When you need a bail bondsman, it is only logical you would choose an establishment that is known for its dedication to clients. At Awald Bail Bonds, we have the dedication and the experience to help you and your family during a difficult legal crisis.
A Bonding Experience: Bondswoman helps people get on track
by: Tom Lange
GOSHEN — Lynda Awald has a summer house in Michigan, but doesn't spend much time there. Instead, she spends most of it at the Elkhart County Jail.
For the past 18 years, Awald has run Awald Bail Bonds in Goshen. Her roughly 50-hour weeks have her being contacted by potential indemnitors or working with the jail to have clients released. This means she must stay within earshot of the phone and driving distance of the jail.
Awald spent 12 years in financial services working with mortgages, debt consolidation and insurance. She got into bail bonding after her boss stole a sizable amount of money from her.
Awald repeatedly tried to track her boss, who was on bond, but was always told she needed his Social Security number to have a chance at finding him. Then she had an idea. She registered as a bail bondswoman to track her boss through the bond system.
"I never did find him, but I found a new career," she said.
Bondsmen and women provide several levels of service. They provide people an opportunity to remain out of jail while awaiting their court dates. "By providing a means for release, they also help ease potential overcrowding in the jail," said Robert Hummel, supervising attorney of the bail bond division for the Indiana Department of Insurance.
"Bondsmen and women also provide an incentive for people to be present at their mandatory court dates. People may be less likely to skip their court appearances if they know friends and family will be held responsible for paying their bond," Hummel said.
Hummel said a good bail bondsman or woman knows and respects the bail laws. "Bail bonding is a competitive business, and it can be tempting to cut corners. Sometimes people accept less than the mandatory 10% fee before writing a bond in order to secure more business. This practice, known as "credit bonding," is a class D felony." Hummel said.
"An ideal bondsman," Hummel said, "has a good record, treats the public fairly, and doesn't pull the rug out from other bondsmen."
Awald has found bail bonding a positive change from her previous work. She no longer has to solicit customers. Now they come to her.
To buy a bond, indemnitors must provide Awald with at least an ID, proof of address, and references. Awald may ask to see the deed to a house, and if the bond is high enough, she may put a lien against the property. If someone doesn't go through a bondsman or woman, they must pay the entire bond.
A risk all bondsmen and women face are fleeing clients. If one of Awald's clients misses a court date, the court requires that either the bond or the client be provided within 365 days. If the bond's indemnitor skips out, the cost falls to Awald. For 15 years, Awald was a non-liable bondswoman. She wasn't financially responsible if a client ran, but did have a responsibility to help the insurance company she was working with recover its expenses.
Awald is going on her third year as a liable bondswoman. This means she has a more direct responsibility if a client runs. A percentage of each bond goes into a build-up account. If Awald is ever ultimately responsible for paying the remainder of a bond, the money comes from that account.
If she ever comes up short, Awald's insurance company will pay the bond.
Awald says the average for fleeing clients is roughly 1 out of 17. She estimates her rates are better, at 1 out of 35.
When clients do run, typically recovery agents — bounty hunters — are dispatched to find them. All certified bail bondsmen and women are recovery agents, but the 5-foot 2-inch-tall Awald typically doesn't play an active role in retrieval.
If a client runs, she contacts a recovery agent, or has her insurance company contact one. Occasionally Awald has tagged along for recoveries, but when she does, she likes to wait in the car.
Awald rarely has the same day twice. She works whenever the phone rings, and whenever the jail will schedule her to bond out a client. Some weeks she'll have three days and nights filled with work. Other weeks will have days without phone calls, but Awald says it all averages out in the end.
Part of the bustling workload is connected with the competitiveness of the business. She does make a point to take breaks with vacations, but those involve passing clients — and business — along to other bondsmen. Her success depends on her availability.
Despite the random hours and the risks, Awald doesn't plan to retire anytime soon. She feels she provides a valuable service and she takes an interest in her clients. She prays for them and said the most redeeming aspect of her job is seeing those who have made mistakes redeem themselves.
Others have taken note of Awald's passion for her work. Vickie Morgan has worked part-time for Awald for the past 4 years doing secretarial work. She said Awald looks out for her clients and continually keeps their best interests at heart.
One of Awald's recent indemnitors appreciated Awald's work ethic. The man, who bought a bond for his son, was particularly impressed with Awald's speed and compassion. She acted quickly after she was contacted, and treated him respectfully.
"She was a breath of fresh air," he said. Awald's devotion inevitably means spending less time at the summer house. But she doesn't seem to mind.
"I feel I have a mission more than just making money, and getting people out of jail," she said. "My mission is to help people get back on track."