Bail bondsmen put their money and property on the line to get people out of jail. In many cases, a bail bondsman's initial contact is with friends or family of the people who have been arrested. The bondsman doesn't meet his actual clients until after they're released. Since most bail bondsmen are independent operators, it's a risky business. If a client skips town, the bail bondsman is responsible for the individual's full bond. But when clients do as they're supposed to, being a bail bondsman can be lucrative.
Be Sure You Qualify
Check your jurisdiction's disqualifying factors before investing time and money in pursuing a bail bondsman license. Many states won't license people convicted of felonies or misdemeanors involving moral turpitude. In California, it's possible for felons to become bail bondsmen, but they must first get written consent from the Insurance Commissioner. If you or your spouse's employment represents a potential conflict of interest you might also be ineligible. Examples include police officers, judges and jobs granting arrest powers or control of prisoners. In Oklahoma, owners of clubs with alcohol licenses and owners and employees of liquor stores cannot be licensed.
Having a high school diploma or GED is the only formal educational requirement to become a bail bondsman. However, you'll need bail bondsman training from a state approved provider, which may range from independent instructors to industry organizations such as the Professional Bondsmen of Texas. Training typically ranges from eight to 20 hours and covers topics such as procedure, protocol and ethics. In some states, including Texas and Louisiana, an apprenticeship program is also required. Apprentices must work under a licensed bail bondsman and work a minimum number of hours per week. After training and apprenticeship you'll have to pass an exam with the minimum score set by your state.
Factoring in Firearms
Check your state's firearm regulations for bail bondsmen. In Virginia, for example, a bail bondsman license must have a firearm endorsement if you plan to carry a gun or will have access to one. To qualify for the endorsement you need to complete a training course taught by a certified instructor.
Getting Your License
Determine which agency handles licensing. It can vary depending on state and local jurisdiction. In Texas, some counties process applications through the sheriff's office, but in other counties applications must be submitted to the state. Applications processed at the local level may be subject to additional requirements. Before your application is approved, a background check will be conducted. You'll be required to submit your fingerprints, which requires an additional fee, and some states also require personal references.
Getting Set to Operate
Operating a bail bonds business requires strong organizational skills and intuition. Outline your procedures and policies before you begin operating. Some people who request assistance don't have any intention of going to court. Set your fees and decide if and when you'll require additional collateral. Decide whether you'll require co-signers for the bonds you post, and if so, how you'll qualify them. Develop strategies to keep tabs on the people you've bailed out, keep track of their court dates and have a plan so you can immediately handle cases where clients skip court or break their bail agreement.