Bail Agent: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Also known as bail bondsmen, bail agents assist in maintaining defendants' freedom of movement following an arrest and bail hearing. They also ensure that defendants return to court for trial.
Job Description of a Bail Agent
Working for themselves or as employees of bail bond agencies or insurance companies, bail agents provide bail money as insurance that criminal defendants who have been released from prison while awaiting trial will show up for future court hearings. Bail agents may hire bail enforcement officers, also known as bounty hunters or fugitive recovery agents, to locate and apprehend defendants who fail to appear in court. Some bail agents act as their own bail enforcement officers, which generally requires additional training and, in some cases, licensure.
Duties of a Bail Agent
Bail agents act as liaisons between courts and defendants, providing the funds required to release from custody a defendant who is awaiting trial. Should the defendant fail to return to court on the assigned day, the bail agent must track down the defendant, or hire a bail enforcement officer to do so, within a period of time set by the courts. If they are unable to locate the defendant within that time period, bail agents must forfeit the entire bail amount.
Requirements of a Bail Agent
Not all states require licensure for bail agents, and, in those states that do, requirements vary. In many cases, states set age requirements for prospective bail agents, and candidates for licensure may be subject to criminal background and credit checks. Many states also require that bail agents complete training and/or pass an examination en route to licensure. Additionally, some states require that bail agents take part in yearly continuing education courses to maintain their licensure.
Pre-licensing classes for bail agents often are offered through professional development or continuing education departments of two-year community colleges or four-year colleges and universities. These programs generally include 8-20 hours of classroom instruction, covering topics like sound business practices and state statutes. Some programs for prospective bail agents are offered online.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not provide information specific to bail bondsmen, it does publish data pertinent to both probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. The BLS predicts that the employment of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists will likely decrease by about 1% between 2012 and 2022. PayScale.com reports that the median salary among bail bonding agents was $37,338 as of February 2014.
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