If someone you know is being held in lieu of bail, the first step you'll usually make is to contact a bondsman. In many areas, there are bail bonds companies on every corner -- how do you find the one that's most trustworthy? The best thing to do is call multiple companies and compare them. There are also three things you should be very wary of when talking to them initially.
Beware of a Company That Promises to Negotiate
Some bondsmen may suggest that they can negotiate your bail. This is not going to happen. Bail cannot be negotiated without a lawyer. The judge and the court system sets bail; the bondsman is never allowed the opportunity to discuss this with anyone who could have it altered. What a bonds company can do is walk you through the process and make sure that you don't make any mistakes. A bonds officer that promises you more than they can deliver may be trying to upsell you or secure your business.
Look at the Fee Limits In Your State
Nearly every state has a certain percentage that serves as a fee limit. For many states, that amount is 10%. For a $5,000 bond, the bondsman would only be able to charge $500 -- plus any sales or service tax that could be applicable in your area. Ask your bondsman for a breakdown and be suspicious if the fee amount is more than the amount that should be charged in your area. There may have been an honest mistake or the bondsman may not have competitive (or even legal) rates.
Don't Pay Any Interest
A bail bondsman charges a flat fee for their service. This is the fee that, as discussed above, cannot exceed certain amounts due to regulations. But bail bondsman cannot pay any interest. A less trustworthy bonds company could potentially charge interest or additional fees as a way to get past regulations -- but these companies are not following the law. Call around to different companies so you can get a better picture of the normal fees in your area.
Sometimes it's worth it to just take a moment to breathe. When a loved one or friend is being held, it's easy to make snap decisions and go with the first person available. However, in truth it really isn't an urgent situation. You can take a few hours to consult with different companies such as Betty Bail Bonds to find the option that feels right to you.