You get a phone call in the middle of the night. You’re relieved to find out that nobody is hurt but it’s your brother and he has been arrested and is sitting in jail. His one phone call was to you and he wants you to help him get out of jail by calling a bail bondsman. How do you know who to call? Do you pick one out of the phone book? Do phone books even exist anymore?
You’re tech-savvy so you decide to look online for bail bondsmen in Florida. Your search yields 514,000 results. You find one that’s not far from you and decide to give them a try. But how do you know they’re trustworthy? You want to help your brother but you don’t want to make a bad choice that could end up costing him a lot of money or that he won’t get out of jail anytime soon.
What to Look For
There are some dishonest people in every industry and the bail bonds industry is no different but fortunately, there are a few things to look for to help you make the right choice.
Go to their website. A legitimate company will have a legitimate website that gives information on who they are and what they do. While you shouldn’t take this as evidence of legitimacy alone, it’s a good place to start.
Look for Reviews. Their website may have reviews but they may only include positive ones. Rather, look at Yelp or Google Reviews and see what people are saying about them. Don’t just look at how many stars they received, actually read the reviews and see what people like or dislike about them.
Go to BBB.com. The Better Business Bureau has a rating system of A to F. If they’re in the Bureau’s website, read about their rating and why they got it. You can find a link here.
Check their insurance licensing. For bail bondsmen in the state of Florida, information on licensing from the insurance division can be found here. You can look up recent license revocations and suspensions.
When You Meet With the Bond Agent
You’ve done your online research and so far, the bondsman checks out. Now, it’s time to meet and make an assessment.
They have an office. Real bail bondsmen will have an office from which to do their office. If they ask to meet you somewhere, you should consider it a red flag.
Ask about their experience. If they’ve been in business a while, they’ll be able to recommend the best way to proceed with your individual case. If they’re new to the business, you may want to steer clear of them. A bail bondsman who been doing the job for many years will have gotten lots of people out of jail successfully.
They charge more than 10%. Typically in Florida, bail bondsmen charge a non-refundable premium of 10% of the amount of the bail. You may find one or two that may charge less if you’re a member of law enforcement or if the defendant is already represented by a lawyer but 10% is standard.
They can’t show you their licenses. They should have the required license which, in Florida is a Resident Limited Surety Agent License and be able to show it to you.
The ask for payment up front. Working with a bondsman requires that you enter into a contract with them, which means they probably won’t hit you up for money on the first day. Additionally, if the bondsman doesn’t have you sign a contract and will have you pay later, that should be a red flag as well and probably means they’re planning on tacking on more fees later. Although you may be responsible for court fees and fines by the court later if you’re found guilty, your bail bondsman will only charge you their non-refundable premium which will be documented in the contract.
So you’ve settled on a bail bondsman for your brother. If you already have a lawyer, ask if he or she knows the bondsman you’re considering. They work with bondsmen as part of their job and may be able to offer some insight as to the character of the bondsman. Your attorney may be able to recommend a reputable one as well.
When meeting with a bail bondsman, trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
At Mercy Bail Bonds, we’ve earned the trust of many people over the years as we’ve helped them get their loved ones or themselves out of jail quickly and discreetly. Every client is important and is treated with respect. Call Mercy today at (727) 856-7775. We can help.