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The Bail Bondsman

American readers will no doubt be familiar with the long standing trade of the bail bond companies. Non-American readers may not be so familiar with the system, in which private companies post bail for defendants in return for a fee. It is a process which is not allowed in most other countries, but it seems that it is a highly effective system in ensuring that defendants appear for their trials.

I myself had no idea about the bail bond industry until I read this article about it in the New York Times. The American Bar Association hates the practice, it seems, and given the grip of lawyers in other legal systems, it is very unlikely that the practice will be emulated elsewhere. Which is a pity; some of these American innovations have a lot going for them.

31 comments to The Bail Bondsman

  • You’ve clearly not seen the Quentin Tarantino film “Jackie Brown”, then. The portrayal may not be (indeed, probably isn’t) entirely accurate, but it still conveys the idea.

  • Life is too short to watch Quentin Tarantino films!

  • Petronius

    In the old American TV series “Hill Street Blues” the local bail bondsman passed out cards at the police station with the best business motto I’ve ever heard: “Let the blessings of Liberty be yours, for only a lousy 10%!”

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    More importantly you haven’t seen “Dog the Bounty Hunter”

    “Go with Christ bra”

  • the other rob

    On the matter of TV shows, surely an honourable mention must go to Lee Majors in “The Fall Guy”.

    On bail bondsmen in general, my favourite is Bay Area firm “BadBoys”. I have a t-shirt of theirs, which declaims “BadBoys Bail Bonds – Because your Mamma wants you home!”

    On the ABA…. well, let’s just say that I once shared an elevator with a man carrying a bag from some criminal trial lawyers conference. When I asked whether they were affiliated with the ABA he got most dis-chuffed at being associated with a body he regarded as being run for the benefit of parasites leeching off productive business. Seems to me that he probably has more contact with bail bondsmen than your average corporate lawyer.

  • guy herbert

    Maybe it is highly effective in ensuring defendants attend trials, but what of the systemic effects?

    Does it lead to courts asking for bail in circumstances when they wouldn’t bother, or higher bail than otherwise would be reasonable, knowing that the defendant bears all the costs and risks if he does appear of those who don’t?

    Do defenders do less, deeming the fee a tarriff, to avoid trial bail or trial than they might?

    Does the defendant get his fee to the bondsman back if he is acquitted? Is it taken into account in setting the tarriff of any punishment?

    As with all forms of insurance or financial service, is the relative cost much higher for the poor?

    Sounds to me like it could lead to creeping compulsion, vicious circles of regulatory capture, and punishment – a fine, in effect – based on suspicion.

  • Kevyn Bodman

    I’m not familiar with any of those films about bail bondsmen, but without that system we wouldn’t have the novels featuring ‘Stephanie Plum’ by Janet Evanovich. Funny, a very little bit gritty and a little bit wacky.
    Start with ‘One For The Money’ and work through.
    Fantasise about having the lifestyle of the character Ranger.

  • Wiz

    Best bondsman movie (IMO): “Midnight Run,” with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin.

  • Jacob

    guy herbert,
    I don’t see what relevance your questions have.
    If I understand correctly (big if), the defendant is free to use or not to use the services of a bail-bondsman, i.e. – he can post bail himself, using his own money. So what’s the problem ? A free market interaction.

    Now, maybe you want to argue that judges should make allowance for poor defendants and let them out without bail (as they have no bail money). I doubt this is a good idea.

  • David


    I got a kick out of visiting Houston, where there is (generally) no zoning regulation on land use. The result isn’t a built environment drastically different from most other American cities, but 2 land uses jumped out for their sheer unfamiliarity: “adult” stores/clubs, and bail bond outlets (the latter clearly correlated with the destitution of a particular neighborhood).
    I’d never seen these sorts of establishments advertise with huge, towering, flashing neon signs before, without the slightest bit of discretion or even shame at what lay within. These “undesirable” land uses are commonly restricted to the bowels of abandoned rail yards and not permitted any signage in most US cities. I couldn’t help but repeatedly chuckle as I cruised and explored the city.

  • Quenton

    As a licensed bail bondsman in the state of North Carolina for the past 9 years I feel pretty confident I can answer Guy’s questions with some authority.

    Maybe it is highly effective in ensuring defendants attend trials, but what of the systemic effects?

    We are the most effective means of ensuring defendants show up for court. Between 90-99% effective according to everything I’ve ever read and experienced. In my 9 years I’ve only ever had one bail jumper get away. I tip my hat to that bastard.

    A bail bondsman has 120 days after a defendant fails to show in court to return the “skip” to the court’s custody. After that time period is up the bail bondsman must pay the court the full amount of the bond if he cannot produce the defendant. Should the defendant successfully manage to elude a bondsman and the bondsman pays the courts he will still have a warrant outstanding for his arrest, but the bondsman will not still be looking for him. This state of affairs is extremely rare though; as I mentioned before almost none of them manage to elude their hunters.

    Does it lead to courts asking for bail in circumstances when they wouldn’t bother, or higher bail than otherwise would be reasonable, knowing that the defendant bears all the costs and risks if he does appear of those who don’t?

    Yes. Many cops arrest people that they don’t like on minor charges knowing that they will not get convicted, but knowing full well that they will have to spend a good deal of money just to have their freedom. I see this sort of shit happen pretty often.

    Also, bail is determined by the magistrate that is on duty at the time the defendant is brought in to the jail. The magistrate can do whatever the hell he wants and many times does just that. I have seen people with Murder charges get $10,000 bonds while Statutory Rape (meaning consensual sex with an underage person) charges typically get $500,000 bonds. It is also pretty common for me to see that 1st time offenders with minor charges get $1,000 bonds but people that I have gotten out nearly a dozen times and have had them miss court almost as many times get unsecured bonds (meaning that they are allowed to walk out of the jail of their own recognizance with no collateral needed).

    It is very sad that magistrates and officers use the bail system to punish defendants before they are ever found guilty. Sadly, that is beyond the control of the bail bondsman.

    Do defenders do less, deeming the fee a tarriff, to avoid trial bail or trial than they might?

    I’m not quite sure I understand the question. If you mean “Is the defendant more or less likely to show up for court of his own free will if he has a bail bondsman” then the answer is: not really. If a guy skips bail his only real punishment is that he goes back to jail when he is to either make a new bond (with another bail bondsman, but sometimes with the same one depending on the circumstances) or sit in jail until his case is tried. What happens next depends on what county/state this occurs in.

    In the area that I usually do bail bonding in the court does not punish people that doesn’t show up for court. The most they usually do is double the original bond. No other fines or sentences are meted out. Other jurisdictions, however, can and sometimes do. The bail bondsman has no way to influence weather the defendant wants to show up in court or not since we can’t do much to punish the behavior aside from putting him back in jail.

    If that didn’t answer your question and I missed the mark completely please let me know.

    Does the defendant get his fee to the bondsman back if he is acquitted? Is it taken into account in setting the tarriff of any punishment?

    No and no. The bail bondsman does not refund money on acquittal and neither does the court reimburse the defendant in any way. That sucks if you are innocent, but it’s no different than lawyer’s fees (and they get paid waaay more money then we do).

    As with all forms of insurance or financial service, is the relative cost much higher for the poor?

    Of course. Bail bondsman fees are based off of a percentage of the bail amount. We are legally limited in the amount that we can change by whatever state we are doing business in. We can charge up to 10% in 49 states and up to 15% in my state of North Carolina.

    Poor people make up an overwhelming majority of people going to jail so if anyone is going to get screwed it’s going be them. We love the 1st week of the month in our office. That’s when everyone gets their government checks and that’s when most of them pay on their remaining account balance.

    Sounds to me like it could lead to creeping compulsion, vicious circles of regulatory capture, and punishment – a fine, in effect – based on suspicion.

    As I touched on before that is exactly what is happening in a lot of cases. Nearly all of the blame can be laid at the feet of lawmakers. Bondsmen themselves are increasingly becoming targets of crappy legislation designed to harm both us and the defendants.

    A good example is the very popular (among magistrates) $500 bond. In NC I can charge up to $75 for a $500 bond. Unfortunately $75 isn’t worth the paperwork, the legwork, and the liability for me to make the bond. The end result is that the guy with a $500 bond sits in jail because he doesn’t have the $500 cash to post himself, and no bondsman will bother making it while the guy with the $1000 bonds pays $100-$150 and goes home to his family. Most states have special provisions that let bondsman charge up to $100 for anything under $1000 for just this very reason. Sadly, they don’t have that provision here.

    i hope that answered most of your questions sufficiently.

  • Lascaille

    Quenton, I think that’s a fantastic and infomative post and as a reader, I thank you for your input.

  • Resident Alien

    Further to what Quenton wrote, arrest in the US is, de facto a punishment that can be meted out by a police officer virtually at will.

    Even if you are found innocent or charges are dropped, the arrest record will almost always be visible on the website maintained by the police.

    Also, a mere arrest outside the US appears to be reason for the immigration authorities to deny a tourist entry to the US.

  • RAB

    What of Bounty Hunting.
    I read the other day that it is perfectly legal in the USA for a person charged with a crime in America, but resident outside the USA, to be in effect kidnapped and clandesinely returned there to face trial.
    When the country from which the miscreant has been extracted compains
    they are told “Hey Dude thats our Law. Chill!

  • R C Dean

    I read the other day that it is perfectly legal in the USA for a person charged with a crime in America, but resident outside the USA, to be in effect kidnapped and clandesinely returned there to face trial.

    I’m no expert, but I would guess the US has no laws that would be binding on the activities of a bail bondsman outside US jurisdiction.

    I would also guess that it is not a defense to either the original charge or a charge relating to skipping bail that you tried to flee the country but were foiled.

  • RAB

    Not quite what I meant RC.
    I meant Charged with a crime in the USA, which for instance the businessmen extradited recently, had not committed in the USA, but were liable to prosecution if they could be brought there to face trial.
    The extradiction was legal in their case under our Law, but the one I’m on about is that it is perfectly legal to kidnap someone from another country and forcibly bring them to the States to face trial. Without any bail bondsman stuff involving money.

  • Quenton

    “Bounty Hunting” laws vary wildly from state to state. But first let me define “Bounty Hunting”. In most instances and states the Bail Bondsman and the Bounty Hunter are two separate groups. The Bail Bondsman is generally the person who does the paperwork and is financially responsible should the defendant “skip” and not be found. If a defendant does run off he usually hires a Bounty Hunter agency to track the guy down and find him. After all, paperwork jobs and physical hunting are about as far apart as you can get. They usually pay the BH at least as much or more than they collected in fees from the defendant. I suppose it’s worth it to not loose 10 times that amount.

    In my state (and many others) Bounty Hunter is not a legally recognized position. What this means is that if my company bails someone out and they run off then only the people licensed with my company may re-apprehend the defendant. You many only be licensed through one company at a time. What this means in practice is that it impossible to have freelancers that specialize in fugitive recovery in non BH states. You may get someone licensed under you who’s only job is to do the hunting, but that is rarely feasible since one company rarely has enough skips to warrant spending that amount of resources. Sadly, this usually means that female and elderly bondsmen (and there are a lot of both) must do their own hunting most of the time in addition to the paperwork side.

    The Supreme Court has found that bondsmen are legally allowed to go where ever they need to in order to re-apprehend a skip. Unfortunately not all states agree. For instance, A bail bondsman in state A could hire a bounty hunter to go to state B and apprehend a skip if both states recognize bounty hunters. If, however, the skip is in state C where bounty hunters are not recognized then the bail bondsman must go himself. Or, you could be like Alabama and not recognize the rights of bounty hunters or bail bondsman. If a skip flees there he has de facto immunity from being picked back up.

    Indeed, another local bonding company tried to pick one up in Alabama a while back. They grabbed him, cuffed him, and drove him back to North Carolina. Once the Alabama authorities found out about this they issue a felony kidnapping warrant for one of the bondsmen involved (there were at least two that went; they apparently didn’t know about the other one) and had him extradited back where he was subsequently convicted of a felony and lost his NC bonding license. While you can’t be a felon and be a bail bondsmen in North Carolina is is apparently ok in Hawaii where Dog works (he has a previous manslaughter conviction).

    As far as bounty hunting outside the country goes I don’t think it’s legal. Dog attempted to do just that in Mexico and you see where that got him. Chances are that the US will recognize the extradition claims of whatever country you try that in. Of course, bounty hunters are only for going after bail skips, not serving criminal warrants. That is the duty of law enforcement in that country or of a law enforcement agent from this country that is allowed by the other country to make an arrest (like the FBI, CIA, or Military Police).

    I don’t doubt that there are people who will take money to go drag someone back to this country for whatever reason. Remember, even though Dog succeeded in bringing his man back to face punishment, he still broke Mexican law himself. He still got paid for it though since he didn’t break any US laws. So yeah, you could be a “Bounty Hunter” and drag people back to this country and you won’t get in trouble with US authorities. It’s the ones in other countries you need to worry about.

  • Thanks for the clarification Quenton. This reminds me that in the “Midnight Run” which Wiz beat me to mentioning, (and which Scott you really should see – it is hilarious), Robert DeNiro plays a bounty hunter hired by an LA bail bondsman to capture Charles Grodin’s character that is hiding in NY.

  • Sunfish

    Some states are different from others. Colorado is not North Carolina.

    Does it lead to courts asking for bail in circumstances when they wouldn’t bother, or higher bail than otherwise would be reasonable, knowing that the defendant bears all the costs and risks if he does appear of those who don’t?

    Our experience, in my corner of Colorado, is no. For the majority of arrests, bonds are pre-set. The judges in a given county or district will publish a schedule that says class-four felonies, no violence involved, carry a bond of $3000, class one felonie are ineligible for bond, class-one misdemeanors require a $1000 bond, etc. The defendant has the option of either posting the bond or calling a bondsman or family member or whoever, as part of the booking process.

    The defendant won’t see the judge until the morning of the next court day, and can ask that the bond amount be reduced.

    Either way, in the vast majority of cases the bond amount is set long before anybody knows whether a bondsman will be involved.

    Do defenders do less, deeming the fee a tarriff, to avoid trial bail or trial than they might?

    I don’t think I understand the question, so forgive me if this is unresponsive. It’s not uncommon for defendants or their lawyers to petition for bond reduction. Judges will often approve reductions based upon hardship arguments.

    Does the defendant get his fee to the bondsman back if he is acquitted? Is it taken into account in setting the tarriff of any punishment?

    They don’t get the money back.

    The bondsman is essentially making a loan, and the 10% is the interest. That loan allows a defendant to walk pre-trial, without having to find other means of convincing the court that he’ll show up. For the majority of cases, there’s a strong legal preference for signed promises to appear without bond, over custodial arrests. When bonds are required, courts typically will only accept cash (or checks, or credit cards) and won’t take other collateral.

    But that 10% being returned is a lot like, in 24 years when I’ve paid off my mortgage, will the bank give me back the interest that I’ll have paid?

    As with all forms of insurance or financial service, is the relative cost much higher for the poor?

    I don’t have numbers, but instinctively I’d say yes. Middle-class and wealthy folks have cash, or can get a loan against their homes, for substantially less than what a bail bondsman will charge.

    Unfair? Maybe. In the 1990′s it was also unfair for conventional banks to deny mortgages to people with bad or no credit, but the solution to that didn’t do society any favors either. Simply put, credit will always be more expensive for the non-creditworthy. In this case, people facing more-serious charges have more incentive to flee, which makes an increased bond more reasonable than it otherwise might have been, and people with histories of failing to appear are also deemed at greater risk of flight. Hence, the increased bonds for these groups of people.

  • Sunfish

    As far as bounty hunting outside the country goes I don’t think it’s legal. Dog attempted to do just that in Mexico and you see where that got him. Chances are that the US will recognize the extradition claims of whatever country you try that in.

    Dog had the bad luck to go into a country with a reputation for harboring US fugitives and provoking annual pissing contests with the US about extraditing people back here. He basically became a bargaining chip.

    There was a similar case in the 1980′s. A drug gang employed a doctor. This doctor was tasked with keeping a kidnapped DEA agent alive during torture. After the agent died, a warrant was written for this doctor.[1]

    Mexico refused to extradite, so a group of DEA agents crossed into Mexico and grabbed him and turned him over to a US district court. The doctor challenged the irregularity of his arrest. The court ruled that, the mere fact that an arrest violated a foreign country’s laws did not invalidate it.

    I don’t think that Dog’s arrestee will walk based upon the illegality of his arrest under Mexican law either. Dog may be in a spot WRT Mexican authorities but the guy he picked up is unlikely to benefit.

    I don’t know what this has to do with anything.

    [1] I don’t know if the torture took place in the US or Mexico.

  • R. Richard Schweitzer

    Amendment VIII; Constitution of the United Staes of America:

    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    What other nations have such provisions in their Constitutions, written or by Common Consensus?

    As almost always with the NYT, the tenor of the article is denigrating of the United States, and the customs and practices herein. Whatever is done here, or the way in which it is done, is almost always compared unfavorably to some presumed (but unexamined) standards extent elsewhere in Western Civilization.

    Is there a system of “criminal justice,” by whatever label given, anywhere in Western Civilization that is not subject to human abuses? Is not the best comparison made by examining what is done about abuses, and the degree of public concern?

    Now, what next from such views as those in the NYT? A public “Bailment Fund” operated as a bureaucracy, funded by tax revenues – conceived of as a safeguard against abuses caused by profit motives – only to geberate its own corruptions?

    Cure: Don’t read the NYT; fewer people are every day.

  • guy herbert

    Thanks, Quenton, Sunfish. Very helpful answers.

    Jacob,

    No, I’m not suggesting that the poor should be made some kind of moral allowance for being poor. I’m suggesting that poor people have less money, and that in the absence of bonds the courts might be willing to offer much lower or free bail to such defendants, knowing it would be harder for them to raise the money than skip bail, and that therefore the practical effect may be to exacerbate biases against the poor created by costs of the system. (Compare the English costs rule in civil cases, where notionally, if not in practice, the wronged party will receive his costs and be made whole.) I think my question has been answered.

    Quenton, Sunfish,

    My question about defenders was addressed to the conduct of lawyers. Putting it another way, does the existence of bail bonds make the lawyer (particularly a salaried public defender) less willing to dispute the existence of a case to answer?

  • guy herbert

    R. Richard Schweitzer,

    It didn’t come from nowhere. The framers were familiar with the English Law, and were attempting to entrench it in a doument. They did pretty well. Meanwhile much of our common law protections have been worn away.

    Even the EU constitutional treaty has very similar protections. What matters is less the words, but whether you can expect or enforce the rights in practice.

  • Sunfish

    Guy Herbert:

    My question about defenders was addressed to the conduct of lawyers. Putting it another way, does the existence of bail bonds make the lawyer (particularly a salaried public defender) less willing to dispute the existence of a case to answer?

    I don’t know, but I don’t think so. Not to any great degree. Forgive me if this is a little wordy.

    Public defenders are usually eager negotiate a plea deal rather than go to trial anyway. There are already a number of reasons for that:

    1) They have a huge caseload. If even 10% of the people facing criminal charges went to trial, we’d fast run out of judges and lawyers. Prosecutors have the same limitation, really, and therefore have the same incentive to let a guy plead to something minor or offer significant sentencing concessions rather than force a case to trial. I don’t like it when my arrestees plead to something minor, get out quickly, and re-offend, but I don’t have a better suggestion.[1]

    2) The odds of acquittal at trial are not entirely favorable. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t go out looking for innocent people to arrest and prosecute. Therefore, before charging someone we put in a certain amount of investigation and generally have decent evidence that the defendant is actually the guilty party. Sometimes, juries disagree, but by the time a jury sees the case there’s[2] been substantial effort to eliminate innocent people from suspicion.[3] If a defense attorney wants to get his client off completely, his best chance is to suppress the evidence pre-trial on the basis that it was seized illegally. If everything is admitted, a conviction on the original charge is very likely.

    Which means, if the existence of bail bonds would make a defense attorney put less effort into a case, it’s such a minor factor as to be lost in the noise. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not afraid to suggest that defense attorneys might engage in ethical breaches. However, I don’t think that they engage in failing to represent the client as aggressively as the law allows.

    Guy again:

    Even the EU constitutional treaty has very similar protections. What matters is less the words, but whether you can expect or enforce the rights in practice.

    I seem to remember that France has that problem: their Constitution enumerates all sorts of nifty rights, but there is no equivalent of the US Supreme Court to enforce them. A legal right without an enforcement mechanism is IMHO pointless. I could be wrong about this, though: I’m very weak on French law.

    [1] I know someone’s at least thinking this, but it’s extremely rare for the non-violent drug offender to see any real inside time. Time served and some form of (loosely-) supervised release is the most common result.

    [2] Leaving aside cops who are either too lazy to conduct a proper investigation or who are acting from actual dishonesty or abuse of power. They’re far less common than people in a separate thread seem to think, but they do exist. I have no polite language suitable to describe them.

    [3] That being said, the US standard of “Proof of guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt” does leave room for innocent people to end up convicted. Extremely rare, but not impossible. A lot of this has turned up over the last decade when a group called the Innocence Project started researching old cases where DNA might have been relevant but couldn’t have been tested at the time due to technological limitations. Hell, not far from me, a guy serving a murder sentence just got set free after it turned out that the police and prosecution failed to turn over significant exculpatory evidence over a decade ago. The existence of exculpatory evidence suggests a possibility of innocence. The whole point of the exercise is to protect the innocent. Again, polite language fails me.

  • Paul Marks

    R.R.S. – yes it is sad that the United States Consitution is not enforced. Although this bit is a bit vague, “excessive” can be interpreted in different ways.

    Guy Herbert.

    The system may have its down side, but the alternative is for the poor to be held in prison to the time of their trial.

    This means (since the breaking of the power of the guards by “Civil Rights”) being raped, otherwise abused and possibly murdered by other inmates.

  • Paul Marks

    R.R.S. – good point about not reading the New York Times.

    The amount of time that conservatives and libertarians spend bitching about this publication is stupid.

    Unlike the B.B.C. no one is forced to pay for the New York Times. It is a leftist publication – so OF COURSE it publishes leftist stuff.

    “But journalism is supposed to be objective”.

    No that is Progressive movement propaganda from the early 1900′s.

    A newspaper article, whether on the editorial pages or on the “hard news” pages, uses information in the context of a view of the world.

    Those who say they are “objective” in how they report the news are either fooling themselves or trying to fool everyone else.

    If you do not like the view of the world that is most common in one newspaper – then buy another one.

  • Paul Marks

    Sunfish.

    There is a Constitutional Council in France – how good it is I do not know.

    However, E.U. law trumps French law.

    “But the French ignore Euro directives”.

    They do for a time – but eventually……

  • Russ

    I have been a bail bondsman for 39 years in Miami, Florida. I have seen them come and seen them go. I can tell you that our system in the United States is the best anywhere in the free world and decisions are made daily all over our country as to what can possibly be done to better the system.
    In answer to one question raised here in this blog about the poor people and their ability to make bail, there is an ongoing push nationally to implement a program called pre-trial services also known as pre-trial release. In south- florida this program came about by way of a federal lawsuit concerning the violation of certain civil rights of detainees. Many detainees found themselves languishing in jail without the ability to secure their own release on bail due to their financial inabilities. This caused a spike in the jail population and caused the Federal Court to mandate a cap on the jail population and directed the county(ies) to either build new jails (which is a cluster of issues that bear no answers and only makes the counties look for alternative solutions which is why pre-trial release exists) or release detainees on a mass basis to keep the jail population below the daily cap. Should the county fail to adhere to the mandate the result would be a fine of $1,000.00 daily for everday the population exceeds the cap. This brought about the need for some sort of vehicle to allow the county(ies) a way out from under the mandate not to mention the liability they faced from the class action lawsuit. Hence, “PRE-TRIAL RELEASE”. Initially, pre-trial release was implemented with the concept in mind that it was for non-violent, indigent, first time offenders. That was in 1972. Things were different in 1972. I can only tell you that since 1990 we have watched as the county (Miami-Dade County, Miami, Florida) has used pre-trial release as a conduit to release defendants en masse daily just to reduce the jail population. They have no concern for the safety of the public. Their only concern is the exposure legally to the federal lawsuit and what their consequences might be should they fail to adhere to the mandat. Since pre-trial “IS” the county, they have successfully entrenched themselves to the point where they stand right next to the Judge at both bond hearings daily and as each defendant’s name is called they just turn to the Judge and say “we’ll take em, Judge” and the Judge then rubber stamps the release of that defendant to “pre-trial release”. In the meantime, pre-trial services has no method of monitoring anyone nor do they have any arrest powers should someone fail to appear. Since pre-trial came into light, the number of defendants failing-to-appear has skyrocketed. And to really kick you where it counts, pre-trial release or pre-trial services is a tax payer funded program. So, that being the case, that means (using Miami as an example) out of the 400 people arrested everyday in Miami that go before a magistrate(and by the way, most wait and don’t bond out at time of arrest because they’re told if they wait for the hearing they will get out free through the program)….80% to 85% are released to pre-trial services. So, that means that 80 to 85% of the people that we fear the most are being given a free pass and to make matters worse….we’re paying to release them! We’re paying to release the people we want arrested and held because they pose the greatest danger and risk to us. It just doesn’t make sense…especially since their is already a system in place to release people….and the purpose of that system is to guaranty the persons appearance in court and should they fail to appear someone that stands to lose financially will be looking for that person to bring them back to stand before their peers to answer to whatever they have been charged with and be held accountable. That’s what the system is designed for….and it is “NOT” at a cost to taxpayers and everyday, behind the scenes thousands of indiividuals like myself work many long hours doing just that….monitoring defendants and working through their networks to secure many defendants appearance before courts all throughout the Unitesd States.

    In many states a bounty hunter must be a licensed bondsman/woman. This places the accountability squarely on the bail bond industry and not on an outsource such as a independent contractor/ bounty hunter licensed outside of our regulatory standards.

    By the way, Bondsmen may have many relationships with many attorneys over the years as it relates to their respective clients but make no mistake, bondsmen are outside of the relationship an attorney has with a client or the relationship an attorney has with the Court or the relationship an attorney may have with a state attorney he or she may be negotiating with. Consequently, any thoughts you may have of “back door dealing” really don’t exist these days. I’m not suggesting it doesn’t happen, i’m suggesting it’s not the norm.

    A bail bondsman’s bond is not to be used towards payment of a fine or restitution….strictly to guaranty someones appearance before the court each and every time until their case is closed. When the case is closed the bond is exonerated and the bail bondsman is relieved of their liability. At that time the person that made themselves financially responsible to the bondsman (the guarantor/indemnitor) is relieved of their responsibility by way of releasing back to them whatever they pledged as collateral security. (Real property/cash, etc.)

    The person in the New York Times article has also been a bondsman a long time and I happen to know him well. He has spent many years as a leader in our industry and has brought many defendants back to justice. The article is a strange twist at looking at our industry and makes one think “what is the agenda here?” Are they suggesting that because the bail bond industry is private enterprise it doesn’t belong because it penalizes the poor or causes a defendant who might not be guilty or eventually is acquitted of charges (for whatever reason) to be out of pocket or financially penalized without guilt. My understanding of the system is that an individual that gets arrested and finds themselves outside of what society looks at as socially acceptable “MAY”…… for the purpose of assisting in their own defense….post bond to secure their release in a fashion as to secure their appearance in Court. This may be done by a friend or immediate family member arriving at the jail and putting up the amount of their bail in cash with the Court by way of the jail. That person would be given a receipt and upon the closing of the case (or upon adjudication of the case) these proceeds would then be returned to the individual that payed the bail. In the event a defendant didn’t have the resources to reach out to someone to help them post their bail an alternative was made available by way of someone outside of the immediate family or friends scenerio paying the amount of money necessary to secure their release…but in the form of a loan to the defendant. Since the money (bail) is being paid by someone that doesn’t really know the defendant and since their is an inherent risk involved…and since the concern of the Judiciary is the securing of the return of the defendant to Court…it only makes sense that the money being pledged for the defendant be looked upon as a loan and be secured in some manner. In addition, since it is a loan then a fee of some sort should be earned just as in a normal business manner (probably akin to a standard interest rate. This then leaves a defendant two options to consider when attempting to secure ones release. I don’t find this to be rudely in favor of a bail bondsman nor do i find it to be out of rythm with what might be considered reasonable…in fact, I find that it makes sense and puts in place a system that both satsifies the need of a defendant and the judicial systems need to bring the defendant before the Court. I feel the New York Times is out of step in their article.

    Back to the pre-trial release issue…..thirty days ago the pre-trial release program was before the Mayor and County Commission in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Broward County). The had done an internal study and had determined their own need to increase their budget by an additonal $1.5 million dollars for the upcoming 2008 and an additional $2.4 million dollars for 2009. Their intent was to rev-up their releases by increasing their staff and going from courtroom to courtroom all day long everyday to secure Judges signatures on “Orders of Release” allowing defendants to be released in large numbers to assist in what they deemed was not at critical levels yet but the jail apopulation was nearing levels of concern. After a day of deliberation before the Commission, they were instructed to obey by the following resolution:
    1: they are to begin immediately releasing misdemeanants first. (they had been releasing felonies only….and leaving the jail full of defendants charged with lesser crimes such as traffic and misdemeanors…no wonder the jail was beginning to fill)
    2. they are to begin interviewing defendants to determine whether or not they are indigent…and if it is determined that they are not indigent and that they have the financial where-with-all to afford posting bail…then they should not be released at the expense of taxpayer dollars and instead they should have to post bond.
    3. they are to follow Fla Statute 907…which ststaes that nineteen certain crimes “ARE NOT” eligible for release to the taxpayer funded program under any circumstance. These crimes are the most dangerous of crimes and have been standardly released pre-trial for many years, contrary to the statute.
    It seems that the pendulum is finally swinging back to the right and in doing so it seems that Broward County finally gets it! I wouldn’t be surprised if you, the reader will see this result take place in County after County across the US….it sets a precedence that has long been needed……to correct itslef.

    By the way, don’t be surprised if you see the American Bar wake up also to the fact that everytime they release someone to pre-trial services they almost always give them a free attorney…at your expense!! Public Defenders have their hands full…..they have a difficult time keeping up with whom they represent not to mention not having any time to visit that defendant to discuss their case with them prior to trial.

    As far as going out of different jurisdictions or countries to locate and/or apprehend a defendant…it’s all about how you handle yourself….or your business. I have never had an instant of difficulty in the country or out. I have brought defendants back from Mexico (which is very difficult to do) …France…….the Netherlands…..Jamaica……South America…and many other places. I would say that your ability to locate, apprehend and return someone has a lot to do with your networking. Usually, i would make contact with the local authorities in advance so they would be a part in what we were doing…and in most cases they are more than willing to assist. The previous writer is correct though, in instances where extradition is not in place a bounty hunter/bondsman may find him/her self in a position that no one wants to be in. If you were to take someone out of a state or country that does not recognize extradition or bail bond laws as they apply to fugitive recovery, they can be charged with kidnapping and find themselves without any support within our industry or legal community. Not a good idea.

    I should mention that bail bondsman, with the exception of a professional bail bondsman (seperate license for a bondsman that puts up his own cash as opposed to a bondsman that is an agent of an insurance company licensed to do business in that particular state) work through insurance companies which in turn file a statement of their rates with the State each year declaring what they are charging as a bond fee (bond premium) for the posting of the bail to each defendant. In other words, what bondsmen are charging defendants to get out of jail is delared formally in writing by each insurance carrier licensed to write bail in each state. This way the fees are regulated.

    I’ve tried to give you a little insight into our industry. It is a very multi-faceted business. When i got my license I was the 26th bondsman in Miami….now there are over 800……and then their’s pre-trial!

    Russ/Miami

  • jazzy

    if a bailbondsman agrees to accept full payment of bond the day before court,because the indemnitor told him they have no plans to go to court,and he was paid in full ,should he be trying to come after the indemnitor, or could it be that he broke the law?or is the indemnitor “square wih the house”and if he does decide he wants both ,should the indemnitor get the money back?

  • barbiee

    i have a question. My bf was late on paying the bondsman. When he went to their office they arrested him took what money he had his license everything. Is that legal? In his stuff he was holding my social security card and birth certificate. Do they have a right to keep them? i have nothing to do with their deal or ect. My bf says i cant get them back. what do you think?