South Carolina once had one of the highest rates of incarceration in the US. Since then, multiple attempts have been made to ensure consistency and fairness in the justice system, while freeing up space in prisons. But do you know where bonds come into this legal system?
If not, then you need to know about how this can provide a lucrative career. Read on as we give our essential guide on bail agents and how to set up as one.
Five Things to Know About Bail Bonds
Becoming a bail agent is no easy task, though it is rewarding. Before starting the process, you should know the five points below to help you understand the occupation.
1. How Does Bail Work?
When a person is arrested, there is a period between the arrest and appearing in front of a judge for a trial. Instead of having the person incarcerated, they can apply for bail. This is an amount of money that acts as an assurance that if allowed to resume their normal life, they will turn up for the hearing on the given day.
2. A Judge Sets Bail
For minor crimes, a standard amount is usually set. When the crime is more serious then bail is not automatically granted. A defendant must stand in front of a judge.
The judge can set the bail amount depending on the severity of the crime and if the person poses a flight risk. In serious cases, they may deny bail entirely.
3. What Is a Bail Bondsman or Agent?
Not everyone has the cash available to put down on bail. In these instances, they will contact a bondsman or agent who will pay it for them. This will be in return for a percentage fee, usually between 10% and 15%.
4. What Is a Surety Bond?
Surety is a term often used in bail and bonds terms. It is a person that guarantees the defendant will turn up to their trial, and often puts up the money for them. Thus, the bondsman or agent becomes the surety.
Larger companies are also involved in the process. They will provide the surety money to the agent or bondsman to put up on behalf of the defendant.
5. Do I Need Bounty Hunters?
Bounty hunters, also known as bond enforcers, will help find clients for the bondsman should they jump bail. In some states, this is illegal. While allowed in South Carolina, it does have specific stipulations.
Firstly, the term bounty hunter is prohibited. Bail bond runners are the correct title for the occupation. All bail bond runners must be registered with the state and or you may find your company reputation in tatters if you use ones that are not.
Becoming a Bail Agent
Luckily, becoming a bail bond agent is easier than you may think. In just a few short steps, you can have your own bail bond business up and running.
1. Do Your Research
The first step is to do some market research. As with any new business, you need to check the demand for the business in your area.
Check how many other bail bond agents are in the vicinity. A lot means that there is a demand, but too many may mean a lot of competition. In these instances, you will need to offer more value to get the business you need.
Start by reaching out to law enforcement and defense attorneys. They may be able to give you an overview of how in-demand your services might be.
2. Register Your Business
As a new business, it is recommended that you concentrate on one state, to begin with. It not you can end up spreading yourself thinly. Additionally, each state you set up shop in will require a new registration.
Costs can vary depending on the state you are registering in. In South Carolina, the current fee for registering is around $400 but this depends on the company structure. Register your EIN with the IRS straight away.
3. Find a Surety Company
Unless you have a large amount of capital from your own pocket, you will need a surety company. They will act as an insurance broker and will foot the bond if your client skips bail conditions or does not arrive for trial. When you decide to do this yourself, you will need to budget around 15k.
4. Apply for the State License
To apply for the state licence you will need to have had a clean criminal record in the last five years. A high school diploma is needed, you must be over 18 years old and must be a legal resident of the US.
Sitting an exam is unavoidable, so you will need to do your homework beforehand. There are courses that can get you through everything you need to know. Courses should cost around $80 to take and require you to get a score of 70% or over to pass.
After this, you will need to visit the State Department of Insurance and hand them your exam scores. You can pay for the license here, and you will need proof that you are backed by a surety company. Licenses will need renewal in the future.
5. Set Your Fees
Now all the legal requirements are in place for becoming a bail agent, you can get to work. The first thing to do is to create your bail bond fees. Most people choose to charge a percentage of the overall bail amount.
Other than this, you just need to market your company. Register on local forums and Google My Business. Take out advertising space and begin a digital marketing strategy.
New Bail Agents
Bail agents are always in demand, so don’t hesitate when getting started. Brush up for the exams and find a surety company. Before you know it you could have a promising new career.
Amistad Bail Bonds and associates should be your first stop. We can guide you through the whole process in North and South Carolina. Click here to start your journey.