Who ya gonna call . . . from jail at 3 a.m.? Probably a bondsman like Mike, who needs to ask you a few questions
Jail is scary and nobody really plans on going there, so who ya gonna call when you want to get bailed out? How about a bail bondsman.
Imagine your friend calls you at 3 in the morning and says that he is in jail. This scenario happens to decent people, Mike Norton, an agent for A+ 24 hr. Bail Bonds in Logan, said. Most people he bails out are normal people who just made a mistake. But, around 70 percent of people he bails out, got into jail directly or indirectly because of a situation involving alcohol or drugs. For example, violent husband/wife fights seem to usually have alcohol involved, Norton said.
The other 30 percent of reasons people want Norton to bail them out usually concern shoplifting or assault.
After being arrested a person is taken to a jail and given several options for release. Often people are given the option of being bailed out.
The condom package reads, "Don't get screwed -- call . . . A+ 24 hr. Bail Bonds."
Instead of the defendant having to pay the total amount of the bail, a bail agent will give a bond to the court saying that if the defendant doesn't show up in court, he or she will come up with the money to pay the bail to the court.
Bail is designed to guarantee the appearance of a defendant in court. It's like an insurance policy for the state, insuring the defendant will appear to face charges in court. The reason for releasing someone on bail is not only to guarantee their appearance in court, but it is also so that some degree of control is still retained over the defendant, according to Apex Bail Bonds web page, www.apexbail.com.
Now imagine your friend tells that his bail is set at $4,800 and asks if you can help him out. After you hang up with him, you decide to call a bail bond company.
Norton gets awakened by the sound of telephone rings around 3 in the morning.
Being on call 24 hours a day is part of the job and most of his business comes between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. He doesn't always get calls from a friend of the person in jail, often the person in jail will just call him directly on the verge of tears.
Whether it be the person in jail or a friend, Norton asks some basic questions.
Pretend Norton answers the phone and you tell him your friends name and that he has been arrested for stalking and destruction of USU property. He asks you which jail he is in and how much his bail is set at. Where does he live? Does he own a home or does he rent? Is he married? Does he have any kids? Does he have a job?, Norton asks.
These questions help Norton to determine how likely a person is to jump bail. If a person has kids, a house, and a job he's been at for at least a year, the more likely he is not going to run to another state without going to court, Norton said.
Norton requires the defendant to find a co-signer. Someone who Norton can collect the entire bail from, if the defendant doesn't show up in court. Norton said he has gone to parents who have co-signed on their sons or daughters bails and made them pay bail because their son or daughter didn't show up in court. Having a co-signer gives Norton extra insurance that if the person skips bail, the money won't have to come from his own pocket.
Norton said he only has to decline services to about three percent of the people that call him. For example, a guy called him a while ago that wasn't married, didn't have any friends that could help him, didn't have a job, and was living in his car. Norton said that was too risky for him.
"I usually bend over backwards to get people out of jail, because bail bonds is my job," Norton said.
Most bail agents have another job, and being a bail bondsman is just a side job, but for Norton bails are all he does.
Imagine Norton says that he will bail your friend out of jail, but you have to come up with 10 percent of the bail and he is going to require some collateral.
Norton has had people give him their cars, snowmobiles and jewelry until their charges are dropped or they are sentenced in a trial.
So your friend's bail is set at $4,800, you pay Norton $480 and he gets to keep it. Getting paid $480 for 30 minutes of work isn't bad for a days work.
Norton said his employee in the Ogden area makes around $75,000 a year doing one bond about every other day. In one day Norton has been able to make $16,000 and says he makes around $85,000 yearly just from bond he does at the Cache County Jail. Norton's company will do bonds anywhere in the state.
Now picture yourself meeting him down at the Cache County Jail. Norton talks to you for awhile in the inmate booking lobby, you agree to co-sign for your friend. You pay Norton the money and Norton now goes into a small room divided in the middle with a three foot high counter and glass that goes to the ceiling. You are not allowed to see your friend until he is out of jail, but Norton tells you what went on in the cement walled room.
While in the room Norton talks to your friend about why he was arrested. He's friendly and casual and even tells your friend, whose mom was really upset when she found out her son was in jail, that most mom's are like that. It's common, don't worry too much about it, Norton says. After your friend signs a couple papers, Norton tells him how much you paid to bail him out and that your neck is on the line for him, so if he wants to show appreciation he better show up in court.
Your friend is out of jail within 30 minutes. But, if your friend doesn't show up at court on his court date, Norton will be talking to him again.
Out of the 300 people Norton bails out approximately every year, one half of one percent jump bail and don't show up at court. And half of that one half percent simply forgot the date. In those cases, Norton gives them a second chance and they get a new court date. The other half of that one half of one percent are the people Norton has to chase down and get rough with.
"Everybody who jumps bail is stupid and we rely on their stupidity to find them," Norton said.
For example, one man who jumped bail gave Norton a fake name, but his real address. Another man moved to Virginia, but gave his forwarding address to the post office. Norton got the phone number of the address in Virginia and called. The defendants father answered the phone and Norton explained that his son had a warrant for his arrest in every state and if his son didn't come back to Utah right then, Norton would have to come to his house handcuff his son and drag him back to Utah.
Norton said, "His dad told me, "If you come to my house, you'll get shot."' Norton proceeded to tell the father that if he shot at him, he would have a gun too and would be wearing a bullet proof vest and he would shoot back. Norton told the father to check with any law office and he would find that Norton had every right to do it too. Within an hour, the father had called Norton back and said his son would be on the next flight to Utah.
By law, bail agents can forcibly enter without a warrant or court order. Bail agents have more power than state authorities in pursuing and arresting defendants, according to Apex Bail Bonds web page.
But the Supreme Court has ruled that "Bail have no power to arrest the principal in a foreign country."
The courts give bail agents six months to find the defendant. Police and bail agents are usually both looking for the defendant, but bail agents have more incentive to find the person because if they don't money comes out of their pockets, Norton said.
Being a bail bondsman has only put Norton in two dangerous situations.
Norton had to go to a man's home, handcuff him and take him back to jail, because he had jumped bail. While handcuffed in the backseat of his car, the man undid his seatbelt and started to lean forward. Norton got worried so he slammed on the brakes, making the man fall forward. When he was still falling forward, Norton reached up while still driving and shoved his elbow in the man's face. When the car stopped, Norton yanked him out, pointed a gun at his bleeding face, and told him not to try anything tricky again.
The second dangerous situation occurred when Norton was picking someone up at their home to take them to jail. The man tried to get away and the man's daughter started beating Norton with a broom. He had to tackle the man and spray him with pepper spray in order to get him handcuffed and back to jail.
Norton is busiest during the Cruise In car show on 4th of July weekend. He bailed 16 people out of jail that night last year. During spring break, his employee in St. George bails about seven people out a night.
A+ 24 hr. Bail Bonds spends around $30,000 to $40,000 a year in advertising. Most of the money goes to telephone book ads and the rest is used to make pens, key chains and condoms with the company name and phone number on them. The condom package reads, "Don't get screwed -- call . . . A+ 24 hr. Bail Bonds."
"Seven fraternity brothers will come to the jail to bail their friend out and I give them all key chains and condoms," Norton said. Norton hopes next time one of them needs a bail bondsman they'll remember him.
Norton also gets business from what he calls, "repeat customers." He has bailed one man out of jail six times in nine months and has made $19,000 off of him. The man just has a problem with bouncing big checks that are for $30,000 or more, Norton said.
He bailed one of his customers out of jail three times in one day. The man punched his doctor and was put in jail. The man's mom paid Norton to bail him out and on his way home the man punched his wife and a man who tried to stop him. The man's mom paid Norton again to bail him out. The police put a restraining order on the man and told him he couldn't be at home with his wife, but he went to his house anyway. Again, the man's mom paid Norton to bail him out.
How come you never hear of bail bondswomen? Out of the 1 bail bond companies in Logan, there are 24 bail bond agents and only two of them are women. One is Norton's wife, who mostly just screens Norton's calls and occasionally does a bond. The other is a manager for a bail bond company. She usually just sets bonds up for other agents and occasionally does some herself. There are women bail agents, but it is uncommon to see them a lot, Norton said.
Norton was working for UPS and for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a security guard at the Logan temple, when a friend he worked with who was also a jailer, told him about a bail agent who was looking for some help. Norton got the job and has been a bail agent for four years.
To become a certified bail agent in Utah you have to be over 18, never have had a felony arrest, and go the state capitol to pay $45. No training is required, Norton said. But every bail agent must work under a licensed bail bond company. To get a company license you must have $350,000 in assets and $100,000 must be in cash or liquefiable assets. Having that much money, insures the state that if you ever have to pay someone's bail you'll be able too.
Last year Norton was able to get a license for his own bail bond company.
Jail is scary and Norton is more than willing to get you out.