Frequently Asked Questions

 Q.  Are all bail bondsman licensed through the Department of Insurance?

 A. Yes, in the State of California, all bail bond agents are licensed by the Department of Insurance and are required to post a bond as prescribed by the insurance code.

 Q.  Are fugitive recovery agents licensed through the Department of Insurance?

 A. No.  Effective January 1, 2013 Fugitive recovery agents are governed under Penal Code §1299 – 1299.12.  In California, agents are considered PC §1299 compliant when they have completed the requirements under the code.  At this time, there is no license issued or government licensing over-site for Fugitive Recovery agents.  

 Q.  In my youth I made some mistakes and have a felony on my record.  Can I obtain a bail agent license?

 A.  It depends.  Federal law (Title 18 United States Code Section 1033) prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a felony involving dishonesty or a breach of trust from conducting the business of insurance unless they have obtained the written consent of the Insurance Commissioner. It is a violation of this statute to conduct business of insurance without the Commissioners written consent. If you have been convicted of a felony involving dishonesty or a breach of trust then you must attach a copy of this consent. If you have not obtained this written consent you must do so by filing a 1033 Short Form Application for Written Consent prior to filing your application. Visit the Department of Insurance website to find current & detailed information on qualifications, restrictions and procedures per Title 18 U.S.C. §1033. Search: CDI’s 1033 Application for Written Consent. www.insurance.ca.gov.

 Q.  How long after taking the pre-licensing class will it be before I can take the DOI exam?

 A.  As of November 2012, applicants must take the examination before submitting their application and supporting documents to the California Department of Insurance.  You will NOT receive your license until the Department of Insurance receives and processes your applicaton, surety appointment papers and livescan fingerprint results. You will receive an email from DOI if items are missing or incomplete.  Note: Certificates of completion of course are valid for three years.  When you pass the examination you then have one year to submit your application, fees and appointment papers to DOI.

  Q.  What if I don’t have a Surety Company appointment?  Can I still become a Bail Agent?

 A.  Generally a surety company will not provide an appointment if you do not have previous experience in bail or business.  Each surety company maintains different requirements for appointments. It’s a good idea to call a couple of reputable sureties or visit their websites to find out what they require. 

If you intend to open your own agency and have limited experience, and find it difficult at first to get an appointment directly from a surety company, you can usually obtain an appointment from a General Agent to gain the experience.  If you intend on working with a bail agency as an employee or independent contractor, the employing bail agency will obtain the Surety Company appointment for you.

 You can take the bail agent examination prior to having a surety appointment.  The certificates of completion are valid for three (3) years. Insurance code §1749 requires that you retain your certificates for five (5) years.  You will have one year from the time you submit your application to the California Department of Insurance to obtain an appointment.  If you do not obtain an appointment within the year following submission of your application, you will need to submit a new application and CDI fees. If your certificates of completion have expired, you must complete the 20-hour bail pre-licensing course again.

 Q. What does a bail agent do?

 A.  When someone is arrested, an indeminitor (usually a family member or friend) will use the services of a bail agent to obtain release of the defendant.  The bail agent will usually ask for 10 percent of the full bail amount as security to obtain the release.  For example, if the bail is $5,000, the premium (the amount paid to the bondsman) will be $500.  In addition, the indemnitor may be asked to provide proof that they are able to pay the entire bail amount if the defendant “skips bail” (fails to make all the required court appearances, not just the arraignment.)

The bail agent is, in effect, lending the indeminitor $5,000 for a fee of $500.  There generally is no refund when the services of a bail agent are used.

 Q.  Is it required that I also become a Notary Public?

 A. No.  However, some Sureties and General Agents require their Bail Agents to become a Notary as it saves time when accepting collateral, (i.e., such as a Trust Deed), which needs to be notarized.  Many times you will be posting a bond in the middle of the night and it is very inconvenient to try and find someone else to notarize the documents. 

 Q.  What is bail?

 A. Bail is money deposited with a bail bond agent or the court to get an arrested person temporarily released from custody.  It serves as a surety (guarantee) that the arrested person will make all of his or her required court appearances.

 Q.  What happens when a person who makes bail fails to appear in court?

 A. If the defendant fails to appear at all required hearings, arraignment, preliminary hearing, trial or sentencing, he or she has “skipped bail.”  This means s/he has given up the right to stay out of jail while his or her case is going through the courts, and one of several things will happen:

a)     The Court will revoke the original bail and issue a “bench warrant” for the defendant’s arrest. Failure to appear at a hearing is an additional crime and carries a penalty of jail time in addition to any time the defendant may have to serve if convicted of the crime.

b)     The bail agent will try to find the defendant and return him or her to police custody.  Once the defendant is back in custody, the bail bond can be “exonerated”, meaning the bail agent will no longer be responsible for the full amount of the bail.

c)     If the defendant cannot be found and returned to the police within six months, the bail agent must pay the court the full amount of the bail plus additional court costs.  The bail agent will then seek to recover that cost from the indemnitor. 

 Q.  Who decides how much bail is needed for a defendant?

 A. California State Law requires that seated judges in each county convene on an annual basis to review the bail schedule and make changes they feel are appropriate to their community.  Amounts are based on the severity of the charges and can be raised or lowered by a judge’s order at any time.

 Q.  What risk, if any, does the indemnitor take when agreeing to be an indemnitor on a bond?

 A. The indemnitor accepts responsibility for the defendant and the full dollar amount of the bond if the defendant fails to appear for his or her court date(s) or “skips.”

If the bail bond becomes a forfeiture, the bail agency is given 180 days (California) to apprehend the defendant before the agency is required to remit the full amount of the bond to the court.  By signing for the defendant, the indemnitor guarantees or “indemnifies” to the bail agent that they will be responsible for the defendant and for all money due the bail agency and courts.

 Disclaimer: Nothing in this Q & A is intended to constitute legal advice.