Not everyone who is arrested qualifies for bail—but the vast majority of people will be quickly assigned a bail amount based on their charges. That bail can be paid as soon as the booking process is complete. What do you do, then, if a good buddy calls on you for help because he or she has been arrested? Here are a few tips to make the process go off without a hitch.
1.) Grab a pen and some paper and get some specific information from your friend as soon as you can:
- His or her exact legal name plus any names that he or she may have as an alias or "also known as." It may surprise you, but the best friend you've called "Marty" for years may not be a "Martin." It's possible his first name is something like Charles or Henry and he uses a derivative of his middle name instead.
- His or her date of birth and, if possible, Social Security number.
- The exact jail he or she is in. If you live in a small place, that may be easy. If you live in a larger place, there may be several options to choose from. Getting the right location makes it easier for the bail bondsman to find your friend in order to arrange bail. If possible, get a phone number.
- If you live in a large place or your friend has a fairly common name, try to get his or her booking number.
2.) Ask for the bail bondsman's assistance in figuring out how much you need to pay and how to pay it.
This is what bondsmen do all day long, so there's nothing to be embarrassed about. Most people don't have the spare cash sitting around to afford to pay a friend's bail outright.
Keep a few things in mind as you go about this process:
- If your friend is relying on you for help because he or she doesn't have the capacity to secure a bond without you, you're taking on a significant financial obligation if he or she skips out and doesn't show up to court. Make sure that you really trust your friend.
- When you work with a bail bondsman, you are paying a fee to the bondsman to front the remainder of the bail to the court. A total of 10%-15% of the total bond is not uncommon as a fee. That means, for example, that if the total bond is $2000, you will have to pay $200-$300 to get the rest financed.
- Remember that you will not get that money back. If you can't afford to lose that money (whether it is $200 or $2000) and your friend can't pay you back, don't take the bond.
- If you don't have the full 10%-15% necessary to secure the bond, find a bondsman that will accept payment plans. Many will allow you to pay it in installments. Many can set up automatic withdrawals from your bank account on your pay dates.
- Find out if there are any processing fees, booking fees, or court costs that have to be paid in addition to the bond before you friend is released. The bondsman can't loan you the money to cover those fees so you'll have to come up with that amount somewhere else.
Bail bondsmen know that this is a stressful time and many specialize in quick service that makes it as easy as possible for you to afford to help your friend or a relative in need. Just take a few simple steps to make sure that you have all of the information that you need and that you understand the process (and potential pitfalls) before you start. For more information on quick bail bonds, contact a company like Chesterfield Bonding.