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How to bail someone out of jail by Pete Low

No, I didn't need a bail bond for myself, but I did need to help bail someone out of jail yesterday. Thought I'd share how to do it, if you ever find yourself in that mess.

I'd gone to visit some friends and sure wasn't planning to spend the evening learning how to post bail, but who ever is?

Here's what I found out.

You can either put up the whole amount of the bail and get it back after the trial, or buy a bail bond, which is a lot cheaper but you don't get it back. The bail bond is only around ten percent of the whole bail.

What surprised me was how fast the whole process went, once I decided what bail bond place to call.

A couple of us had gone back to the apartment, while my friend stayed out with some of his friends. Couple hours later, the call came. My friend said they gave him a list of bail bond agents he could call himself from jail, but he decided to call me instead because, well, if he'd been sober he wouldn't have been in jail in the first place.

So here's how it works.

When you talk to the person who's in jail, get the following information: Their full name and date of birth, the dollar amount of bail required, the name of the jail, what they were charged with and when they were arrested.

If you or they have enough money to pay the full amount of bail, you can go down to the jail and pay it. Otherwise, call a bail bond agent. They're online, or you can find them in the phone book or use a list the jail gives out.

I looked online, checked out a couple websites, saw they were licensed in his state, googled the company names along with "scam" to make sure there weren't a lot of complaints, and gave the first one a call. Phone rang a bunch of times, finally a guy answered, sounded like he was in a hurry and didn't have time to talk to somebody who had no clue. So I tried another place, and they were a lot easier to work with.

The guy took down the information, said he'd get back to me, and in about half an hour he called back. He said the bond would be ten percent of the bail, meaning it would be $1,000. He said I could put it on my credit card over the phone right then. I didn't like that at all. No way.

You can negotiate with bail bond companies. I didn't know that before, but if you need to get a bond, try it.

I knew my friend didn't have a credit card because he hates those things, and I was pretty sure he didn't have $1,000 in the bank. I asked if there was somehow he could pay the bond himself, and the bail agent said they could work out a payment plan. He'd get some more information (a credit check, in other words) and let me know. We arranged to meet down at the jail--yes, the bond guy would go down at 1 a.m. right then. I guess they're not nine-to-five like bankers.

So I caught the metro bus and went down to the jail. The bail guy showed up a couple minutes later with papers to sign. My friend made a down payment with his debit card, I had to co-sign (yuck), but my friend got a payment plan with no interest and four equal payments. He had to pay extra for mileage for the agent to come down to the jail too. I forgot to ask, but remember that: bail bond agents can charge extra for expenses and stuff. I should have charged my friend extra for my bus ticket, but I didn't.

About an hour later, after more paperwork, he was free, with a court date set.

Here's the bad part: if you co-sign a bail bond, not only are you responsible for the amount of the bail bond if the person doesn't pay it, you're responsible for the whole bail if the person doesn't show up in court. Ten fricken thousand dollars. I'm going to make sure he shows up in court.

So don't co-sign without thinking about it first. But otherwise, it went pretty smooth.

Bail bond laws differ by state, so things may be different where you live. Here's a list, that may be a little out of date, but gives an idea of what it's like across the country.

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9:20 a.m. April 8
What'd he get arrested for?


9:44 a.m. April 8
Nosy, aren't you? DUI second offense. And people wonder why I don't have a car. Nothing but trouble.


11:19 a.m. April 8
I was expecting "And people wonder why I don't drink. Nothing but trouble."


7:13 p.m. April 8
I've got a bail bond story. Bet you can't guess where this is going. My grandmother got a call last Christmas that I was in jail. She lives out of state from me. The guy on the phone said he was a bail bondsman that i'd asked to call her and if she gave him her credit card number, he'd get me out of jail. You can see how somebody would fall for that. I think grandma was just lucky rather than smart, but she hung up and called my parents before she gave out the number, and they told her I was right there and not in jail. Otherwise her card would have been maxed out in about five minutes. So if somebody calls like that, double check on it before just giving out money.


9:00 p.m. April 8
Maybe some bail bond places are nice, but you got to figure they're used to going after criminals who skip town, so some of them won't shy away from hard sell tactics if they think they can get away with it.


10:52 p.m. April 8
Here's something I found out. Bail bonds work the same way in almost all the states, but there are four where it's different: Kentucky, Illinois, Oregon and Wisconsin. They don't have commercial bail bonds there. You can probably do the same ten percent payment like a bail bond, but it's direct through the court.

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How to Bail Someone Out of Jail
April 7