Bail Bonds Blog

A Look at the First Bail Bond Services in the United States

The bail laws of the United States were based on English law and were adapted as early as before American Independence. The states of Virginia and Pennsylvania, for instance, made provisions in their state constitution against excessive bail. That same provision in the United States Constitution after the Declaration of American Independence was largely based on the Virginia Constitution.
But what about the practice of bail bonding and bail bondsmen?
The services offered by bail bondsmen consist of providing the necessary bail for a criminal defendant in exchange for a fee lower than the total amount of the defendant’s bail.
The first recorded practice of bail bonding was in 1898, by Peter McDonough in San Francisco. He and his brother Tom are considered as the founders of the modern bail bonds industry in the United States. Interestingly, however, they are not the first bail bondsmen in the world.
The earliest records of a bail bond agreement are based on records dating back as far as ca. 2750, made in the ancient Akkadian city of Eshnunna. Eshnunna was located in what we now know as modern Iraq.
Not so far back in time, but still of interesting historical precedent, is 13th century England, when the practice of commercial bail bonds became common practice. Then, as today, the difference in financial capacity of the have’s, and the have not’s made an unequal playing field in the legal system, and efforts to provide those who were poor the ability to pay their bail gave rise to the bail bond industry.

What Makes a Defendant a Flight Risk?

Ever wonder how a judge determines that a defendant in a criminal action is a flight risk? The significance of this is that an individual deemed to be a flight risk by a criminal court judge may be imposed a higher amount of bail for this very reason. The logic is that the greater the chances that a person is going to skip bail, the greater the chances that they will show up in court if the amount of bail they paid is higher.
It is a judge’s job to make assessments of individuals, whether it is to determine the veracity of their statements, the possibility of their guilt, or to adjudge whether or not a defendant is a flight risk. In the latter instance, some of the factors a judge may take into consideration include:
• Community Ties. A person with stronger community ties, whether to his family and home, his job, or his social circle can determine whether a person is more likely to be a flight risk. A person with no ties to his community, with no strong ties to his family, or having no family in the community, and holding no permanent job, is obviously more likely to skip bail simply because he will not be leaving anything of value behind if he does skip bail.
• Financial resources. A person who can afford to book a flight and take an immediate trip out of the country is, of course, more likely to do so than someone who cannot even afford a plane ticket to get to another state. A person might be considered an even higher flight risk if he has a proven history of taking long trips abroad.
• The gravity of the charges and severity of the potential punishment. If all that a person is looking at is a misdemeanor charge punishable by fines and or several months of jail time, that person may be less inclined to skip bail than one who is facing a capital offense punishable by several years in prison.
• The defendant’s character. Finally, a judge can determine whether or not a defendant is a flight risk based on that person’s character. Do they have a history of avoiding responsibilities, a history of criminal conduct, and a seeming lack of appreciation of the gravity of the crime with which they are charged? Such a person may be more likely to be a flight risk.

Can I Get a Discount on the Bail Bond Fees?

The rate of bail bond fees or premiums is typically determined by state law. The usual statutory percentage is set at 10 percent, but this can be different depending on what state you are in. Some states provide for bail bond fees that are set as low as 8 percent; some set it as high as 15 percent. There are also some states that provide for variable or tiered percentages based on bail amounts, with minimum and maximum limits set for the allowable bail bond fees.
The bottom line is that where commercial bail is allowed, the industry is often regulated by the state. Apart from licensing requirements, bail bondsmen are also required to adhere to statutory limits on the amount of fees or premiums that they can charge. If this is set at a specific amount or percentage, then bail bondsmen operating or doing business within the state are expected to adhere to these provisions. This means that they cannot set a different amount of bail bond fee or premium, whether higher or lower. Discounts, therefore, may not be allowed by law.
Legal authorities will usually caution you against a bail bondsman offering discounted bail bond fees precisely because this is usually not allowed by law. When you come across this type of offer, be warned that you may not be dealing with a licensed bail bondsman or one who is operating legally. Even if a bail bondsman is duly licensed, however, if they offer a discount on their fees to one that is less than that allowed by state law and regulations, the said bail bondsman may eventually lose their license for doing so.

Can I Pay Bail through A Credit Card?

The simple answer is yes; one can pay their bail using a credit card.
Jailers and law enforcement authority are increasing the options available to criminal defendants for posting their bail. Even if they do not have ready cash to pay for their bail, they can do so using their credit. In fact, a growing number of detention facilities are also offering Internet-based payment services that would allow a person to pay bail online. Of course, the ultimate cost can be quite expensive when you factor in the fees, which can be charged by the courts as well as the processing company, and getting the applicable rewards points may be scant comfort.
This is, however, still a developing trend, and not all counties or municipal jails accept credit cards. Most still only accept cash payments, and have no provision for accepting card-based payments.
Also, not all cards can be used to post bail. Some of the leading credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa can be used to pay bail, as well as to pay the fees to a bail bondsman. American Express, however, can only be used to pay the bail bondsman’s fee.
If you are looking at paying bail through a credit card as an option, you may want to think twice about it, however. Bail is usually not cheap, and neither will the fees and interest, which are usually set at 3 percent. Also, non-payments or delays can be costly in terms of fees, as well as the damage it can do to your credit.
Bottom line, think carefully before using a credit card. It may be the easier option, but the repercussions can be financially significant. For many people, using the services of a bail bondsman may still be the better option.

What If I Get Arrested on a Weekend or Holiday?

The law provides that a person arrested should be brought before a magistrate as early as possible, preferably within the next 48 to 72 hours. The difficulty comes in when you are arrested on a weekend or a holiday, and the courts are not in session. You will have to wait until the next business day before you can be brought to court, and a decision is made as to whether or not you are eligible for bail. The same is true if you are arrested at night time when the courts are closed. You will have to wait until the next morning, or the next available schedule before you can be brought before a judge.
The good news is that bail can still be an option for you even while you are waiting to be brought before a judge. Most jail authorities are provided a bail schedule which provides for the statutory amount of bail depending on the crime charged. This is also the reason why some bail bond companies are open 24 hours a day. Individuals who are arrested at night time, on weekends, or on holidays, need not wait for court to resume its operations before they can be bailed out. With the help and assistance of a bail bondsman, you can post a bail bond immediately and be released on bail.
When a defendant is given this option, before they are released from jail, they are provided with a schedule for their appearance date in court. Typically, this would be the arraignment when the charges against the defendant are read, and he is allowed to enter his plea to the charge or charges brought against him.