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Fact Versus Fiction -- Understanding Bail Bonds And Bondsmen

Updated on March 30, 2016

We’ve all seen the scene on television: a muscled, tattooed, somewhat grisly man barrels down a street, weapon on his hip or slung across his shoulder as he looks for a defendant on the loose. He’s a bounty hunter and the man or woman he’s tracking down is skipping bail, evading the court and breaking the agreement laid out with the bond agent. It’s scary to say the least, and the bounty hunter isn’t exactly shown as sympathetic. But is it close to reality or is it more akin to fiction? Unfortunately, images such as this only distort what people believe the world of bail bonds and bond agents to be like. But it’s not a rough-and-tumble world of seemingly amoral bounty hunters, agents closer to con artists than reliable business owners and illegality.

Bond agents offer an important service to individuals who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Bond agents can help a person post bail so that for the duration of the case, they may wait outside of jail and prepare for their future court appearances. Understanding the role of a bondsman is the first step to dispelling any misunderstandings and misperceptions you may have about the profession. Here, we’ll shatter three common myths about bondsmen you have likely encountered.

1. Myth: Bondsmen are bounty hunters.

Reality: The images of bondsmen and bounty hunters are often conflated, but they are two very different professions and serve different roles in the bail bond process. A bond agent works with a guarantor (an individual who promises to ensure the defendant appears in court, pays a premium to the bond agent and may even offer collateral) and enters into an agreement with said guarantor. A bounty hunter, conversely, is hired by a bond agent if and when a defendant skips bail and leaves the jurisdiction of the court presiding over their case. A bounty hunter is not a police officer, but it is their job to return the defendant to the bondsman and court.

2. Myth: Bondsmen are only interested in pocketing your money and avoid taking responsibility if a defendant skips bail.

Reality: While it may seem that bond agreements place an unfair amount of responsibility on the defendant’s guarantor, bondsmen are not free from responsibility if a client skips bail. Rather, the bond agent can often be required to pay the bond amount in full to the court.

3. Myth: Bondsmen do not operate legal businesses.

Reality: Because bond agents do not work within the police force, they are often seen as engaging in a somewhat dubious or illegal business. However, bail bond agencies are legitimate, regulated companies and, like any other business, are required to meet a set of standards. If you work with an agency within a national bail bond network, you can be sure you are the client of an honest and reliable bondsman.

If you need to receive a bail bond, it’s important that you understand your rights and the details of your bond agreement.


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