Written by our Subject Matter Experts, on Sept. 23, 2019
We have consulted a licensed bail bondsman to find out how much a bail bond truly costs. We are disclosing all hidden costs associated with bail to help consumers understand the true fee structure and risks involved when bailing someone out.
Most people in need of a bail bond are aware of the 10-15% bail bond fee, also known as premium, required to post bail with a bail bond service or bondsman. As an example, if your bail is set at $50,000 then your fee would be $5,000 to $7,500 which is the 10% to 15% premium. This amount goes directly to the bail bondsman and you cannot get this money back. There are also other potential costs associated with bail, depending on the bonding company, the risk associated with the bond, the location, and many other factors.
Costs For Bail Bondsmen – Reasons why bail costs as much as it does
Bail bondsman are licensed by the state in which they conduct business, and each state has its own pre-licensing requirements and regulatory bodies, as well as licensing fees that need to be paid. These costs are just to get licensed, and don’t include the overhead a bondsman incurs when printing business cards, advertising, leasing office space, and hiring employees.
Some states, such as Virginia, require bail bondsmen to maintain an insurance license as well as a bail bonds license. The insurance license comes with its own associated costs. After becoming licensed, bondsmen are required to take “continuing education” courses yearly or every other year, just like many other licensed professions. In addition, many states require bondsmen to renew their license at the same interval, and are charged a fee for doing so.
These are just the start-up and maintenance costs for the status-quo as a bondsman. There are many other costs that can cause the business to run in the red if customer fees are not managed appropriately, especially fees around managing risk when someone changes their mind as a co-signer or someone skips bail.
Listed below are some of the most common fees that bondsmen tend to charge in order to protect their business.
Additional Fees That Increase Bail Bond Cost
Not all bondsmen charge fees in addition to the 10-15% premium. It can depend on the bondsman and the state setting the bail laws. It’s extremely important to ask the bail agent what potential fees may be added to the total bail bond cost before signing off on any paperwork.
Bondsmen who don’t charge additional fees beyond the 10-15% premium may be on the higher end of the premium spectrum (15% fee instead of 10%) in order to make up for the inability to charge itemized expenses.
Review the following list to see possible fees that should be taken into account for the total bail bond cost:
- Travel Fee
- Credit Card Processing Fee
- Change of Indemnitor / Co-signer Fee
- Cancellation Fee
- Failure to Appear (FTA) Fee
- Court Appearance Fee
- Finance Fee
- Check-In Fee
- Electronic Monitoring Fee
- Forfeiture & Bail Enforcement Fee
Oftentimes bail bondsman are willing to meet clients at their local jail or nearby jails in order to transact business and post bail. On the other hand, if you are hiring a bondsman to travel from another county, or travel at a late hour, you may be charged a travel fee.
An example of a travel fee structure might be $20 per county, or $30 per county on weekends. Another example could be $20 per county, or $30 per county after 9pm.
Credit Card Processing Fee
Most bail bonding companies accept credit card payments in this day and age, however the costs with accepting them are still high enough that they often must be passed on to the consumer. Credit card processing fees can vary from anywhere 3.5% to 5%, so you should always ask if you will be charged a processing fee especially if you are about to make a large payment. Five percent of $500 is $25, so it can add up quickly.
Change of Indemnitor/Co-signer Fee
It’s never wise to co-sign on a bail bond for someone you are unsure about, but it happens. Sometimes people change their minds within 24-hours of bonding someone out of jail. This can be extremely frustrating for bondsmen and causes a lot of additional paperwork as well as loss of time. Most bondsmen will have a set fee for switching co-signers on a bond, which is different than a cancellation fee. Expect to pay a minimum of $100 to change co-signers mid-term, but a bondsman may void the fee under special circumstances.
Posting bail for someone is a major decision that should not be done without serious deliberation beforehand. It’s unlikely that you will be able to call the bondsman a few days later and simply revoke the bond because you changed your mind or are no longer on good terms with the defendant. This is common in situations where a girlfriend or boyfriend bonds out their significant other and later has a fight or break-up. Don’t expect to call up the bondsman and get off the bond without paying a cancellation fee, if the bail bondsman allows it at all! A common cancellation fee is the full 10-15% charge all over again, since you are making the bondsman re-do his entire workload.
Failure to Appear (FTA) Fee
Failure to appear is a criminal offense that will result in the bond being revoked and a capias, or warrant for arrest, being issued. In addition, some bondsmen include an “FTA Fee” in the agreements you sign, so that they can recoup their additional costs.
This is different than a bond forfeiture, because in this case the bondsman is choosing not to charge the defendant/co-signer the entire bond amount even though they could. An example scenario where this may be used, is if someone accidentally misses court due to a serious illness or emergency. The bondsman may agree to re-bond the defendant back out of jail, as long as they turn themselves in immediately and pay a $150 FTA fee, for example. This saves the bondsman the cost of hiring bail enforcement agents to apprehend the defendant, and allows the defendant to bond back out of jail.
Bondsmen will only offer this alternative to defendants who miss court for a real emergency for valid reason.
Court Appearance Fee
Similar to a Failure to Appear fee, but charged when a bondsman must appear in court for something related to your bond. Bail bonding companies may also charge a court appearance fee if you would like the bondsmen to appear in court on your behalf for a bond hearing in order to help convince the judge to set a bond amount. This could be an hourly rate, such as $50/hour, or a set amount such as $150 per appearance.
If you don’t have the 10-15% premium to post bail, many bail bonding companies will finance that amount to help the defendant return to their job and family. This is an extremely helpful service, but will take additional time and resources from the bondsman as well as adding additional risk. In some instances bondsmen will charge a finance fee, which can either be a set amount or a percentage of the amount financed.
If a particular bond or defendant is of high risk, the bondsman may require the individual to perform regular check-ins for the duration of the trial. In those instances, they may set a fee associated with those check-ins, to make sure they have someone available to meet you if the bondsman is with another client. An example would be $10 per check-in.
Electronic Monitoring Fee
If the court orders electronic monitoring, it is the defendant’s duty to check with their lawyer or pre-trial services officer to determine who is responsible for that cost. Even if electronic monitoring isn’t required by court order, a bail bond company may require it on a very large bonds, particularly those over $50,000.
Forfeiture & Bail Enforcement Fees
If the bond is forfeited due to the defendant’s willful failure to appear for a required court appearance or other violation of bond conditions, the defendant and their co-signer is responsible for the entire bond amount.
In addition, bondsmen will likely charge the defendant and their co-signer for any costs associated with apprehending the defendant such as hiring bail enforcement agents.
Examples of How Much Bail Costs
- If Bail is $10,000 – How Much Do I Pay?
- If Bail is $25,000 – How Much Do I Pay?
- $1 Million Dollar Bail Crimes, Costs, Meaning
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Our Team of Subject Matter Experts
We dedicate ourselves to providing information that is accurate and expertly written in order to assist individuals through a difficult time. Our staff at Bail Bonds Network is highly educated, having obtained prestigious degrees in law, business, accounting, and finance. Our editorial staff includes professional lawyers, bail bondsmen, and lending experts who understand local jurisdictions and intricacies of legal matters dealing with bail bonds.