Q. How much does a bail agent charge?
A. The cost to the consumer will be about 10% of the total amount of the bond, plus actual, necessary and reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the transaction. The court determines the amount of the bond.
Each surety company must file rates with the Department of Insurance. Bail agents representing a company must charge the same, filed rates. A "Rate Chart" is required to be posted in a visible location at every bail bond office.
Q. What is the consumer agreeing to in the bail bond contract?
A. The consumer is agreeing to:
- Pay the premium for the bond at the established rates.
- Provide required collateral.
- Pay actual, necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by the bail agent in connection with the transaction. These may include:
- Reimbursement for long distance phone calls.
- Excess travel expenses (described as outside of the bail agent's normal scope of business, or into an area where the agent does not advertise).
- Posting fees (for payment to an agent in another area to physically deliver a bond. An agent should not charge a posting fee for the normal delivery of a bond in the agent's advertising area).
- Bounty agent/skip tracer expenses (These are usually based upon the amount of the bond).
- Payment of the bond amount for the defendant's failure to appear.
- Attorney fees and court costs.
- Keep the bail agent advised of address/employment changes of the defendant or other parties to the agreement.
- Aid the bail agent/skip tracers in locating the defendant (where someone other than the defendant has secured the bond).
The consumer should read all agreements thoroughly, asking questions until all items and obligations are understood.
Q. What does the bail agent do for the consumer?
A. Provides an avenue for the incarcerated person to be out of custody until his/her day in court, allowing the defendant to continue his/her day-to-day life until the criminal matter is resolved. The bail agent will provide the following:
- Receipts and copies of all signed documents.
- Information regarding the status of the bond and changes in assigned court dates.
- The status of any costs due, as imposed by the court.
- Assistance in locating the defendant should a forfeiture occur.
- Appearance before the court regarding the bail bond when such appearances are necessary (sometimes requiring the hiring of legal counsel).
- The timely return of collateral upon exoneration of the bond.
Q. How long is a bail bond good for, and can the amount be reduced?
A. Length of the contract. The bail bond runs for the length of the case that is being bonded. However, the agreement may provide for the payment of premium at inception, and upon "renewal" on an annual basis. Once paid, premium for a bail bond is not refundable.
Reduction of Responsibility. Although not usually the case, a court may reduce the amount of bail required. If a bail reduction occurs, the bail agreement should be amended to reflect the reduced exposure of the bail agent and surety insurer. A bail reduction does not result in a refund of premium paid, although it may result in a partial return of collateral. If a bail reduction occurs, it should result in a reduced renewal premium. Under any circumstances, where a bail reduction has occurred, the bail agent and insurer cannot recover more than the amount to which they are actually exposed, plus necessary related expenses.
Q. What if I have a problem or dispute with a bail agent, such as a failure to return collateral?
A. Contact the California Department of Insurance.