The steps needed to become a bail bondsman in Iowa are as follows:
|Get the necessary education|
|Obtain a bail agent license|
|Submit a surety bond|
|Set up an office/place of business|
Bail bondsmen, called bail agents in Iowa, help to get persons accused of crimes out of jail while they await their trials. The bail agent, or bail company, posts a surety (bond) that guarantees the court will be paid the full bail amount if the defendant fails to appear when scheduled. The bail agent charges the defendant between 10 and 15 percent of the bail amount. There is often a co-signer of the bail agreement, most often a family member or friend of the defendant, who agrees to pay the bail amount if the defendant fails to appear. This person may be required to put up collateral as a guarantee.
If the defendant jumps bail and the bail agent has to hire a bounty hunter (called bail enforcement agent in Iowa) to track him/her down, the co-signer is liable for all expenses incurred by the bail agent. If the defendant is not found and returned to jail, the co-signer must pay the full bail amount, which may mean losing the offered collateral (car automobile registration, deed to property, etc.).
Step 1. Get the Necessary Education
Although there are no official education or training requirements in Iowa, bail agents must have knowledge of such things as:
- Criminal Justice System
- Iowa Laws Related to Crime and Bail
- Law Enforcement
- Criminal Psychology
- Courtroom Procedures
- Iowa Corrections System
- Skip Tracing
- Surveillance Techniques
- Ethical Behavior in Criminal Justice
- Crime and Drug Addiction
The ideal way to gain the necessary education is to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in an area related to criminal justice. There are several schools in Iowa that offer criminal justice programs as well as a number of accredited online colleges/universities. In addition, the American Institute of Bail in Denver, CO offers several home study courses using DVD’s and written material. They can be reached at 303-232-8800.
Step 2. Obtain a Bail Agent License
Prospective bail agents must apply for a license with the Iowa Department of Insurance Licensing Board. The following requirements must be met in order to obtain a bail agent license in Iowa:
- At least 18 years old
- Not a peace officer
- No felony, aggravated misdemeanor or fraud convictions
- No addictions to alcohol or controlled substances
- No history of violent behavior
- Good moral character
- Never convicted of illegally carrying or possessing a dangerous weapon
There is a $100 fee for a two-year renewable license which is the same license required by private detectives in Iowa. Each person in a partnership must apply for his/her own license and pay the $100 fee. Likewise, each person actively involved in a bail bonds company must be individually licensed. A bail agent license gives the holder the power to make an arrest or to authorize a bail enforcement agent (bounty hunter) to do so on the bail agent’s behalf.
Step 3. Submit a Surety Bond
Every licensed bail agent must place a $5,000 surety bond with the Iowa Department of Public Safety as proof of financial responsibility.
Step 4. Set Up an Office/Place of Business
A bail agent’s office does not have to be terribly large or elaborate but it should be easily accessible from both the courthouse and the agent’s residence. Bail agents have irregular hours and are often called in the middle of the night so it’s smart to not have to spend too much time on the road. In addition to basic office furniture, essential equipment includes:
- Reliable telephone system
- High-speed computer and relevant software
- Criminal code books
- Printer/FAX Machine
- Copy machine
- Security system
- Coffee machine
Additional money will have to be spent on advertising and, as the business expands, additional personnel.