Otherwise, the client may stay longer in jail than they need to. Scott Tucker