When someone is arrested for a crime, the judge might set a bail amount so that the defendant can return home while waiting for his day in court. As the bail amount is often more money than a defendant can afford, a bail bondsman works with a surety agent to secure a bond on his behalf.
In Florida, a person arrested for a criminal act might have to stay in jail pending a trial. If a judge allows it, that defendant can return home after posting bail as insurance that he won't skip town. The judge determines the amount of bail based on past criminal history as well as the nature of the crime and whether or not the defendant presents a risk of skipping out on his trial. Because bail is usually set at a high amount, a defendant who can't afford to make the payment can hire a bail bondsman to secure a surety bond on his behalf.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
A bail bondsman works with a surety agent to secure a bail bond on a defendant's behalf. The bail acts as insurance in the event that the defendant skips town before his trial.
What Is a Bail Bond?
When a judge sets a bail amount, the defendant has the option to pay the amount in full. If he can't afford bail, he or someone he knows can post a bail bond instead. A bail bond is a type of surety bond that acts as insurance that the defendant won't leave town before his trial. It's not the full amount of the bail set by the court, but it promises full payment if the defendant doesn't honor his agreement.
What Do Florida Bail Bonds Cost?
Anyone wishing to acquire a bail bond has to pay a fee. Florida bail bonds cost $100 if the bail amount is under $750. If bail is set at higher than $750, the fee is 10 percent of the bail amount. If the defendant can’t meet the bail bondsman’s requirements, he can either stay in jail pending trial or seek another hearing with the judge to try and reduce the bail amount.
What Is a Bail Bondsman?
A bail bondsman, also known in Florida as a Limited Surety Agent, helps to secure funds for those seeking bail. Bail bondsmen don't keep bail funding on hand. Instead, they request bonds from a surety agent. This middleman approach is necessary as surety agents don’t issue bail bonds directly to defendants because it’s too risky. However, they can and do provide bonds to reputable bail bondsmen with whom they’ve established positive working relationships.
As it's the bail bondsman who is responsible for paying the entire bail amount if the defendant fails to appear at his trial, the defendant or his family has to provide him with collateral equal to the amount of bail. Collateral can include a car, house, jewelry or other assets.
If the defendant appears in court, the collateral is returned with the exception of the original downpayment, which the bail bondsman keeps as a fee. If the defendant fails to appear, the bail bondsman uses the collateral to pay the courts to cover the bail.
Bail Bondsman Requirements
Anyone wishing to become a bail bondsman in Florida must be a resident of that state and at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or G.E.D. Aspiring bail bondsmen must be U.S. citizens or legally authorized to work in the U.S.
In order to receive a temporary license and complete the required training hours to become a bail bondsman, the applicant must first undergo and complete a 120-hour certification course. Applicants must also pass the course with a score of 80 percent or higher. Anyone who fails the course three times must complete the 120-hour training again.
After receiving their certifications, aspiring agents can apply for a Temporary License for Resident Limited Surety Agent. They must also complete at least 1,540 hours and 12 months working with a licensed bail bonds agency. After that amount of time, the applicant can apply for a Resident Limited Surety Agent license. After meeting all the license requirements and passing the exam, applicants are officially bail bondsmen.
Other bail bondsman requirements include being of high character and integrity and not having a criminal background. Applicants also have to undergo background and reference checks. Former police and law enforcement professionals can't be bail bondsmen nor can attorneys, judges, bailiffs or anyone in a position to arrest someone else. Anyone working in a prison or who is in a position to hold any kind of power over inmates in the prison system also can't apply to become a bail bondsman.
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images