Innovations are slow to come to the bail bond industry. The nature of the criminal justice system is that changes require much litigation, which is a lengthy process, and often requires numerous departments, government agencies and legislative branches to come to an agreement on what the new laws should be.
For the consumers who end up needing a bail bond service the process has not changed much at all in the 30+ years that I’ve been in this business. The process of getting someone out of jail with a bail bondsman has always required due diligence on our part prior to bailing someone out of jail, getting paid for assuming the liability of bailing someone out and ensuring that our clients actually show up in court when they’re supposed to.
The only real innovations that have occurred in the bail bond industry are those that pertain to financing options, pre-bail background checks, and the marketing channels that we use to reach our clients. Fugitive recovery is a different industry in itself, so we won’t get into that side of things.
When I first started out in this business, it was a mostly cash business. People would show up at our office with bundles of cash to pay for the bail bonds. Other times they would use non-monetary instruments, such as gold, silver and jewelry to pay for the services.
When credit cards became more widespread, we began to accept those immediately, since they allowed our clients to pay for our services without having to take the risk of transporting large amounts of cash in sensitive areas.
As the internet became more prevalent, we also started to accept online payment methods like Paypal and other online credit card payment services. This made it even easier for those who are bailing out a friend or family member from out of state to pay for our service.
In 2015 we began offering to accept cryptocurrencies as a payment option. We currently accept Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin to pay for our services. For the longest time we actually wondered if we’d ever have a customer who wanted to pay with these novel new currencies.
In March we bailed out our first client who paid for his bail bond premium with cryptocurrency. Ethereum was the coin that he used.
The process was actually a bit more complicated than if he had paid with credit card, since we had to both log into our Coinbase accounts and initiate the transfer of funds that way.
The truth is that having Ethereum in his account is what saved him and allowed him to get out of jail. He didn’t have any cash on him, and his credit cards didn’t have sufficient balance to cover the cost of his bail bond.
There was also a bit more trust involved in making this transaction happen, since we require full payment of the bail bond premium before we bail someone out of jail. He was able to convince our bail agent that he had the Ethereum in his account, and was able to pay immediately after being released.
It was pretty neat to take part in this historic transaction for our company. While a number of bail bonds companies do accept crypto currencies as payments, it’s still pretty uncommon, since most people still pay with either cash or credit card.
Here’s to many more smooth transactions like this one conducted in crypto-currency.