Know your rights with bail bonds!

If you or a loved one has had recent experience obtaining a bail bond from a bail bondsman, we want to hear from you!

410-855-4042 or PJCbailreform@gmail.com

 

There are many laws in Maryland that protect the rights of defendants in court and with bail bondsmen.
 
Pretrial Release: Appearance in Front of a Judge or Commissioner
After a defendant is arrested, they will be brought before a Commissioner or judge. That person will decide if they should be released before trial. They will also decide what conditions the defendant must meet to get released.
 
Pretrial Release: Release by the Court
By law, courts in Maryland should to try to release defendants without money bail while waiting for their trial. The court should give other conditions only if needed to make sure a defendant appears in court, or to protect the community or victims. The court must decide if this is needed on a case-by-case basis, called an “individualized consideration.” Judges also must give the mildest condition that will likely make the defendant appear in court and protect the community or victims. The court should also prefer other condition(s), like mandatory check-ins, over money bail. Maryland Rules make judges consider a defendant’s ability to pay bail before deciding to make them pay bail and before setting the amount of bail.
 
Contracting with Bail Bondsmen
If the court decides to make the defendant pay a money bail, the defendant must give the money to the court clerk to be released. If a defendant is unable to pay the money to the court for the bail bond, they or another person like a family member, may hire a private bail bondsman or bail bond company to provide the bail bond to the court. In this arrangement, the bail bondsman accepts the responsibility to pay the bond to the court, and in return the defendant pays the bail bondsman a fee.
 
How Much the Bail Bondsman Can Charge
Bail bondsmen must charge defendants 10% of the total amount of the bail set by the court. This 10% is called the “premium.” The premium includes the cost of anything else the bail bondsman makes the defendant do or pay before posting a bail bond. If the cost of the premium is more than 10%, it could violate Maryland law. Bail bondsmen often charge defendants only 1% of the total bail upfront and require payment of the rest of the premium later.
 
Paying the Bail Bond Premium in More than One Payment
Bail bondsman can let people pay their bail bond premium either in one payment or over separate payments. If they do allow people to pay the premium in multiple payments, there has to be a written agreement called an “installment agreement.” The installment agreement has to be signed by the bail bondsman and the person who agrees to pay. It has to have the total amount of the bail bond, the amount of the premium, the amount of the first payment, the amount still owed after the first payment, the total number of payments, and the due date of each payment. The bondsman has to keep records of the installment agreement and of all times they tried to collect the amount owed.
 
Other Parts of Bail Bond Contracts
Other parts of bail bond contracts may also be illegal. Bail bond contracts cannot make the defendant agree to a judgment against them without taking the issue to court. This type of agreement is called a “confessed judgment clause.” In a confessed judgment clause, the defendant admits guilt before anything even happens. The defendant is not allowed to raise any defenses to any legal claim that the bondsman brings about the bail bond contract. The defendant is therefore automatically “confessing” to being guilty of the claim that the bondsman brings before it even goes to court.
 
Indemnity Agreements
To make sure that defendants or their loved ones pay, a bail bondsman requires a written contract, often called an indemnity agreement. This agreement requires the defendant or other signer to repay the full amount of the bond to the bondsman if the court forfeits the bond. (This usually happens if the defendant fails to appear for court). The bail bondsman must give their signature and bail bondsman license number in the indemnity agreement. The bail bondsman must state that the person signing and paying for the agreement is allowed to get a refund if the bail bond is not posted.
 
Security Agreements
The contract may also require a person to give security for payment of the debt by allowing the bail bondsman to take certain property, like a home or car, if they do not pay the bail bond payments. This property that can be taken is called “collateral.”
 
Lose Money for Not Appearing for the Court Date
If a defendant fails to make their court date, the court will keep the bail bond and issue an arrest warrant for the defendant. However, if the defendant or bail bondsman can show a good reason for not appearing, the court must return the bond. The defendant or bondsman has 90 days to show why they didn’t appear before it is kept permanently by the court. The court may extend this time to 180 days. Also, the bail bondsman must either capture and turn in the defendant to court or pay all of the bond to the court. In most bail contracts, if the defendant does not appear in court and the bail bondsman has to pay the court, the defendant must pay the bail bondsman for what the bondsman had to pay to the court.
 
Bail Bondsman’s Power to Capture and Turn In
The court allows bail bondsmen to capture and turn in defendants who do not make it to court for their court date. Also, bail contracts may allow bail bondsmen to capture defendants and turn them in to the court for other reasons. Some of these reasons are failing to make payments or leaving the state. However, bail bondsmen may not hold on to defendants. If they do capture defendants, they must turn them in to court right away. Bail bondsmen are not allowed to threaten to capture and turn in defendants to make them pay more than agreed, or to use the threat of capture to scare defendants.
 
Advertising by Bail Bondsmen
A bail bondsman, an agent of a bail bondsman, an employee of the courthouse, or an employee of a jail cannot advertise or give information about bail bonds at a courthouse or jail. If they do, they might have to pay a fine and lose their license.
 
Bail Bondsmen Licenses
Bail Bondsmen must have a license from the state to give bail bonds. To get a license, bondsmen must be of good character and trustworthy, take continuing education courses, pass a test, and satisfy other rules.


Note on regulations: Many of the current Maryland regulations became law in 2016, and the protection against confessed judgment was enacted in 2017. If your contract was before these laws, these protections may not apply.

If you or a loved one has had recent experience obtaining a bail bond from a bail bondsman, we want to hear from you!

410-855-4042 or PJCbailreform@gmail.com