How to Become a Bail Bondsman

If you enjoy watching bounty hunting shows on television and are interested in pursuing a similar career, you might want to look into how to become a bail bondsman. While bounty hunters and bail bondsmen can be different individuals, a licensed bail bondsman has the authority to act as bounty hunter in most states. The difference between the two is that a bounty hunter earns his or her money by apprehending bail fugitives and turning them over to the bail bondsman. On the other hand, the bail bondsman is the one who uses his or her own money or other assets to write the bond that releases the defendant from jail. This bond acts as a standing guarantee that the defendant will appear for the court date and is usually a specified percentage of the pledged bail money. In general, bail bondsmen charge their clients a non-refundable 10 to 15 percent fee based on the total bail amount that is determined by the judge.

Education/Licensing

In order to become a bail bondsman, you must be at least 18 years of age, have your fingerprints recorded, and meet any other necessary requirements. Check with your state's Department of Insurance to see what courses are required. Ask for a list of the schools in your part of the state that offer a bail bond class license, otherwise known as a Limited Surety Agent's License. Once you have started school, ask your instructor for more information about the procedures for applying for your license.

After you have completed all your course requirements, you should be eligible for licensing. You will need to submit your application for a license, sometimes called an Agency Producer Application. In most cases, you will have to send a copy of either your insurance qualification certificate or your bail license when you submit your application.

Tips/Advice

Usually a bail bondsman has to be appointed by the insurance department since large amounts of money and property are involved. The only exception is if you happen to be rich enough to be able to compensate for your own losses. Having the proper insurance will protect you and your family from unnecessary financial risks. Just make sure you have a reputable attorney go over your insurance policy with you so that you understand all the legal terms and regulations in the contract.

Some states accept only professional bail agents; and in certain states, including Georgia and Texas, there are different bail statutes from county to county. If you want to be a bail bondsman in a state like Georgia or Texas, you should contact your local county bail bond commission board.

Before you go through the process of becoming a bail bondsman, make sure your state allows suspects the bailing option. (Commercial bail bonds have been abolished in the states of Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin.) You should also try to find out how many defendants opt for bail, the current number of bail bondsmen in your region and whether there will be a demand for your services. If you decide there is enough demand to proceed with becoming licensed, consider working for a reputable bail bonding agency to gain experience before starting your own business. A good place to look for such an agency is The Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS).

Being a bail bondsman requires you to be aware of various technicalities and legal statutes, so you need to keep up with any changes in the way your state's court system handles the bail process. You also will need to be familiar with various types of crimes. As a bail bondman, you can expect to be on call all hours of the day and night seven days a week. In addition, the job is a demanding and sometimes dangerous one, especially since you will be in contact with criminals on a regular basis. Your income may also vary greatly depending on how much crime there is in the jurisdiction where you work.