Most people have never needed to bail someone out of jail before. The only thing they know about the bail industry is what they have seen on television, and because of that, people often believe that all bondsmen are big, burly, biker-guys with tattoos and long beards who sit in smoke-filled offices and throw darts all day.
In reality, that scene couldn’t be farther from the truth. Still, if you have found out that a friend or family member has been arrested and you want to get them out of jail, you may find yourself wondering how to find a reputable, legitimate bail bondsman.
When you began calling around you’ll first and foremost want to know whether the bondsman holds a bail license. In California the bail industry is regulated by the Department of Insurance (DOI), and the DOI requires all bondsmen undergo a training process, pass an exam, and undergo a background check. You can check the status of a person’s license by visiting the Department of Insurance website.
You may also want to see if the bail bonds company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. If the bondsman you’re speaking with isn’t licensed, or the BBB has a long list of complaints against them, these would be red-flags to call someone else.
Another place to seek out information is the company’s website. Do they fully list their addresses and contact numbers, Does it indicate how long they have been in business, Does it include other information on how bail works,
If you come across a website offering cheap or discounted bail bonds, this should also be a red flag. The DOI, not individual bail agents, sets the rate at which bondsmen are permitted to charge their clients and that rate is 10%. If someone is offering to sell you 2% bail bonds or 5% bail bonds, they are either breaking the law or using “bait and switch” marketing tactics to get you through the door.
If someone is being unethical and breaking the law in order to make a quick buck, you should think twice about working with them. If they are trying to “wheel and deal” you over the phone and you feel like you’re talking to high-pressure used car salesman, you may also consider taking your business elsewhere.
If the bondsman called you to solicit a sale, this is also illegal. Solicitation of bail is strictly prohibited by the DOI.
The bail process is a lot less complicated and a lot less scary than many think, but you will still be best served by working with a reputable, ethical bondsman. You’ll want to work with someone who is both compassionate and professional. Do they take the time to answer your questions, Do they seem knowledgeable about the jail system and how bail works, Do you get the sense that they will handle your situation with confidentiality and care,
Finding a reputable bondsman shouldn’t be too difficult, so long as you know what to look for and what to run from.