What the Heck Do Bondsmen Actually Do? It Turns Out A Lot

by Mike Byrd, President of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas

The Bail Industry has been around for over 200 years.  The bail industry in Texas is made up of small business owners who employ hundreds of employees statewide.  These businesses are their own private sector pretrial services offices.  Bondsmen in Texas are either licensed by county bail bond boards or approved to write bonds in the county by the Sheriff.  Bondsmen attend continuing 8 hours of continuing education every two years.  The bondsmen of Texas evaluate the risk of posting a bond for defendants every day.  The bonding industry evaluates the risk of a defendant running and not appearing for court.  The industry on average charges 10% of the face amount of the bond as a premium which is often paid in installments over time.  

When the defendant is released from jail it is the responsibility of the bondsman to ensure that the defendant will appear for court.  Therefore, the bonding industry provides a high level of supervision over the people for which the industry is responsible.  Defendants are required to report weekly to the bonding company either in person, by telephone or through some check-in application which records their GPS address.  Through the regular reporting, the defendants stay in touch and up to date regarding their cases.  It is the bonding company’s responsibility to notify the defendant of his or her court dates.  Therefore, if the defendant does not have a way to get to court, it may very well be the bonding company that is personally taking the defendant to court.  During the reporting process, if the defendant gets off track and violates the conditions on his bond, the bondsman is authorized by statute to notify the court of the defendants actions.  If a family member makes a report to the bonding company that the defendant is preparing to run, this can also be reported to the court for action.  These are actions very similar to actions authorized for probation departments or even a pretrial services department when a defendant is alleged to have violated a condition.

Further, once the defendant fails to appear for court, Texas law authorizes a surety to locate and return the defendant to custody so that his case can be put back on track as quickly as possible.  In some cases, this obligation is completed quickly.  

The bonding company also builds a relationship of trust with the defendant.  This process allows the defendant to become better familiar with the criminal justice system and what to expect in the process and allows him or her to have confidence in the process and not get scared and run.  As a result of this relationship, the defendant may return quickly once he is notified that he missed court based upon the representations of what the defendant may expect from his trusted bondsmen.  

Although, Texas law does not allow the bondsman himself to rearrest the defendant, the law allows bondsmen to work with licensed private investigators and law enforcement to serve warrants.  In many situations, the bondsmen will locate the defendant and call law enforcement to allow them to serve a warrant.  Without the private surety bail system, when a defendant fails to appear, a warrant is issued and it joins the tens of thousands of other warrants already awaiting service in the larger counties.  

If the defendant does not return within a certain time period, the bondsman is required to pay 100% of the face amount of the bond to the county plus the costs of court.  But even after the bondsman pays the judgment, Texas law continues to give the bondsman an incentive to continue to search for the defendant for up to 2 years after the date of the judgment.

Many of these services that are provided by the private bonding industry are not provided at all by pretrial service departments.  Probation departments are used to providing a different kind of supervision that is made up of such things as parenting classes, drug classes, drug tests, etc.  When a pretrial department attempts to provide supervision it usually falls into these same areas which seem inappropriate since the defendant has not been found guilty of any crime.  Further, pretrial is not well adept at tracking court dates, and giving notice of court dates to defendants.  In addition, pretrial departments are not authorized under current law to seek and rearrest a defendant who misses court.  This means when a PR bond is used and there is a failure to appear, the case does not get back on track until either the defendant commits a new offense or returns voluntarily.  No one is actively looking for the defendant.

Some would argue that the private surety bail system is very similar to a pretrial services department.  But it also does much more than a pretrial services department could ever do.  In Texas, only a handful of counties have pretrial service departments to begin with.  Further, half of the pretrial services departments that exist focus on whether someone qualifies for a PR bond and not on supervising someone after they receive a PR bond.  Further, pretrial service departments have no authority to rearrest someone and return them to custody after a failure to appear.

There is a large body of statistics which demonstrate that the type of bond on which the Defendant is released will have a significant impact on their success in the case.  In Harris County, the last reported statistics demonstrated that someone on a private surety bond was 400 times more likely to appear for court than someone on a PR bond.

As courts begin to return to hear cases, the private surety bonding community made up of small business owners across the state of Texas stand ready to work with the courts and to get our clients to court as required.  

Other Resources:

Bondsmen dedicating their careers to the bail bond industry.  CLICK HERE.

Bondsmen helping to build trust and protecting the public.  CLICK HERE

Bondsmen giving back, raising money to send children to Camp Esperanza.  CLICK HERE.


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