A loved one has found themselves in jail. But don’t freak out. Conviction isn’t a certain thing, only a little more than half face prison time.

For those that have yet to face a judge, there’s the opportunity for bail. But among all the hullabaloo, a lot of people may be uncertain how to choose the best bail bonds company. Here are 6 crucial tips on how to get a bail bond.

1. A Referral From the Lawyer

Many defense attorneys have an arrangement with a bail bonds agency. They do a lot of business between them, so their referrals are genuine.

If your lawyer suggests a place, you should strongly consider it. But don’t take everything at face value — check reviews from online.

2. Cheap Bonds Aren’t the Best Bail Bonds

Don’t let cheap bail fees lure you in. They’re usually indicative of a seedy company that’s more after a quick payout than helping you.

Most bail bonds companies set their fees in alignment with the state cap. Some states have a 10% legal ceiling and others are as low as 8%. If it’s anything less than that, it should raise suspicions.

3. Bonds License

This isn’t a license to kill, but a permit to act as a bondsman.

Every company that issues bails bonds must follow a stringent set of laws. To serve bonds, they need up-to-date licensure from the state. Most states will have a website that lists certified bondsmen — always double-check.

4. Transparency and Trust

You can learn a lot from people by their appearances and mannerisms. Most people know when they’re being raked over the coals. If you feel at all uncomfortable with your bondsman, go elsewhere.

You can also tell a lot about the company by their office. Trustworthy bonds companies won’t have their headquarters next to the train track.

5. No Cash, No Problem

Whatever the judge sets as bail, you’ll have to pay a percentage of that for a bail bond. If the crime was a felony, a $20,000 bail and higher isn’t uncommon. At 10%, that’s $2,000.

If you’re struggling with making bail, most companies will accept collateral and property in exchange for a bond. If you’re using property, like your home, as collateral, have someone appraise it. You don’t want the bonds company undervaluing your assets.

6. Shop Around

Finding the right bonds company isn’t a one-stop-shop kind of thing. You have to do your research and pool together your options.

Before choosing, you should consider at least 3 to 5 different companies. Compare every facet of their business model. It’s always a good idea to make a pros and cons list.

The biggest factor is their experience. Check how long each firm has been licensed. The longer, the better.

You’re Free to Go

An arrest doesn’t mean your family member is going to prison. Before they face a judge, use this as an opportunity to spend time with them, and find the best bail bonds company that you can.

A referral from your lawyer goes a long way. But you should shop around and use your best judgment. Check how long they’ve been licensed and if they accept collateral.

Are you feeling locked up? Check out our other articles for all the latest local news and advice.