The average amount for bail in the United States hovers around $10,000.
For most Americans, suddenly coming up with that kind of money just isn’t possible. That’s why defendants in South Carolina and beyond look to bail bond agents to help pay their bond.
With that being said, many people don’t fully understand a bail bond agent’s role. In fact, there are plenty of myths surrounding their practice that simply aren’t true.
In this article, we’ll be outlining exactly what bail bond agents do while debunking the most popular South Carolina bondsmen myths.
What Are Bail Bonds?
Before we debunk bail bond agent myths, let’s go over the basics.
Bail is a set of money that acts as insurance between the court and the defendant. In many cases, bail is set too high for defendants to meet, which is why they need bail bonds.
What is a bail bond? It’s a form of surety bond given by a company. Bail bonds ensure your release from jail.
There are criminal bail bonds, which are used in criminal cases, and civil bail bonds used for civil cases.
This is when bail bond agents come in.
What Do Bail Bond Agents Do?
Bail bond agents front the money on behalf of the defendant to get them out of jail. They essentially vouch for their client and assure the judge that they’ll show up on time to court.
Bail bond agents charge around 15% of the total bail amount for their services. As we’ll cover later, this is nonrefundable.
Bail bond agents often secure the total bond amount through either collateral or from your relatives and friends interested in assisting you.
After you’re out of jail, one of two things can happen. If you fail to show up to court, the total amount for the bond has to be paid. The bond agent will seek assets to pay for that fee, which might include your collateral assets.
If you show up to court and the case is concluded, the bond is dissolved, and you’ll receive any collateral you’ve put up. The 15% fee will be kept by the agent.
Myths About South Carolina Bail Bond Agents Debunked
While many people are aware of what bail bond agents do, there are still plenty of myths around the practice in South Carolina. There are often misconceptions about what agents actually do or a poor understanding of bond agents’ responsibilities.
Let’s debunk some common myths.
1. They Only Accept Cash
While you can certainly pay bail in cash, the South Carolina legislature clarifies that this isn’t a requirement.
If you’re looking around for bail bond agents in South Carolina, chances are you won’t come across many that only charge cash. Most allow you to pay in cash, debit, credit, or other options.
Agents can even discuss the option of collateral. This means lending your car or other assets instead of cash or money.
Frankly, if your bail bond agent only charges through cash, you should look for more flexible options.
2. The Bail Bond Industry Is Unregulated
There’s an image surrounding bail bond agents as back-alley crooks that only offer shady deals to those in need of bail.
Whether or not the media perpetuates that image, bail bond agents don’t typically fit that archetype. Just as any other industry, bail bond agents and companies are regulated by state and federal laws.
Agents need to be trained, licensed, and properly educated to offer bonds. South Carolina has plenty of laws that guide what bondsmen are allowed to do.
3. Bail Bond Agents Can Negotiate Bond Prices
As we previously mentioned, any bail amount is set by the judge. Bail bond agents, unfortunately, don’t have the power to lower it on your behalf.
Bail is dependent on the severity of your crime and other legal considerations. Judges usually never lower the original bail, but bond agents can find ways for you to find funds to pay it off.
4. Bail Bond Agents Can Get You Out of Jail
Bail bond agents have no say in whether or not you stay in jail. This is something that’s up to the judge. South Carolina bond agents can only help you get the money needed to pay the set bail.
If your crime is severe enough that the judge doesn’t grant bail, bond agents won’t be able to help you out.
5. Bond Agents Rid You of Any Legal Obligation
Remember that posting bail doesn’t mean you’re free from the law. There are plenty of other legal obligations you need to meet before you’re off the hook.
Remembering your court dates isn’t a bail bond agent’s responsibility. Agents are there to help you come up with funds to get out of jail and not much more.
6. Bail Bond Agents Fees Are Refunded
Bail bond agents post bail on your behalf, which is what bail bond agent fees are for. Those fees pay the agents for taking on the risk of posting bail with the courts for you.
This means you won’t get those fees back regardless of how your case goes. Bond agent fees are transaction costs and won’t get refunded.
7. Bail Bond Agents Specialize in Shady Deals
Always remember that bail bond agents in South Carolina and in the U.S. as a whole are important parts of the judicial system.
Bail bond agents always have your best interests in mind. They help defendants pay their bail and save lots of time for law enforcement in the process.
Become a South Carolina Bail Bond Agent Today
Despite all the myths surrounding their jobs, bail bond agents in South Carolina keep the judicial wheels turning. Knowing the role of a bail bond agent will help you and people you know to navigate the state’s bail system.
Are you training to become a bail bond agent? Join us today, and we can get you started. For more information about the bail bond system in South Carolina, visit the rest of our blog!