In Texas, a person who wants to become a bail bondsman must be a U.S. citizen at least 18 years of age and a resident of the state. The person cannot have been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude. A crime of moral turpitude is typically defined as an offense that involves dishonesty, fraud or immoral conduct, such as fraud or theft.
A corporation and any of its agents can be licensed bail bondsman if the corporation is chartered in, or admitted to do business in, Texas. The corporation must qualify under the Texas Insurance Code to write fidelity, surety and guaranty bonds.
Types of Bonds Under Texas Law
A fidelity bond, or “honesty bond,” is a bond that provides protection to an employer against losses caused by employees for their fraudulent or dishonest actions. A surety bond is a promise by the employer to be liable for the debt of another. A surety is commonly defined as a person who undertakes a promise for another, such as a promise to pay a debt.
A guaranty bond is a bond that states if the issuer of the bond defaults, a third party will pay the interest and principal payments on the bond.
Requirements of Bail Bondsmen
A bail bondsman must possess the financial resources necessary to comply with Texas Occupations Code Section 1704.160, which concerns the security requirements (financial resources) that the individual or corporation must possess to be a bail bondsman.
The exception to this rule is if an individual is acting only as an agent for a corporation that holds a license under Texas Occupations Code Chapter 1704. Further, a bail bondsman must submit documentary evidence that in the two years before the date on which they filed their license application, they have:
- Been continuously employed by a person licensed under the chapter for at least one year, for not less than 30 hours per week, excluding annual leave and performed duties that encompass all phases of the bonding business.
- Completed in person at least eight hours of continuing legal education in criminal law courses or bail bond law courses approved by the State Bar of Texas, offered by accredited Texas institution of higher education.
How Bail Bonds Work
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) provides that the wide range of bonds that a bond agency can offer includes bail bonds, also known as criminal court appearance bonds. The TDI does not regulate forms, rules or rates for bail bonds. Bail bonds work by allowing a bail bondsman to provide a bond to the court, on behalf of an individual accused of committing a crime.
The individual usually pays the bondsman between 10 to 12 percent of the required bail, as well as additional fees. How much a bail bondsman earns as an individual or a corporation depends on their location, fees and the volume of their business.
Becoming a Bail Bondsman
Texas bail bond laws on how to become a bondsman differ depending on the population of the county in which the bondsman is situated. All individuals who want to be bail bondsmen, including agents of a corporation involved in such work, must meet minimum requirements, such as being at least 18 years old.
Further, Texas requires that a board for bail bondsmen be created in counties with a population of 110,000 or more. A county with a population of less than 110,000 can create a board if it chooses to do so. Such a board is called a County Bail Bond Board (CBBB), as in the Dallas County Bail Bond Board.
Rules in Counties With Bail Bond Boards
Additional rules apply for individuals and corporations in counties with bail bond boards. In a county without a CBBB, the county sheriff has authority over who will become a bail bondsman. The individual or corporation should apply at the sheriff’s office to become a bail bondsman.
Usually, the sheriff requires the party to submit a financial statement that shows they have assets worth twice the amount of a bond and that the individual resides in Texas, or the corporation is headquartered and doing business in Texas.
In counties with a CBBB, the CBBB supervises and regulates each phase of the bonding business in the county. Typically, an applicant applies for a bail bond license by completing the CBBB’s approved application form and submitting documents required by Texas Occupation Code Section 1704.154, including:
- Three letters of recommendation, each from a reputable person who has known the applicant or, if a corporation, the corporation’s agent, for at least three years.
- $500 filing fee.
- Photograph of the applicant, or, if a corporation, the corporation’s agent.
- Set of fingerprints of the applicant, or, if a corporation, the corporation’s agent, with fingerprints taken by a law enforcement officer designated by the board.
Licensing in More Than One County
If the applicant is, or has been, licensed in another county, the applicant must also provide a list of each county in which they hold a license and a statement by the applicant, as of the date of application, of any final judgments that have been unpaid for over 30 days that arose directly or indirectly from a bail bond executed by the applicant as a surety or as an agent for a surety.
Applications From Bail Bond Companies
If the applicant is a corporation, the applicant must provide a statement by the designated agent, as of the date of the application, of any final judgments that have been unpaid for over 30 days that arose directly or indirectly from any bond executed by the agent as a surety or as an agent for a surety.
Letter of Recommendation
A letter of recommendation must state that the applicant, or, if a corporation, the agent, has a reputation for honesty, truthfulness, fair dealing and competency. The letter must recommend that the board issue the license.
Unpaid Final Judgment
An unpaid final judgment as mentioned above bars an applicant from getting a bail bondsman license. The exception is if the applicant has deposited cash or a supersedeas bond with the court in the amount of the final judgment, pending a ruling on a timely filed motion for a new trial or an appeal.
Defendant's Appeal Bond
A supersedeas bond, also known as a defendant’s appeal bond, is a bond that a court requires from the party filing an appeal who wants to delay the payment of the judgment until the appeal is over.
Under these circumstances, the term, defendant, means the individual or corporation acting as a bail bondsman, not the person who is the defendant in the criminal case.
The bail bondsman is called a defendant here because they are the defendant in a civil case in which they owe money or have not paid a judgment. A corporation must file a separate application for each agent the corporation designates in the county.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.