North Carolina regulates bail bondsmen under N.C.G.S 58-71.
What is an NC bondsman?
A bondsman is someone who is licensed in North Carolina who will act as a surety and pledge money or property as bail for the appearance of a criminal defendant in criminal court.
In some cases, especially with low secured bonds, the defendant himself or the defendant’s family or friends may be able to post the bond. At the end of the case, whether the defendant is convicted, found not guilty, or the charges are dismissed, the family or friends who posted the bond get the entire amount back, less some small administrative or processing fees.
However, if the secured bond is set high, the defendant, or his family or friends may not have enough money to post the bond. In that case, the defendant or his family will go to a licensed bondsman.
A bondsman is someone who is licensed by the North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance and whose license is registered with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county in which the bond is being made. For instance, a bondsman wishing to post bonds in Wake County needs to have his license registered with a Wake County’s Clerk of Superior Court. A bondsman almost always works as an agent for an insurance company or other financial institution that has enough money to post the full bond amount.
The bondsman takes a percentage of whatever is paid to him by the defendant or the defendant’s family. The rest of the money paid by the defendant or the defendant’s family goes to the insurance company. The total amount charged to bond someone in North Carolina cannot exceed 15 percent of the total secured bond.
What’s the difference between posting your own bond and hiring a bondsman?
If you or your family post the entire amount of the secured bond, or post property, like a home, then at the conclusion of the case, after the defendant has been found guilty or not guilty or the charges are dismissed, the money is returned to the defendant or his family, assuming the defendant made all his court appearances and abided by the terms of his bond.
If you pay a bondsman, that fee goes to the bondsman. Even if you make all of your court appearances, that money is not returned. It is the price paid so that the defendant or his family do not have to come up with the entire secured bond.
What’s the advantage of using a bondsman vs. posting the entire bond yourself?
In some cases, if the bond is set at a very high amount, like $100,000 or higher, the family does not have the money or property in order to post the full bond amount. The only way to get a defendant out of jail on such an amount is by hiring a bondsman.
In other cases, the cost of hiring an attorney or defending the case means that while the family does have the money to post the bond, money also needs to be available to pay for defense attorneys, investigators, and other expert witnesses.
Instead of having the entire sum of money held by the court until trial, it’s advantageous to pay the bondsman a fee so that the family has enough money in reserve to pay other expenses.
However, if you have enough money to pay for your defense and to post the entire bond, then it’s wise to post the bond yourself. That’s because, assuming the defendant doesn’t flee and assuming he abides by the terms of his pre-trial release, he or the family who posted the money will get the entire amount back.
How do I find a bondsman?
While your attorney may not participate in the bonding process, your attorney may be able to tell you which bondsman are known to be reliable or unreliable.
In some cases, bondsman will take the initial fee, and then later come back looking for more money from the released defendant. If he is unable to pay these additional amounts, the bondsman will “go off bond,” and the defendant will be taken back into custody.
Avoid bondsman who do such things. Make sure that you don’t pay a bondsman who is going to go off bond unless you pay additional fees.
How does the bonding process work?
You will be required to fill out forms that require disclosure of property owned, work history, driver’s license information, family contacts, and references. In addition, the bondsman as part of the bond writing process gets your permission to take you into custody if he goes “off bond” because you have failed to meet some condition of your release (for instance, if you’ve missed a court date). This includes entry into your home if need be to return you to custody.
In addition, the bondsman for significant bonds will require a number of sureties. These are people who are not asked necessarily to post money or property, but do sign on to pay the entire bond amount if the defendant skips.
Once the bondsman completes the paperwork and, if necessary, interviews with the sureties or the family, he will either have the power to write a bond in that amount, or get authorization from someone with greater bond writing powers to write the bond.
Within several hours of the bond being written, the defendant should be released from custody.
How much will a bondsman take?
A bondsman’s fee is usually 10 to 15 percent of the bond. In the case of a $10,000 bond, the bondsman’s fee will be between $1,000 and $1,500. Generally, the higher the bond and the greater the confidence that the defendant will not flee, the lower the percentage.
For instance, if the defendant has retained counsel, it may give the bondsman greater confidence that the defendant will show up for court, and those cause him to lower his fee.
The bondsman himself will not make the entire 10 percent. A portion of that, 6 or so percent, goes to the insurance company who is putting up the money to secure release.