Most people know what bail is and what a bail bondsman does in a general way. But many of us have never had to hire one–until the phone rings at 3AM with a panic stricken friend or loved one on the other end that needs help. Now what? With so many bondsmen how do choose the right one?
1. Is the agent licensed by California?
The first thing you should verify before selecting a bond agent is that they are currently licensed by the State of California. Bail agents are licensed and regulated by the California Department of Insurance. A quick call to the CDI Consumer Hotline (1-800-927-4357) or a visit to the online licensee status page can help you avoid a potential disaster. An agency clearly displaying their license number on their website or ad is a good sign.
2. Is the bond agency local?
Bail bonds is a competitive business. A number of national and non-local agencies advertise and try and list themselves as local bondsmen. While this may be a good for them, it doesn’t help you. A local agent knows the jails, the staff and all the little details that will help get your loved one released faster.
3. How long has the agency been in business?
Like being local, experience is an essential attribute of a good bail bondsman. An experienced agent will have a thorough understanding of the courts, the jails, and all the ins and outs of each institution. Working with an experienced agency will help the process of posting bail go smoothly and quickly.
4. How quickly can bail be posted?
An experienced, well-organized agency will have a system for making sure things go as quickly as possible. Since trouble can happen any time of day or night, it is important that your agent be available 24-7–and be in the area near the jail. It’s also a big time saver if the agency offers convenience services like house calls or phone consultations.
5. What are the payment terms?
While the bail rates are governed by law, a wide variety of payment options and terms can be found agent to agent. Are credit cards accepted? What are your options? The terms and paperwork can be confusing. A reputable agent will be go over what exactly they can offer you in easy to understand terms so that you can choose the best fit for your situation and get the bail posted.
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