If you are arrested, the first thing you will invariably do is try to get out of jail. That’s a good idea. (Remember not to talk to the cops or give a statement.)
You’ll call a bondsmen. That’s a good idea, too, because he’ll arrange for your release from jail. Unfortunately, there’s a downside. The bondsmen may try to tell you how to handle your case and that’s bad. That’s practicing law without a license.
Why do we care? Because bondsmen aren’t lawyers and the advice they give people as they bond them out is often so wrong as to endanger you.
Why? It’s simple. Bondsmen think that because they work in the criminal justice system – and often have years of experience writing bonds – that they know the law itself.
Let me give you an example: A guy who hired me for a possession of marijuana charge recently was told by his bondsmen to “just go to court and plead guilty because you’ll just get probation.” The guy didn’t want to go back to jail, because he’d get fired, and didn’t want to pay for a lawyer. So, he figured he’d take the bondsman’s advice and he’d be ok.
Thankfully, the guy’s wife had him seek out a lawyer and he called me. During our initial consultation he told me what the bondsman had said. I had heard it before. When I explained to him the ramifications of a guilty plea to marijuana, he was stunned.
I told him that in Alabama a drug conviction suspends your driver’s license. He was shocked. “But I have to drive to work and pay my bills.” I told him a drug conviction would prevent him from receiving some federal benefits. I also told him a drug conviction would prevent him from living in subsidized house. I told him that all employers now background check their employees and a drug conviction could impact his job. I told him a drug conviction requires mandatory assessment and attending and completing a drug treatment program.
“But, I’m guilty,” he said. “What do I do?”
Bondsmen don’t know how the system works, don’t have law degrees and a license to practice law, but they want to run their mouths and give people incorrect “legal advice.” They must think this makes them look “in the know.” Others want your money and know if you pay a lawyer you’ll struggle to pay the bonding company’s fee.
All bondsmen know how to do is fill out the bonding paperwork that gets a person out of jail.
If you’re arrested you need to talk to at least three good lawyers and then pick from those three which your gut instinct tells you is the one for you. Rely on your lawyer’s expertise to get you out of trouble, not your bondsman.
Oh, and I've been asked by several lawyers to add this to this blog: Bondsmen should never recommend lawyers to anyone, and vice-versa. You can't trust a bondsman's recommendation for a lawyer, as some lawyers give illegal kickbacks to bondsmen for the referral. This is illegal but it happens. The reverse is true, also. Some bondsmen give lawyers illegal kickbacks as well.
When a bondsman is asked for a referral for a lawyer or a lawyer is asked for a referral for a bondsman, the answer should always be, "I'm not allowed to make any recommendation by law." Any other answer should be considered as suspect.
Required by Alabama law: These recoveries and testimonials are not an indication of future results. Every case is different, and regardless of what friends, family, or other individuals may say about what a case is worth, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances as they apply to the law. The valuation of a case depends on the facts, the injuries, the jurisdiction, the venue, the witnesses, the parties, and the testimony, among other factors. Furthermore,,no representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the services of other lawyers.