My name is Tim Altman and I have been a licensed bail bonds agent in the State of Florida since 1998. This blog post aims at clearing up some common misconceptions and Myths about bail bonds and the bail bonds industry.
First off, a bail bond is a guarantee of a defendant’s appearance in court. Bail refers to the financial sum demanded by the courts or jail for an individual who has been arrested for a criminal offense to be released. Bail is a pledge that the defendant will appear at mandatory court hearings throughout the case. A Bail Bond is provided to the jail by a bail bondsman to secure his client’s release from custody.
It is important to understand the misconceptions of this niche industry. Most people that I have met, including attorneys and law enforcement officers truly don’t know all the facts of a bail bond.
Myth 1: Bail bonds are only for criminals.
Fact: Bail Bonds are for all people that are accused of a criminal act. I can’t tell you how many times people that I meet tell me that they won’t need my services. Unfortunately, being arrested sometimes is out of your control. Many people find themselves in a situation that may bring an arrest, life happens. My services are utilized by anyone needing to be released from jail, pending the outcome of guilt or innocence. The presumption of innocence is guaranteed to anyone arrested for a crime. You don’t have to be an evil person, or a 12-time felon to need a bail bond, all you must be is accused of a crime.
Myth 2: The bail amount determines guilt or innocence.
Fact: The bail amount that is assigned to each criminal offense varies from County to County in Florida. There is discussion now from Governor DeSantis to create a statewide bail schedule for each criminal offense. This would create a standard bail amount for each arrestable charge. As it is now, each judicial circuit has their own idea about what amount is sufficient bail. This even further varies from judge to judge.
Bail amounts are significant to everyone that goes through the arrest process. Florida Statute 903.46 sets forth the criteria for setting bail on the accused. Factors such as length of time in the community, the weight of the evidence, the danger the accused poses to the community, and many more are considered before setting, raising, or lowering a defendant’s bail. Higher bail amounts do not necessarily determine guilt or innocence; sufficient bail amounts should provide assurance that the accused will appear in court when needed.
Myth 3: Bail Bondsmen charge exorbitant fees.
Fact: Bail Bondsmen charge Ten percent of the total bail in most cases; If bail is set at $5,000, our fee is $500. The 10% is set by the State of Florida and is mandated that we must charge. We cannot charge over ten percent on any one bond. This 10% fee that is paid to the bail bond agency provides a bail bond for the full amount of the bail that the jail is asking. The bail bonds agency is now at risk of losing the full bail amount if their principle fails to appear at any mandatory hearing thereafter.
Most people do not have the ability to post full cash bail with the jail for a loved one’s release. We provide an affordable way that is both good for the defendants and the judicial system. My bonding agency will even offer payment plans for the bond fee for clients who qualify. Bondsmen have been portrayed by being predatory in recent years, this is just simply silly. We provide a very valuable service to the accused and the courts by allowing the defendant to continue their life during the pretrial proceedings.
Myth 4: The bail bond fee is refundable if my case is dropped.
Fact: The 10% bond fee that is paid for a defendant’s release is mostly non refundable if the defendant is released from custody. There is only one scenario that I know of that qualifies for return of premium. If the bondsman surrenders you prior to bond forfeiture and does not have a valid reason as stated in Florida statutes, then the bail bond premium must be returned.
The misconception comes from posting full cash bail at the jail. When someone posts cash bail in the full amount at the jail, if the defendants’ case is dropped, then the court clerk refunds the bail to the depositor. When 10% is paid to a bail bonds company, that is their fee for putting up the full bail with the jail.
Many clients reach out to us after their case is dropped by the State and ask for their bond money back. We must explain that this would be discounting a bond and that is illegal for a bondsman to do.