DennisBeaverMay 01, 2010 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

Part 1

It’s late at night; all is right with the world. And then, the phone rings.

The phone did indeed ring for “David,” a longtime Hanford reader.

“My 28-year-old brother-in-law, Rod, was arrested for burglary and is in jail. My wife – his sister – is worried that Rod will literally go completely nuts if he remains in jail, as he is bipolar.”

“Off his meds – for the umpteenth time – he went into a Target store, filled a shopping cart with things he already has at home and clearly does not need more of, and then pushed the cart right out the front door!”

“The bail is $50,000. I have never bailed anyone out of jail before, but I have seen lots of television shows about bail agents and bounty hunters – like ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ – and frankly I’m a little concerned of getting involved with this element, especially if Rod refuses to come to court.”

“I want him to stay in jail, as he creates these nightmares for the family. But my wife is in tears and just wants him out. I love my wife, and seeing her so worried and crying even has me reaching for the Kleenex.”

“If we do hire a bail bondsman, what happens if he skips out? Will we wind up like the people Dog goes after? How much could it cost us? We don’t really understand how bail works. We read you in the Hanford Sentinel, and if you could give us a call, it would be really appreciated. Thanks, David.”

Big difference between bounty hunter and bondsman

I discussed David’s concerns with bail bondsmen in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hanford and Bakersfield. Each felt that – while entertaining – the Dog TV show has created a completely false image of what bail agents do, “and of the vital role in our system of justice,” as Eddie Brieno, of Hanford-based Eddie Brieno Bail Bonds views the problem.

“On a daily basis, we strive to distance ourselves from these TV guys. The image of a bondsman has been greatly distorted by both movies and television. Often the characters were shown as criminals themselves. Many of these shows go way too far, painting a distorted image of bondsmen. The shows make the exceptions look like what’s normal. In reality, if you are looking for a boring business, with not much excitement, then become a bail bondsman!” Brieno told me with a broad smile.

Bakersfield’s Brandon Poser and Sherief El-Ansary, owners of Patriot Bail Bonds, believe there is a “stigma about the way you could be treated by someone like Dog, being yelled at, shown no empathy whatsoever. He and other characters from the movies illustrate the confusion between a bondsman and bounty hunter,” they point out.

Tony Suggs is the media relations officer for the California Bail Agents Association. A bondsman himself, he wants the public to understand the difference between a bondsman and recovery agent.

“A bondsman handles the paperwork to get the defendant out of jail pending trial or other court proceedings. A bail contract requires that person to show up for all court appearances. It also authorizes taking that person into custody if he or she breaches the contract, by not making every court appearance. If a defendant fails to appear, or skips town, it is the recovery agent’s job to bring them back,” he explains.

It starts with a phone call

“Unless you have bailed someone out of jail before,” Patriot’s Poser observes, “there are lots of questions, and it can be a bit scary. If you’ve never had contact with law enforcement, jails or the court system, it’s all new. A bondsman should take the time to explain the process – what happens once a person is arrested.”

“Movies and TV make it appear that bailing out of jail is only a matter of calling a bail bond company, and quicker than counting from one to 10, out you walk. In reality, it can easily take up to 12 hours from the arrest to be released on bail,” he points out.

Why so long? “The process is complex,” explains Tony Suggs. “After being arrested, the booking process begins. This includes obtaining detailed personal information, finger prints, photos, entry of that information in a nationwide database, and a search for warrants from other states. Often, outstanding warrants do show up, and on occasion, because of name similarities, the wrong person has been arrested.”

After booking, it can take from two to four hours for bail to be set. This is the stage where the rubber meets the road, where family and friends will decide to bail or not to bail.

Next week, “What am I getting into?”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.