president, AM/PM Bail Bonds
2130 Dr. M.L. King St. S, St. Petersburg
What does a bail bondsman do?
A bail bondsman basically releases you from the jail detention temporarily so that you can pursue your legal case. For instance, once a person is locked up and if they are not released on their own recognizance, or ROR, most of the time they are going to be remanded to stay in jail until their court date. So if they want to be released, they call me, the bail bondsman.
How does the process work?
Say hypothetically that the person's bond is $5,000. My fees up-front would be $500, and then I would get something for collateral that belongs to the person who comes to my office to bail them out.
What do you base your fee on?
The fee is regulated through the Department of Insurance and the Florida Legislature. Our fee is 10 percent of the bond.
Do you give the jail money to get the person out of jail?
No, what I give the jail is called a power of attorney form. So when somebody is in jail and let's say the bond is $2,500, I fill out the paperwork and sign my name, and that acts as a promissory note to the courts, to ensure that I pay them the money if something goes awry.
What kind of hours do you work?
I'm always on call because the business is a 24-hour business, every day of the week.
How many people do you get out of jail in a month?
You know, I never really took inventory. I would say in a month's time, perhaps 30, 40 people, maybe.
Do you have specific criteria for bonding someone out?
Yes, yes, all bonds that I do are at my discretion as to whether I want to get you out or not. It depends on the (criminal) charge, how much the bond is. Does the person have ties to the immediate area? Are they working? It all factors in to my decision.
What is collateral?
Typically collateral could be a vehicle, it could be real property, it could be certificates of deposits, jewelry, it could be household items; anything that will ensure that the person shows up for court.
What is your relationship with the arrested person once they bond out and fill out the required paperwork?
Basically, once they leave my office, our relationship is over. However, I do get court dates from the court, and we will call to give them a reminder.
What happens when a person fails to show up in court or flees the area?
When the person skips court, I have to go and be what they call a bounty hunter.
What do you do in the bounty hunter role?
I go out and find the person, wherever they are. I have absolute arrest power to put the person in custody, by force or not, anywhere in the continental United States.
How often do you arrest people who flee?
Oh, all the time. I've arrested maybe 300 people in the last seven years. It's about a 2 percent skip rate.
What's the farthest you ever had to go to find someone?
How do you track them down?
By any means necessary. Any and all tools available to me. Rewards, word of mouth, anything.
What kind of background or training do you need to do this?
I was in the military and had military training. But I also took a class at Hillsborough Community College. The course familiarizes you with Florida laws and statutes that bail bondsmen operate under.
How did you get started in the business?
I walked into Al Estes (bail bonds) office seven years ago. I was a truck driver then, and I walked in and said I wanted a job. I owe everything that I'm doing now to Al Estes, really. I've been working for myself now for three years.
What made you decide to go into this business?
Well, money, actually. But I try to help the people in the community and provide a service for the folks who cannot get released from jail on their own.
What kind of money can you make doing this?
Most bail bondsmen make at least $100,000 a year or more.
What is your least favorite, or hardest part of the job?
The hardest thing about it is, really, just dealing with the people who run. If everybody just went to court the job would be great. It's a risky business for sure.
_ ELLEN MOSES