If you ever find yourself sitting in a jail cell, you might be laser focused on getting home at all costs. Instead of using your one call to ask a family member to shop around for a bail agent, you might be tempted to call the first bondsman that you find and assign a co-signor—without a lot of thought. Unfortunately, going with the wrong company or requesting the wrong indemnitor could cause problems later. Here are two things you should think about before you post bail, and how it could affect you down the road:
1: The Premium
Sure, that bail total might guarantee your release, but it comes at a cost. Bail premiums, which are the non-refundable cost of bail, are typically a set percentage of whatever bail is currently posted at. For example, if the judge sets your bail at $20,000 and the bail bondsman's premium is 10%, you will be required to pay a non-refundable fee of $2,000.
However, one thing that most people don't realize is that bail premiums vary depending on where you live and which bail business you use. For example, although most states restrict bail premiums to no more than 10%, your required bail premium might be as low as 6.5% if you live in Florida, or as high as 20% if you live in Utah.
Before you contact a bail bondsman, check the bail premium law in your state. If you live in an area with a high allowable premium percentage, shop around. While bail businesses aren't legally allowed to surpass the premium percentage cap, some businesses might charge less than others. If you can find a company with a lower premium, you might be able to save thousands of dollars—especially if your bail is set high.
2: Your Co-Signer
So what do you do if you can't afford that bail premium on your own? To help you out, some bail bond companies allow you to select a co-signer. This person, also referred to as the indemnitor, provides another layer of credibility to your bail bonds contract, because they will be held partially responsible if you don't show up for your court proceedings.
Because co-signers are so important, you can't select just anyone to become an indemnitor. In addition to being a United States Citizen, co-signers should also be financially viable. If the premium goes unpaid or you don't show up to court, the co-signer might be held responsible to pay these fees:
- Investigation: If you skip bail, the bondsman will come looking for you. Unfortunately, these searches tend to be pricy, especially if you leave town. Your co-signer might be asked to pay for parts of the investigation, including lodging and fuel expenses.
- Collection Actions: Your co-signer might also be asked to pay legal and collections fees on any past-due bail amount. Also, some companies charge interest on past-due bond amounts.
In addition to being able to pay your fees, it is also important to choose a co-signer that you can trust. Indemnitors can sign a request to revoke the bond, which could land you back in jail. For example, if you choose someone who would rather have you in prison than out on the streets, they might ask to have the bond revoked to free themselves of any responsibility. To ward off problems, try to choose someone who you have close ties with, such as a best friend or a family member.
By thinking carefully about who you want to use as a bail bondsman and a co-signer, you might be able to keep costs to a minimum and sleep a little easier at night. For more information, contact a local bail bonds company like All Star Bail Bonds.