Before we address the captioned question, there are other questions to dispose of first. Answers to the following will assist the reader in understanding the bail process and its function.

What is Bail?

After the arrest of an individual, the court assesses the severity of the crime to establish the appropriate bail. Murder, for instance, typically has a high bail amount. In some cases, the judge may deny bail. In this example, the defendant or felon must remain in jail until the scheduled court date. However, bail is often beyond the financial means of the criminal. Instead of going to jail, the felon may seek the services of a bail bondsman or bail agent. The agent secures a bail bond, which is a type of surety.

Two Types of Bonds

Criminal Bail Bond: The type used in criminal cases as a guarantee that the defendant will appear for trial.

Civil Bail Bond: It applies to civil cases as a guarantee of the payment of the debt, plus interest and costs, as decided by the court against the defendant.

How is the Bail Agent Paid?

The agent generally charges 10% or 15% of the bail amount. There are limitations set by most states, except for those with no maximum. It becomes the bondsman’s duty to make sure the defendant appears in court on the designated date. Failure to appear results in the agent having to pay the total of the bail. As insurance for this possibility, the bond agent requires collateral from the felon. Collateral might be real estate, car title, credit card, appraised artwork, or other valuable property owned by the defendant or his/her family.

Do all states allow Bail Bond Agents?

No. A handful of states prohibit the practice. For example, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Illinois, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Nebraska, and Washington, D.C. State laws govern the application and payment of the bail. In some of the states mentioned above, a percentage of the bail is paid to the court.

State Certification

The requirements for bail agents vary by state. First, most states that allow private bail services follow the same eligibility. Applicants must be 18 or older, have a high school diploma, complete a pre-licensing course, and pass the state exam, if applicable. You may also need to meet surety obligations by providing adequate financial resources. Once you complete the previous steps, you may apply for a state bondsman license. The license is distinctive from the certificate. You receive the latter after passing the examination.

Here is a look at a typical state requirement for licensing.

North Carolina

The state has over 1,200 bond agents, according to After the pre-licensing class, you must take the PLE (Pre-Licensing Exam). Upon passing the test, the state issues you a Certificate of completion. The next step involves an electronic fingerprint scan at a law enforcement office. Assuming the fingerprint background check goes well, you then apply for a bail bond license with the North Carolina State of Insurance. The initial license is valid for one year when you work under the supervision of a licensed bond agent.

After twelve months of supervision, you apply for the Professional Bondsman License. The permit requires renewal on June 30 of odd-numbered years. You must also complete three hours of continuing education before renewal.

Except in the states that prohibit bail bondsman, the certificate is a piece of paper attesting to the successful completion of the state-regulated examination. It is the equivalent of a diploma. The document is a means to an end – it does not allow one to operate as a bond agent legally. You need a license, which is generally the last step of many.

North Carolina is typical of most states. California has one of the largest prison populations in the United States. Therefore, this translates to many defendants with the need for a bail bond agent. The sunshine state has the additional requirement that applicants have proof of at least two years of residency. Further information on the profession is available at the California Bail Agents Association (CBAA).


In addition to the certificate (exam) and license, some agents have college degrees in business, criminal justice, or law enforcement. However, your degree might be more beneficial in another occupation. Being a bond agent is not a high paying line of work. According to, the average hourly rate is $10.79, based on the submission of 187 employees. pegs the median income at $39,159.

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