Making Bail

Keep a Bail Bondsman card handy, because you never know...

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: November 24, 2003

Making Bail

Stephanie Wargo, a San Francisco Public Defender says, ?It doesn?t make any sense to me that people are perceived innocent for the purposes of trial, but are presumed guilty for the purpose of setting bail.?

Many middle class people have no idea how the bail system works. Occasionally and because of racial profiling, sometimes mainstream folks find themselves on the wrong side of a 502 or, get cuffed and stuffed in back of some unpaid warrants and become completely unglued.

As a public service, I visited bail bonding experts, Jimmy De Soto, and Andres Martinez of James De Soto Bail Bonds located directly across the street from the San Franciscan Jail House, the infamous 850 Bryant, to shed some light on this issue.

A bail bonds man straddles the tightrope between the law and the lawless. Walking down the bail bonding strip dotted with 24-7 store front competitors, across the street from the monolithic lock up, you brush pass cops, criminals, bounty hunters and the lawyers who play both sides of the fence.

Owner Jimmy DeSoto started in the family business right out of high school. He is considered the most trusted Spanish-speaking bail bonds man in the city. Old time friend and bondsman Andres Martinez is monikered the Mayor of Bryant Street.

I sat quietly in the corner during full boogie business hours midday, as they held a across the counter Chicano court and got a client contact earful as to how the bail system works in sprit but not necessarily in truth. My hour there was better than any prime time reality show, and was happy that I wasn?t there doing business.

The law insures a person the right to a reasonable bail, and here how it works:
Once someone is arrested, bail is set depending on the nature of the crime. The person arrested has a choice make bail i.e. get out, or stay in jail until they go before a judge who will decide another bail amount or if the person can be ORed, released on their own recognizance. A homeboy axiom is ?I got more time than money.?

If the person wants to be bailed out, someone has to post a bond or put up money, so the court can be assured that the person will come back and face the judge for the crime they allegedly committed. If ones bail amount is $10,000 dollars, then one can go to a bail bondsman, fill out some forms, and pay a fee of $1,000 dollars. Then the bail bondsman will get the person out of jail, assuring the court that they will take the financial and physical responsibility of making sure that person comes to court. The good news is that bail bonds people take all major credit cards. DeSoto is one of the compassionate few who takes payments.

For Latinos, especially those monolingual Spanish ones, the problem is exponentially more complicated. According to Martinez, ?Ever since 9-11, once someone is in local police custody, the INS can randomly put immigration hold on undocumented people. If the person is put on INS hold, they can be held for a year, and then deported.? DeSoto knows of a case of a young man who this happened to. He came to the US as a two-year-old child, and then in his twenties was deported to Nicaragua, who DeSoto found sleeping on the ground in an alley adjacent to the place that once was the family home.

Bonds men do make money but assume a certain risk. If they bail somebody out and the client bails on them, they have to forfeit the whole bail amount. When this happens the company is forced to send out a bounty hunter, whose job is to find the person who skipped bail and bring them into custody. DeSoto doesn?t have to use that service much because, according to Martinez, they screen the applications very carefully.

They have a sense as to who will skip out.

The best part of the job, I?m told, is being able to help people during a life crisis time. If you've ever been ?in? for even a minute you?ll know what I?m talking about.

Latino bail Bonds people have to be uniquely aware of the cultural stigmas involved with incarceration and have to have the specific skill of explaining the process in order to be a real help in time of need, because those who run the system will not explain all of your rights under the law.

I?ve learned to always keep a bondsman business card handy, because you never know?

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is not only a friend but a client.

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