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Young People Should Not Bail on Experience

Posted November 2, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Commercial Bail  - 1 Comment

What profession can survive without a new generation of young people seeking an opportunity to etch out a career and strive

 for prosperity in a chosen field?  Commercial bail is no exception.  Trained, experienced and enthusiastic young people are critical to our survival.

Earlier this week I traveled to Waco, Texas to attend a hearing before the McLennan County Bail Bond Board where a young Chase Chapman was seeking approval of his first corporate surety license appointment, the application was approved marking a pivotal moment in Chase’ future in bail.   

Chase is now officially a second generation bondsman.  He’s been around bail bonds all his life shadowing his father Terry in his bonding office and at the county jail.  Documented experience is prerequisite to obtaining a bail license in Texas and Chase more than qualifies.

Bail is like few others in that you are always on the clock, your phone is always ringing and in most cases the jail is always open.  Writing bail in Texas is particularly labor intensive.  Homestead laws prohibit securing residential real estate as collateral so more emphasis is placed on regular contact with clients.  This means daily check-in’s by phone or in person as well as notifying all clients when they are next due to appear for court.

Chase has placed himself in a good position to do well in the bail bond business.  He has put in the time, effort and training to give himself the best opportunity for success.  With bail comes financial risk and it does not suffer well the untrained and inexperienced.

The bail profession needs young men and woman willing to undergo an apprenticeship with veteran agents before seeking out ownership.  Individuals such as these serve to strengthen a profession that serves as the backbone of the criminal justice system.

Congratulations Chase I know you will make your father and fellow bondsmen proud.

Sooner Bail A-OK

Posted June 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Commercial Bail  - 1 Comment

Oklahoma City, OK – I attended the Oklahoma Bondsman Association annual meeting of the Board of Directors June 3.  The meeting was held at OBA headquarters in Oklahoma City, just down the street from the State’s Capitol building.   The meeting had respectable attendance. Most Oklahoma bondsmen obtain their association updates at continuing education classes held several times a year.

The OBA is sound financially, generating revenue from membership dues.  Oklahoma’s only statewide bonding association is also very effective on the legislative front.  They supported the passing of SB 9 which would have removed the ten bond limit on counties outside a bondsman’s home county.  This bill was ultimately vetoed by the governor who cited litigation pending on this issue.  The ten bond limit is an ongoing point of contention between surety underwriters and professional bondsmen.  OBA pledged to continue its legislative efforts to rid the state of the ten bond limit.

Bail enforcement legislation was passed this session.  While SB 1013 was not an OBA effort, they did have input on the bill’s language.  This bill was signed into law May 31, 2013 and goes into effect September 1, 2013.  SB 1013 establishes licensing and regulation for bail enforcement agents under section 1350 of Title 59 of the Oklahoma Statutes.  OBA representatives took steps to ensure bail agents would still have the authority to conduct fugitive recoveries.

The OBA Board of Directors approved a $5000 donation to help those adversely impacted by the recent onslaught of historic tornadoes to hit the state.

Finally, there may be a change in leadership during the OBA’s officer and board member elections taking place this month.  OBA’s president Dudley Goolsby, Jr. will be looking to retain his leadership position.  OBA is a well run organization with the challenge of representing the interest of both corporate surety backed bail agents and professional bondsmen.  No easy task.

What the Bail?

Posted May 22, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock,MCBA Executive Vice President under Commercial Bail, Legislation, Meeting Recaps, and SGW Golf  - 0 Comments

After a three week lull in travel in early April, I was off and running again with trips to Texas, California, Georgia and Tennessee.  Amid my travels I tried to keep abreast of critical legislative events occurring in Alabama, California, Colorado, Louisiana and Missouri.
 
Alabama bondsmen tried in vain to defeat the implementation of an oppressive $35 bond fee while California bail groups make their opposition known on the Hancock bill (SB1180) that provides the first option of release to be on one’s own recognizance. We can trust them, right?
 
Over in Colorado there was a harmony of efforts to continue the authority of the Division of Insurance to regulate bail through 2017. It appears all interested parties walked away happy though not fully satisfied. That’s when you know it’s the best you’re going to get.
 
The commercial bail community in Louisiana has its hands full curtailing the expansion of ten percent cash bail and the encroachment of taxpayer funded pretrial release. Then there is the Show Me State whose bail agents are supporting the passing of a measure that says, Missouri courts cannot set a cash-only bond. BTW, this is already provided for in that state’s constitution. See Article One, Section 20.
 
As always, you only need click on our 2012 Bail Bond Legislative Update to review bills from these states and others across the county to see what legislative measures can impact bail in your market.
 
On the travel schedule, next month I’ll be a guest instructor at a continuing education class presented by the Oklahoma Bondsman Association speaking about public pretrial release programs. From there I’m scheduled to attend FSAA’s 40th Anniversary Celebration in Cocoa Beach, PBUS Mid-Year Meeting in San Diego, the MBAA General Assembly Meeting in Bay St. Louis and the PBT 3rd Quarter Meeting in Ft. Worth. The PBT meeting coincides with the 23rd Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament August 1st, where we anticipate raising a significant donation, with tremendous help from generous bail agents to underwrite the costs of sending as many as 85 kids who are battling cancer to Camp Esperanza. This is a day I look forward to every year.
 
All bail agents should support their state and national associations with their time and money.  Without these valuable entities the commercial bail industry would be defenseless against those who seek to eliminate our profession and replace bail with yes, an air sandwich.

That’s all for today, I have to get downtown for Indiana’s spring meeting of bail agents. It’s going to be a blockbuster.

Generational Bail

Posted April 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Commercial Bail  - 2 Comments

I got up early this morning to pick-up my folks, Jack and Annette, at their home to run them out to the airport. They were flying to Ft. Lauderdale where they will board a cruise ship that will take them south then west through the Panama Canal and ultimately to their final destination of San Diego. The trip will take about three weeks. Life after bail.
 
During the drive out to Indianapolis International we discussed bail, as usual. After working for him, with him, for 18 years, bail is still part of our regular conversations. I mentioned to him “I’m working with James Conrad, a recovery agent out of Memphis who asked me to pass along a hello.”  Jack said, “Hell, he’s as old as I am and he’s still going at it?” Dad is 76. I mentioned he was actually calling me from his hospital bed where he was recovering from his third heart attack. Wanted to let me know he had a new lead on a fugitive we’ve been chasing now for eight months. Conrad worked with Jack in the 70s while in Memphis when Jack owned Allied Bonding Company.
 
During the thirty minute drive back to the office I was reminded of the times in the mid-eighties when I used to run dad to the airport when he was running the bail program at Allied Fidelity. I drove a four door gold Nova (back when sedan’s were un-cool for single twenty something’s) and invariably my tank would be on E. I would get that classic head shake from Dad that would result in a free fill-up (strategic thinking in development).
 
Not a lot has changed in bail between the 70s, 80s and today. Commercial bail is still written in nearly every state in the country. Our industry still battles the unwelcome encroachment of government who believe they can do our job better without the weight of accountability,  taxes, overhead and a 24/7/365 work regimen. Bail agents still have to assume risk and chase fugitives at great expense and under the duress of suffering a potential loss while still trying to make payroll. Government pre-trial employees have none of these concerns relative to their job and regularly enjoy a peaceful night sleep.
 
I often get calls from people wanting to get in the bail bond business, who want to make bail their livelihood for the next thirty years. Sometimes it’s retired law enforcement and other times it’s someone fresh out of college who has that entrepreneurial spirit. Either way, I figure we were all new to this business once so it’s nice to help out others who believe the bail bond business is right for them.
 
Whether it’s meeting and working with veteran bail agents from all over the country or speaking with someone who is just curious about how bail bonds work, every day is a good day. My mom and dad, who are now enjoying the fruits of a successful career in bail, are a constant reminder if I continue to work hard, give back to my profession and conduct myself with integrity and professionalism, good things will come. I love my dad for all he has taught me and I am proud of the fact my profession, commercial bail, is a vital, private sector component to a government run criminal justice system. Collectively we do our level best to protect and serve the public, by providing service to our communities, reducing jail crowding and ensuring justice for crime victims by bringing offenders to trial. It’s going to be a great day. 

Has it been 30 years?

Posted January 3, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Commercial Bail  - 14 Comments

On the drive into work today it occurred to me last month marked my thirtieth year in bail. The ink was barely dry on my diploma from Plano Senior High School in December 1981 when I took a job as a runner for Guaranty Bail Bonds in downtown Dallas. While I’m a second generation bondsman, my first job was not working for my father, Jack Whitlock (though I would eventually work for him for more than 20 years), but my older brother who actually got me a job as a runner. My brother got out of the business and while I didn’t know it at the time, bail became my career choice.
The life of a bond runner is far from glamorous. It’s a hard job, you’re effectively a gofer.   Go post this bond, go wait for the defendant to be released, take an application, call the client with his court date, etc. I went through more than one set of tires on my ’78 Nova, running bonds to jails all over Dallas County. Only bondsmen and law enforcement can recognize the particular fragrance defendants can acquire after a night in jail. Aside from that, most clients were glad to see me, as I was their savior of the moment. Most were good people going through a bad experience.
I also recall working the graveyard shift, when downtown Dallas was asleep and eerily quiet. Parking was not a problem that time of night and if I paced myself, I could make every green light on Commerce Street as I returned from posting a bond at the county jail. Still the nights were endless and unforgiving.
I worked for three bonding companies before going to work for Texas Fire & Casualty as a bottom rung claims processor. It was at TF&C, and a year later at Allied Fidelity, I first started working with the likes of Don Floyd (GA), Marvin Byron (CA), Bud Goldberg (MN), Carl Guillory (LA) and Linda Braswell (FL), the current president of PBUS. Good people all.
I learned a tremendous amount during my first five years in bail which helped me through the subsequent twenty-five and today. It’s when I began working with bail agents in nearly every state in the country I really began seeing the big picture of what commercial bail means to the criminal justice system and the forces who work to eliminate our profession. The few years I spent in retail has helped me relate to the bail agents I’ve contracted through the years.

Bail has become my passion.  Working in this profession has allowed me to provide for my family.   I’ve been truly blessed to work with my father for more than twenty years and have partners like Bill Carmichael and P.J. Longstreth and work with a great staff of experienced good people. The bail agents I work with everyday are hard working decent people trying to make a difference and my wife Marcia and our kids who have been tolerant of my odd work hours and extended travel schedule. It’s been a good ride so far and I’m looking forward to many more years working in this noble profession. Happy New Year!

CCJJ Behind Alternative Bond Bill

Posted May 11, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President, American Surety Company under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, and Legislation  - 5 Comments

The Alternative Bond bill SB11-186 died last night, after being assigned to House Appropriations, as the 2011 legislative session ended. The Alternative Bond, at its core, is a scheme for Colorado courts to engage in the bail bond business by collecting premiums normally paid to bail agents for posting a bail bond. Unlike the bail bond agent, the courts would have no risk of paying the full bond if a defendant was not timely rearrested after a failure to appear.   This concept is taken from the old government playbook; take your money with no responsibility to perform and cloak it in a disguise of being in the interest of public safety.
SB11-186 had passed through the Senate last week by the narrowest of margins (18-17) and simply did not have sufficient time to get through the House, or did it? It is more likely that the arguments and evidence offered by the commercial bail industry was sufficient enough to erode support for SB11-186 in the House. Some House members simply could not support adding several hundred bail agents to the unemployment scrolls, while at the same time costing the state millions of dollars in annual revenues generated by the bail industry.  As House Sponsor Rep. Waller testified yesterday when the bill was heard before the House Judiciary Committee, “I don’t want to see even one bail agent put out of business”.
The Alternative Bond was the brainchild of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). The CCJJ was established by the Colorado Legislature in 2007 through HB07-1358. The Mission Statement of the CCJJ is, “to enhance public safety, to ensure justice, and to ensure protection of the rights of victims through cost-effective use of public resources.”
The CCJJ is comprised entirely of public servants, with the possible exception of three at-large members which could come from the private sector. CCJJ representatives testifying in support of SB11-186 were chastised by members of the Judiciary Committee for not having invited a member of the commercial bail bond industry to participate in discussion regarding an alternative bond concept.   In reading the CCJJ Bi-Laws, such an appointment may be prohibited in that any member must recuse him or herself should they have a pecuniary interest in the subject matter. Well, that pretty much leaves out the private sector in general as every taxpayer in Colorado has a financial interest in matters discussed by CCJJ.
There are 26 members of the CCJJ. Senator Morse and Representative Waller, the Senate and House sponsors of SB11-186 are both members of this commission. In addition to the 26 members of the commission there are several subcommittees i.e. Behavioral Health, Comprehensive Sentencing, Drug Policy Task Force, Legislative, etc. These committees are comprised of public servants ranging from police chiefs to various heads of probation departments. No one from the private sector, save a private defense attorney, has been included.
The commercial bail bond industry’s fight to preserve bail in Colorado was unprecedented and most importantly successful, this time.  Representative Waller and members of the bail bond community agreed to work together over the next year to discuss issues relating perceived problems with the expedited release of pretrial detainees.  This is a welcome opportunity because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. We only need to be invited to participate. 

Thus comes the end of a very long two months. What was it the ring announcer said after Rocky fought Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) to a draw in Rocky III?  “Thank God”, (it’s over).

Colorado Public Bail Scheme Legislation Delayed

Posted April 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President, American Surety Company under Commercial Bail, Legislation, and Surety Bail Bonds  - 4 Comments

Senate Bill 11-186 was scheduled to be heard today in the Senate Appropriations Committee when Senator Morse, the bill’s sponsor, didn’t show. The bill was ordered held over by Senator Steadman and is expected to be heard next week.
It’s very likely Senator Morse has seen the writing on the wall and believes his bill is fated to fail. SB 11-186, should it pass, would run bail agents out of business once the courts began releasing criminal defendants from jail on unsecured bail. Such a move would not only place Colorado bail bond agents on the unemployment scrolls, it would cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue generated annually from the payment of premium taxes, licensing fees, court costs and bond forfeitures.
The negative fiscal impact SB 11-186 would create for the state is what has given pause to those legislators considering this measure. Like every other state in the country Colorado is looking for ways to increase revenues, not do away with a steady flow of income as is provided by the commercial bail bonds industry.
Of course, there is also the issue of bail bond agents providing a critical role in the criminal justice system by getting defendants to court and recovering those who fail to appear at no expense to taxpayers, but these days it’s all about the Benjamins.

Adding up the Fiscal Positives of Commercial Bail Bonds

Posted March 21, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President American Surety Company under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, and Legislation  - 3 Comments

Gone are the days of the bail agent justifying their purpose and function by stating ‘we get our man to court’. That is, if our defendant decides not to show for court, we track him down and return him to the custody of the court at no cost to the taxpayer, and in those few instances where the defendant cannot be located, the bond is paid in full.
 
Private sector commercial enterprises that assume risk for a profit and carry out their responsibilities, to the best of their abilities in order to avoid loss are under attack by state government entities who seek to put us out of business by getting in our business. Colorado Senator John Morse, sponsor of the bail industry killing legislation known as SB 186, said it quite clearly when introducing his bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month, “the courts want to get into the bail bond business”.
 
The bail bond industry demonstrating its superior effectiveness of government pretrial release programs and deposit programs is no longer all that is needed or required to defend against unwanted government competition. Commercial bail must now show our industry’s revenue generating component, one that is fiscally positive to the counties and states where bail bonds are utilized.
 
There are several ways where commercial bail can and does generate revenue for counties and states. First, there are tens of thousands of dollars generated from licensing bail bond agents and appointing agents with surety companies. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars paid in premium taxes by the surety companies in every state, every year. There are millions of dollars paid in bail bond forfeitures where a defendant could not be located within the legal time frame. These are tangible and calculable dollars that can be gathered and offered as evidence of the commercial bail industry’s positive fiscal impact on state revenues.
 
Harder to quantify are the intangible savings to county and states courts and law enforcement agencies. Thousands of man hours go into seeing defendants appear in court and tracking and retrieving those defendants who have failed to appear for court.
 
In order for the commercial bail industry to effectively fend off unfair government competition, bail agents and sureties alike must begin logging and documenting costs associated with the apprehension and return of fugitives and losses paid in those instances where a fugitive cannot be returned. This information should be gathered by state associations and insurance associations where the data can be batched and included in a useable and comprehensive report.
 
Bail bond agents should not be discouraged at these attempts by government to put them out of a job while placing communities at higher risk of increased crime. We have the ammunition in the form of vital information right at our finger tips. We only need to fill our quivers with this data to effectively convince the powers that be that commercial bail cannot only outperform any other form of pre-trial release; our industry can generate millions of dollars in revenue in the process

Sureties, CO Bail Agents Unite to Fight Alternative Bond Legislation

Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA under Commercial Bail, and Legislation  - 5 Comments

Denver, Colorado - Room 356 on the third floor of austere Colorado State Capitol proved too small for the throngs of bail bond agents attending the Senate Hearing on SB11-186. The committee chair was left no choice but to move, what would be a two and half hour hearing, to the “Old Supreme Court Chambers”
 
This past Monday SB11-186 was introduced after the filing deadline through the use of a procedure maneuver. SB11-186 would create an alternative bond with a  self-funding mechanism for the expansion of an already self-righteous, rights bludgeoning pretrial services agency. Funding would come through the implementation of a deposit requirement of which pretrial services could require a deposit of up to 15%. Of the amount deposited, pretrial services would retain 50% of the deposit while the remaining 50% of the deposit would be applied to fines and costs upon conviction.
 
 
 
Once alerted to SB11-186, the Colorado bail community came together quickly, holding several meetings on Tuesday to develop a strategy and coordinate testimony on how to derail SB11-186. 
 
I was fortunate enough to be in the area and attend these meetings on behalf of American Surety Company and as a representative of the American Bail Coalition (ABC).  Earlier on Tuesday, ABC had retained the services of a lobbyist to represent the interest of the surety companies and their bail bond agents doing business in Colorado.
 
A large of number of bail bond agents answered the call and turned out for the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing held Wednesday afternoon. Testimony came from Dave Hyatt of Pioneer, six bail agents and myself. Also testifying was attorney L. Jay Labe, chair of the Colorado Bail Round Table.
 
Opposition testimony centered on the job killing, revenue killing impact SB11-186 would have on the bail industry and the State of Colorado. Those in favor of the measure said the proposed Alternative Bond is just another option for the judge to consider when releasing a defendant. Harmless. What was not said was pretrial services employees were in a unique position to influence a judge into routinely requiring the Alternative Bond and release through pretrial services thus slowly eradicating commercial bail and putting hundreds of bail agents out of work and thousands of failure to appear warrants on the books.
 
In the end, the prospect of losing more than $500,000 in annual premium taxes to the state general fund was enough for the committee to send SB11-186 to the appropriations committee where the fiscal impact of passing SB11-186 can be considered.
 
While SB11-186 is not dead it has been delayed. Any bill that is deemed to be fiscally negative (will cost the state money) has little chance of passing in these cash strapped days of budget deficits.
 
I’m a huge fan of the hard working bail bond agent and I was very impressed with how bail agents and surety companies worked together in a very short period of time to protect the commercial bail industry in Colorado. This spirit must continue if we are to ultimately defeat this legislation, which is not only bad for the bail industry but bad for Colorado.

Commercial Bail Regrouping in Colorado

Posted December 6, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, Meeting Recaps, and Surety Bail Bonds  - 0 Comments

 
The defeat of Proposition 102 in November was asetback to the advancement of commercial bail in Colorado. Prop.102 would have limited the use of free release to first time offenders and created a safer environment for Coloradans while increasing the use of secured bail bonds. Bail bond agents and sureties doing business in the Rocky Mountain state will now work to find a way forward.
 
I was travelling in Colorado last week, this time with a travel buddy, Gary Logue. Gary is Assistant Vice President for American Surety Company, in charge of Underwriting. He’s been with the company for 20 years and is a valuable asset.
 
Our objective for this trip was to meet with every ASC agent, review their client files and make sure they were in compliance with the statutes. Anything less will get you a fine in Colorado.
 
In speaking with each agent there was palpable concern with what the fallout will be with the defeat of Prop. 102. Add in the sunset provision of the bail regulations coming up in 2012 and it was enough to give one pause.
 
Many bail agents who were in favor of passing Prop. 102 were not necessarily in agreement with the strategy employed in that process. The bail industry nationwide has always taken an approach of education and cooperation, building relationships and working closely with state legislators to facilitate the passing of bail friendly legislation. The effort behind 102 seemed to have been a “no holds barred” approach where the means would justify the end result. The end result was the measure failed and many public officials were left wondering what to think of bail agents in Colorado.
 
As for the renewal of the bail regulations in 2012, this should not be taken lightly though it is unlikely commercial bail will not continue in Colorado. Commercial bail provides a vital service to every community ensuring criminal defendants appear in court. The state also generates revenue from unresolved forfeitures.
 
New Colorado Association
While Gary and I were in Colorado we learned of a meeting being held by a recently formed bail agent association, the Rocky Mountain Bail Agents. The meeting was held at the Ramada Inn in Thornton, just north of Denver, Thursday, December 2nd.
 
There was a somewhat surprising turnout of sixty agents and surety company representatives at this meeting. One bail bond agent could not recall seeing this many agents in one setting. Historically, Colorado has had a difficult time keeping a viable association active.
 
I was asked to say a few words in support of the effort to start the new agent association. Speaking from the heart, I asked those in attendance to support any effort that would improve the circumstances in their state. Putting aside competitive differences and working together in a professional manner was the key to ensuring a successful outcome.
 
Colorado agents are right to be concerned about the future of commercial bail in their state. Sitting on their hands could guarantee their fate; apathy can be corrosive. However, active participation and financial contributions to lobbying efforts is the best remedy for success. I’ll be on bail agents every time to get the job done.
 

A Hop, Skip and a Jump to Year End Bail Meetings

Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock,MCBA under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, Meeting Recaps, Pretrial Release, and Surety Bail Bonds  - 0 Comments

I knew when I originally planned this recent trip it would be very taxing on me personally and to my fellow road warriors in the bail bond industry. State bail agent associations typically do not plan their events around events held in other states. So, when I took a look at the week of October 15, I saw trouble ahead, California, South Carolina and Texas would all be holding year end meetings this same week. The challenge was on.
The California Bail Agents Association held their 31st Annual Convention at Bally’s Las Vegas, October 17-19. The South Carolina Bail Agents Association held their 2010 Annual Conference in Columbia, October 20, while the Professional Bondsmen of Texas held their Annual Convention at The Menger Hotel in San Antonio, October 20-23.
My week began Sunday in Las Vegas where I participated in an American Bail Coalition (ABC) board meeting to review the positive efforts made in 2010 and to help plan a strategy for 2011. ABC remains a cohesive group of bail insurance companies and will continue to act in the best interest of commercial surety bail agents.
The CBAA meeting started with the Welcome Reception Sunday night. A CE class was held Monday morning with the big dinner and bocce ball tournament that night. 
During the Monday morning session, San Jose area attorney Ash Pirayou gave an update of his efforts on behalf of the Santa Clara Bail Association to curtail the use of pretrial services operating in that county. Santa Clara County has one of the country’s largest pretrial service agencies operating for more than 40 years. Their current strategy is to propose a new policy which is to base a defendant’s qualification for release through pretrial released on their stated income. An income verification policy would significantly reduce the number of financially able offenders from getting free bail.
Mr. Pirayou and the bail agents of Santa Clara County are seeking donations from bail agents and surety companies alike to support their fight against pretrial release. They believe a victory in Santa Clara County will have a profound impact on pretrial services operating not only in California, but throughout the Untied States. Email Ash Pirayou at apirayou@rutan.com to see how you can help.
Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was also a guest speaker. He spoke of his support of bail agents and his efforts to curtail the use of soliciting around courthouses and jails. Several “sidewalk marketers” have been arrested for soliciting and there are more to come according to Mr. Trutanich. This was welcome news to CBAA members who responded with huge applause.
CBAA lobbyist Kathy Lynch provided an update on pending legislation that would impact the bail bond industry in California. Notably, AB 1369, was recently passed by the General Assembly only to be  vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. This bill would have granted authority to correctional administrators to release inmates who remained in jail 20 days after arraignment, on electronic monitoring. AB 1369 was not introduced by CBAA, though CBAA worked closely with legislators to make sure AB 1369 would not adversely impact commercial bail. AB 1369 is expected to be refiled after a new governor takes office in 2012.
South Carolina
Tuesday morning I flew cross country to Columbia, South Carolina to attend the SCBAA meeting Wednesday morning. Approximately 125 were in attendance, each of whom received an nice computer bag with the SCBAA and ASC logos.
The meeting consisted of visits from Past Deputy Attorney General Alan Wilson who is running for Attorney General of South Carolina and U.S. Senator Vincent Sheheen who is making a bid to become the state’s next governor. Both are avid supporters of commercial bail. Melanie Ledgerwood of Accredited Surety and Casualty presented a power point presentation on Pretrial Release Services which was very informative and alarming. South Carolina Court Administrator Walter Leverette reviewed bond hearing procedures.
SCBAA President Mike Curlee disseminated information prior to the meeting about how several counties have begun charging a fee of $10.00 on each bond written in General Sessions Court citing South Carolina Code of Laws Section 8-21-310(13).
During the upcoming legislative session SCBAA will continue to focus on curtailing the use of deposit bail and pretrial services. Both programs are ill-suited to guarantee a defendant’s appearance in court.
Texas
The annual meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas was once again held at The Menger Hotel in San Antonio, the 2011 conference will be held at the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio. The 4th PBT Golf Classic, which was well attended, raised a princely sum for the PBT PAC. American Surety Company sponsored the Welcome Reception at Pat O’Brien’s Pub. This event is always fun and draws a great crowd. During the reception, Jerry Watson with AIA Surety was presented the Award of Distinction (formerly the Friends of PBT Award) for his longtime association with PBT and for his many contributions to bail in Texas.
The Opening Ceremony on Friday got off to a great start with entertainment from Bill Riggs, a positive attitude speaker and magician. He had everyone in the room slapping a knee.
A Town Hall Meeting was held in the afternoon. Scott Walstad, Chair of the PBT Legislative Committee brought everyone up to speed on the 2011 legislative agenda and addressed all questions.
Dinner and reception that Friday evening included an auction with items such as a Texas shaped guitar, rattlesnake wine bottle holder and iPad with proceeds going to Texas Bail PAC. The following day at the Award Luncheon, Michael Kubosh of Houston was issued the President’s Award while Marjorie Walstad of Dallas received the Professional Bondsmen of the Year.
Six nights on the road was a long time even for me. After a week of rest I’ll be back on the road for more. Just ahead are meetings in Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee which, of course, I will file a report. 

Elections Day is next Tuesday. Don’t forget to vote!

Trekking in the Northwest

Posted September 30, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President American Surety Company under Commercial Bail, and Deposit Bail  - 0 Comments

Another hearing on reinstating commercial bail in Oregon and a WSBAA meeting in Fife, Washington put me in the Upper Northwest last week.
The American Bail Coalition is in its third year of an effort to bring commercial bail back to Oregon, after nearly forty years, offering an additional release option to judges interested in guaranteeing a defendant returns for trial.
Jerry Watson testified before a joint committee on September 22 at the State Capitol in Salem. As expected, he did an excellent job articulating the merits of commercial bail and its positive impact both from a fiscal and public safety standpoint.
The bill draft is currently in the hands of Legislative Counsel and yet to be filed. This being the case, Committee Co-Chairs Barker and Prozanski were taken aback when Sheriff Todd Anderson, representing the Sheriffs Association and Scott Taylor, head of Multnomah County Pretrial Services, testified in opposition to a bill that had not yet been filed. Anderson and Taylor were both caught flat footed when asked if they were aware the intent of the draft bill was to reintroduce commercial bail as a release option for judges, not to replace pretrial services or the deposit bail system. Did they have a problem with judges having more release options at their disposal? (crickets)
Little patience will be granted to any state agency standing in opposition to the reinstatement of commercial bail who has not had a representative present at one of the many working group sessions taking place the last 24 months.   The working group has been the established venue for voices, objections and concerns. 
Oregon has a major failure to appear problem with thousands upon thousands of outstanding warrants. Bringing back commercial bail is intended to help with both of these problem areas while at the same time bringing additional revenue to the state in the form of premium taxes and bond forfeiture revenue.
Stay tuned to WIWMW for further developments.
WSBAA Meeting
The Washington State Bail Agents Association held its 2010 Fall Conference at the Emerald Queen Hotel in Fife, just outside of Tacoma, September 23. The meeting was well attended with several speakers addressing the membership.
I was asked to speak on the issue of national bail related events after a scheduled speaker had to cancel (I never turn down an opportunity to speak about bail). I updated the membership on the progress being made in Oregon and successful legislative efforts occurring in 2010, as there were several.
WSBAA has been dealing with the fallout of the Clemmons shooting where four Lakewood police officers were murdered. The legislature is conducting hearings on the issue of who should and should not be granted bail. The issue of financing bond premiums and whether it should be allowed is also being discussed.
WSBAA is also concerned about the spread of deposit bail in their state. I shared my opinion that a move to a law prohibiting the financing of premium would provide fertile ground for growth of deposit bail. Given a choice between depositing ten percent of the bond with the court and no strings versus paying a bail agent a nonrefundable ten percent premium with collateral and check-in requirements would be a losing proposition for the bail agent. It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance. That’s great for the defendant, not so great for local residents concerned with their personal safety.
Next Up
Looking to October, there will be annual association meetings taking place in California, Texas and Indiana. Check my event calendar for details.
 
Click “comments” at the beginning of my blog if you have something on your mind.

 

Use of Deposit Bail in Indiana Hurts County Extradition Fund

Posted September 27, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, and Deposit Bail  - 3 Comments

In late August I was the invited speaker at the Rotary Club in Griffith, Indiana. The engagement was arranged by Luis Rojas, a licensed recovery agent northeastern Indiana.  There were local law enforcement officials, namely the Griffith Police Chief, who were interested in learning more about bail bond insurance impacting the County Extradition Fund.
As I’ve written many times, deposit bail is used by a number of Indiana Courts to the detriment of Indiana residents. The extensive use of deposit bail also directly impacts, adversely so, the County Extradition Fund.
In most states, revenue generated through the payment of bail bond forfeitures is deposited to the state or county general fund. In Indiana a bail bond forfeiture is comprised of two segments, the first 80% is considered a Late Surrender Fee while the last 20% is entered as a judgment should the forfeiture go to term. Upon payment to the court, 50% of the 80% Late Surrender Fee is deposited to the Police Pension Fund (IC 27-10-2-12(i) with the remaining 50% of the late surrender fee being deposited to the County Extradition Fund (IC 27-10-2-12(i). The 20% percent judgment is earmarked for Indiana’s Common School Fund (IC 35-33-8-7(e). Unlike the Police Pension Fund, the County Extradition Fund is only funded by bail bond forfeitures.
This brings us back to deposit bail. The Police Chief of Griffith unfortunately resides in Lake County, a county whose courts use deposit bail extensively.   Because the court only obtains a 10% deposit of the full bond and rarely, if ever, properly forfeits the bond in the event of a failure to appear, the Lake County
Extradition Fund receives little, if no, money from bail bond forfeitures. For that matter neither does the Police Pension or the Common School Fund.
The members of The Griffith Rotary Club, largely comprised of local business owners and officials, were somewhat astonished to learn their local courts were releasing defendants charged with everything from felony DUI to domestic violence on the cheap, deposit bail.  No one was held accountable to recover fugitives and no effort made to collect the remaining 90% of forfeited deposit bonds.
Ironically, any court’s use of deposit bail not only forsakes the County Extradition Fund, Police Pension Fund and Common School Fund, it also increases the number of failure to appear warrants placing a greater strain on law enforcement, adding insult to injury.
 Employing the use of commercial bail would positively impact the County Extradition Fund with an increase in revenue allowing law enforcement to return fugitives from out of state at little or no cost to the taxpayer.

The principal goal of the commercial bail bond industry is to ensure defendants awaiting trial appear in court at all times required, to avoid a financial loss. Should a bail agent fail to perform, the forfeiture may have to be paid. The payment of a bail bond forfeiture would then benefit the Country Extradition Fund, Police Pension Fund and the Common School Fund. Administrators of these funds should take note and contact those county officials continuing to accept deposit bail to the detriment of, not only these funds, but the general public safety of Hoosiers.

Chicago Venue Not Acceptable to Some PBUS Members

Posted July 26, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA under Commercial Bail, and Meeting Recaps  - 1 Comment

Each year the PBUS Board of Directors has the undeniable challenge of selecting a venue for their Mid-Year meeting (the PBUS winter conference is always in Las Vegas) that will be both accommodating for meetings and attractive to attendees who want something interesting to do in their free time. All this to entice bail agents into spending a few days of their valuable summer months attending a conference.

Past summer conference locales include West Palm Beach, Seattle, San Antonio and San Diego. With so many great locations to choose from, why select a city in a state that has not allowed commercial bail bonds for more than forty years?
 
As a travel destination Chicago offers a plethora of things to hold one’s attention. Downtown is clean and safe. You can take in an afternoon Cubs or White Sox game, visit one of the many museums, ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier or take the architectural boat tour through the river that runs through downtown.   The City of Chicago itself should not be a turnoff to anyone who wants to mix tourist activities with a business conference.
 
On the other side of the coin, there are those PBUS members who cannot bring themselves to contribute to the economy of a state that has outlawed their profession.    Illinois outlawed bail and private sector fugitive recovery in the sixties. They currently utilize a system of deposit bail, OR release and pretrial services.
 
 
 
PBUS invited Senator Mike Jacobs to speak at the conference. Senator Jacobs is a good friend of Brad Williams of Williams National Surety and has a good understanding of how commercial bail works and the accountability it offers that government programs do not. Senator Jacobs said “...surety bail is the single most effective means of pretrial release”. He went on to say he would be willing to introduce legislation that would reinstate commercial bail in Illinois.
 
Senator Jacobs’ offer to introduce legislation which would reinstate commercial bail in Illinois cannot be ignored. As has been reported here, efforts have been underway for more than two years to reinstate commercial bail to Oregon, another deposit bail state. Billion dollar budget shortfalls in both of Oregon and Illinois have opened the door for the private sector to offer services and guarantees in areas these states have controlled for decades. Restoring the right to write commercial bail bonds in the non-bail states would be a victory for all bail agents. Accomplishing this in Illinois would certainly make Chicago my kind of town.
 
Other Happenings at PBUS – Chicago
The Americans for the Preservation of Bail (APOB) was a topic in many conversations and a few meetings this past week in Chicago. This new association has many bail agents and surety representatives guessing as to APOB’s motivation and overall agenda and what impact their efforts will have on the bail bond industry (click on “comments” at the top of this post to share your thoughts on APOB). 
 
At the Council of President’s meeting Jeff Kirkpatrick of Michigan reported, his state’s association will push the Citizens’ Right to Know bill in the next legislative session. Jeff also reported Michigan bail agents are writing about 35% more bail since Michigan began allowing writing a surety bond equal to 25% of the face amount of a 10% deposit bond. 
 
Washington State is considering a move to no credit bonding in the wake of shooting deaths of several policemen last year by a defendant released on a bail bond. Apparently, the bonding company, who was cleared by the Department of Insurance of any wrong doing, did not collect the full premium prior to posting the bond. This will be a major topic of discussion at the next meeting of the WSBAA in September.
 
PBUS will celebrate its 30th Anniversary at the 2011 Winter Conference in Las Vegas next February. The 2011 Mid-Year Conference is expected to return to central Florida in the summer of next year.
 
I encourage all bail agents to become a member of PBUS and participate in the commercial bail industry’s only national agent association. Interacting with bail agents from around the country and attending educational seminars at PBUS meetings can only benefit you and improve the chances of success of your agency.
 
Next Up
 

Bail Bond Business Never Dull

Posted June 28, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBAA under Bail Bond Insurance, and Commercial Bail  - 0 Comments

It was one of those three week stretches that had me in five states, thirteen airplanes, four hotels and four rental cars covering 10,000 nautical miles.  During this period was a combination of meetings with new bail bond agents, visiting with existing American Surety Company (ASC) bail agents and participating in meetings involving the expansion of commercial bail.

California and Nevada

My first stop was Las Vegas where it was 105 degrees in the shade.  I met with a new bail bonds agent for ASC before making a three hour drive to Riverside, California where I met with ASC agents in that market.  I made it back to Las Vegas that evening.

 

Fortunately, Nevada’s legislature is in the off season making it one less state to worry about, for now.  The California General Assembly however is going at full steam.  Assembly Bill 1369, is the primary focus of the commercial bail industry in that state, which would allow defendants still in custody after sixty days (thirty days for misdemeanors) to apply for release on an electronic monitor.  The two California bail agent associations, CBAA and GSBAA, continue to work closely with Assemblyman Curt Hagman to prevent the passing of any legislation adverse to bail.

Louisiana and Mississippi

Next, it was down to the Gulf Coast where I met with a longtime bail agent who will begin writing for ASC in Southern Mississippi.  She was confident all bail agents will be writing on insurance within three years.  Current law allows an individual to write on a ratio of cash with a minimum deposit of $30,000.

 

The Magnolia State recently passed H.B. 900 April 1.  This bill, effective July 1, 2010, contains several changes impacting both bail agents and sureties.  H.B. 900 will 1) prohibit a bail agent from writing bonds in a county where they are related to someone who works in a official capacity where bailable defendants are housed, 2) bail agents must submit a full set of fingerprints with an application for bail license for the purpose of conducting a criminal background search, 3) states the purpose of bail is for appearance only and cannot be forfeited for any other reason, 4) the clerk must mail notice of forfeiture to surety within ten working days or forfeiture is set aside, 5) require witness protection agencies to notify the court when a defendant has entered their program, providing grounds for set aside of forfeiture 6) provide for  revocation of bail license if final judgments are not timely satisfied and 7) provides for the full remission of a bond, less costs, if the defendant is surrendered or detained in another jurisdiction within twelve months of final forfeiture.   H.B. 900, all in all, is a fair piece of legislation.

I return to Mississippi next month where I will be attending the Mississippi Bail Agents Association meeting at Treasure Bay Casino in Biloxi, July 12-13.  ASC is an event sponsor.

My two day trip to the Gulf Coast also put me in New Orleans amid the BP Oil Leak Disaster and an amazing lightening show and downpour that temporarily flooded the streets of downtown.

The Association of Louisiana Bail Underwriters (ALBU) has been as busy as any bail association in America.  ALBU President Guy Ruggiero circulates regular legislative updates.  His most recent update brought to our attention several bills which have been enacted this session.  SB 120 , which becomes effective 8/15/10, increases the minimum premium rate on bail bonds from $60 to $120;  SB 685 makes bail jumping a crime carrying a sentence of 1-3 years and a $2,000 fine;   HB 554 prohibits offenders charged with domestic abuse battery from being released on their own recognizance and HB 1047, which creates the Bail Bond Apprentice Program, was sent to Governor Jindal June 18 for signature.  When the apprentice program becomes law, new licensees will be required to work for a licensed agent for a period of six months before becoming eligible to obtain a full license.

Oregon and (back to) California

Efforts continue to reintroduce commercial bail to Oregon.  This state has been be using a combination of deposit bail, release on own recognizance and pretrial service for more than 35 years.  The current system has not been effective which is why commercial bail is being considered.

 

ASC is a member of the American Bail Coalition (ABC).  It was in this capacity I travelled to Portland where I joined Brian Nairin of AIA and fellow ABC member, ABC Executive Director Dennis Bartlett and ABC legislative advocate Paul Romain in a working group involving legislators and various state agencies in a continued effort to allay any concerns about reintroducing commercial bail.

 

The Oregon legislature will reconvene next January where commercial bail legislation will be considered.  Reinstating commercial bail to Oregon and permitting fugitive recovery in that state will have a dramatic impact on public safety and victims’ rights by reducing the number of failures to appear and returning fugitives.  ABC is comprised of twelve member companies all of whom have the best interest of the commercial bail industry at heart.   Continued cooperation among the majority of commercial bail underwriters on the legislative front gives the bail industry the best chance at success.

 

I finished my most recent road trip with a stop in California, this time in the northern part of the state where I met with ASC agents in Sacramento and Fairfield before returning to Indianapolis.

Developing

Colorado is brimming with activity related to the ballot initiative that would limit release through pretrial services.  The bail laws are also due to sunset in 2012.  That state is seeing a significant increase in bail agent participation largely due to the efforts of the American Preservation of Bail, a newly formed organization whose focus is to advocate for bail agents in the fight to preserve commercial bail.  ASC recently became a member, as we are in support of any efforts working in the best interest of commercial bail.

 

Mark Your Calendar

The PBUS Mid-Year Meeting is just around the corner.  The summer meeting will be held at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago July 22-24.  I’m personally delighted about this venue as it’s only a short drive from Indianapolis, my home base.

 

Don’t forget about the 21st Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament, benefiting Camp Esperanza and brought to you by the Professional Bondsmen of Texas, being held August 4.  This year’s event is shaping up to be our best ever.

Enjoy your summer and please share your thoughts on any of these issues by clicking on comment at the top of my blog.

It's about the Kids

Posted June 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA under Commercial Bail, and SGW Golf  - 1 Comment

Imagine being eight years old, in second grade, and you’re battling some form of cancer.  You didn’t ask for this, you have no control, you’re just a kid.  Multiple doctor visits ensue, shots, scans, tests and more tests.  At some point it gets to be too much and all you want to do is get away from it all. 

For kids who find themselves in this situation Camp Esperanza is the place to be.  It’s a summer camp created specifically for kids battling cancer who need an escape, an oasis devoid of people with charts and test results.  For many of these kids this is the one week of the year they can truly let go and enjoy life.  They can revitalize themselves in the Texas sun fishing, climbing and swimming, chilling out with other kids facing a similar plight.

After we lost my brother Steve to cancer more than twenty years ago we sought out a charity for whom we could raise money is his memory.  We were led to The Bridewell Foundation and Camp Esperanza.  Twenty years later, with the help of friends and family, we have raised more than $175,000 sending 348 kids to Camp Esperanza through the Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament.

American Surety Company is our title sponsor and The Professional Bondsmen of Texas has become our partner in managing the Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament.  We’ve already seen the impact of PBT’s involvement when we increased our donation to Camp Esperanza last year to $26,500, up from $15,000 in 2008.

Having bail agents involved with this annual event makes the whole affair extra special.  We receive donations and sponsorships from bail agents, not only from Texas but from across the country.  Several commercial bail surety companies also participate by sponsoring a team of golfers, providing sponsorship or making a direct donation.

This year’s event will be held at the Woodhaven Country Club in Fort Worth on Wednesday, August 4.  The event will kick off the 3rd Quarter Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas (agenda) being held at the Hilton Arlington August 5-7.  Bail agents coming to town to participate in The Steven G. Whitlock are encouraged to attend the conference.

Those of you wishing to participate in this year’s event whether as a golfer, sponsor or contributor can do so by clicking online registration.   All are welcome to participate and take part in the experience of raising money for a worthy cause.  After all, it’s about the kids!

Click on "comments" above to add a comment.

Indiana Bail Agents Meet in Indy

Posted May 12, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, and Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

The Indiana Surety Bail Agents Association held its Spring General Membership meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

 

Elections were held in accordance with the By-Laws and Tony Widgery was reelected as President of ISBAA.  Gary Logue replaced Linda Stamper as Treasurer while David Akers and Gary Good were elected to replace outgoing Area Directors, Kelly Bertholet and Dale Lanning.

 

Aaron Weese, a Virginia bondsmen and a representative of Virginians for the Preservation of Bail (now Americans for the Preservation of Bail) was the featured speaker.  Mr. Weese informed attendees on recent efforts to limit Pretrial Services of Virginia to only providing free bail to those offenders qualified as being of indigent status.  While their legislative effort did not succeed, this organization was successful in reducing the amount of money received from the state’s budget to fund their programs which will severely diminish their ability to continue operating.

 

 

ISBAA members were particularly interested in hearing about the successful legislative efforts of their association earlier this year.  Although 2010 was a short legislative session, the ISBAA Legislative Committee chaired by Les Sebring, along with a tremendous effort from association lobbyists Jim Purucker and Bart Giesler, were able to pass SB 340.  This legislation will improve commercial bail in Indiana in several ways:

1.       A bail bond will expire 36 months after execution unless the bond has been forfeited and the court had given the bail and surety written legal notice within thirty days of the defendant’s failure to appear.  Indiana courts will no longer be able to forfeit a bond several years after a failure to appear;

2.       The court must now give the bail agent and surety 72 hours advance written notice of a trial date or a plea hearing;

3.       Authorities refusing to extradite a defendant are now a defense to entry of judgment on forfeiture.

 

ISBAA has made a consistent effort to pass legislation that would require the use of a bail bond by offenders charged with certain felony offenses.  ISBAA members were encouraged by the news that the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen, earlier this year, passed HB 889 which sets bail restrictions on a number of felony offenses.  Energized by the efforts of GAPB, the ISBAA Legislative Committee will be meeting soon to discuss a legislative strategy for 2011 in hopes of enjoying similar success next year.

Speaking of GAPB, I will be attending their spring meeting next week on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  I hope to see you there.

Click "comment" above if you would like to post a comment to this blog.

GAPB on a Legislative Roll

Posted April 30, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock under Commercial Bail, and Legislation  - 3 Comments

Over the last several years the Commercial Bail Industry has applied a forward press against unsecured release options, pretrial release, deposit bail and excessive OR releases by legislatively establishing that offenders charged with certain felony offenses would be ineligible for release on an unsecured bond without direct authorization by an elected judge.

The Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen (GAPB) followed a productive 2009 legislative effort with the passing of ground breaking legislation that requires GPS monitor providers to act as surety and the granting of bond exonerations for defendants who have been deported by passing bail restrictions legislation.  

HB 889 received a favorable vote in the House yesterday and will now be sent to the governor to be signed into law.  Once signed, HB 889 will severely restrict the ability of offenders charged with a broad range of felony charges from being released through pretrial service programs and on their own recognizance.

HB 889 requires an elected judge to directly approve the release of a defendant charged with certain felonies through a release option other than a secured bail bond.  This is great news for the citizens of Georgia who have have been living in an environment where offenders have been regularly released from jail pretrial with little or no supervision and no one guaranteeing their appearance in court.

HB 889 will also have a direct impact on business for bondsmen operating not just in Atlanta where pretrial release has a significant presence, but statewide.  Georgians will also see a lot less of their tax dollars going to fund free bail for criminal offenders and instead see it redirected towards law enforcement and education.

The passing of HB 889 is a big win for commercial bail in Georgia and a positive indicator for what can be achieved in the interest of public safety and commercial bail nationally when we work together as a team.  GAPB was assisted in their efforts by the American Bail Coalition and the American Legislative Exchange Council and Rep. Len Walker.  Well done all!

Click Comment above if you would like to comment on this blog.

ASC-USI Launches New Website

Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, and Commercial Bail  - 2 Comments

Indianapolis, Indiana - Through the years American Surety Company and Underwriters Surety, Inc. (ASC-USI) has been vigilant in our efforts to keep not only our retail partners informed, but the bail industry at large. 

 

Our efforts began more than a decade ago when we launched the first version of www.ASC-USI.com in 1998.  Through the years www.asc-usi.com has been a proven resource to the commercial bail industry.  Our site has continued to provide the information and resource material to fight pretrial release, deposit bail and excessive OR releases, legislative updates, bail related case summaries and commentary on issues impacting bail agents.

It’s been more than ten years since we first took the bail industry by storm with our 26 page full color magazine that provided fair and balanced coverage of state and national association conferences, bail related case summaries, digital photos, legislative updates, conference schedules and editorials.  While there have been others who have copied our efforts, none have been able to duplicate the personal approach we take in keeping the bail industry informed.

In 2004 we began transitioning from a printed magazine to disseminating information electronically.  As the first company in the industry to do this, we were able to notify thousands of bail agents of news and alerts in a fraction of the time it took previously.  Once again ASC-USI was revolutionary in its efforts to keep bail agents informed.

During the development of our new site our goal was to improve upon existing features while adding functionality.   Where our old site simply provided a list of bail related case law, our new site allows you to search our database using key search words.  You can also search our article archives by topic.  We have created state specific pages that provide forms, legislation and case law for a particular state all on one page.  Set your preferred state in your preferences when you login. 

With our new site we’ve added video agent testimonials and video FAQ’s for new agent inquiries.  You will now have the opportunity to make your comments known in response to Where in the World is Mike Whitlock articles.  Post your thoughts when you agree or disagree with my positions.

ASC-USI is motivated by the desire to preserve and protect the commercial bail industry. We sleep well knowing we are doing our part to arm bail agents with knowledge and insight on how to preserve and protect the centuries old profession of commercial bail bonds. 

Please visit our new site and create a login and password which will provide full access to all ASC-USI.com has to offer.   There are no fees or conditions to subscription.  We would love to hear your initial impressions and any suggestion you may have for continued improvement of www.ASC-USI.com.

Commercial Bail The Answer to Philly's Broken Bail System

Posted January 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Mike Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, and Commercial Bail  - 0 Comments

Philadelphia, PA – Yesterday, Senator Arlen Specter held a hearing at the National Constitution Center entitled "Exploring Federal Solutions to the State and Local Fugitive Crises."

Philadelphia, the Nation’s sixth largest city with a population of more than 1.6 million and more than 40,000 outstanding warrants for failure to appear, is the logical site for a hearing on fugitives.  I was present for the hearing along with Cheryl Burns of Bail USA and Terry Allen of the Federal Strategy Group.  ABC has been working with Terry Allen on matters related to commercial bail at the federal level.

Philadelphia has been in a state of flux after a recent series of articles appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer addressing, in part, that city’s broken bail bond system and the failure to collect more than one billion in forfeited deposit bonds dating back to 1968. 

Invited to speak at the hearing were Philadelphia District Attorney, Seth Williams; Clerk of Quarter Sessions, Vivian T. Miller; Acting U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, John Patrignani; Chief of Pretrial Services, Fifth Judicial District, David Preski and Executive Director of The American Bail Coalition (ABC), Dennis Bartlett.

Clerk of Quarter Sessions, Vivian T. Miller has been at the center of the storm and while she was invited to the hearing, she did not attend.  Her Second Deputy, Mark Gaillard testified on her behalf and read a prepared statement.  Mr. Gaillard disputed the one billion dollars in uncollected forfeited bail that has been widely reported, saying the number was closer to 250 million.  He argued that according to their records the court had uncollected forfeitures of 2.2 million in 2009 and so simple math would indicate it is not possible that the city could be owed more than one billion dollars.

As a member of the commercial bail industry, I took issue with their figure of 2.2 million.  D.A. Seth Williams testified to the annual issuance of 25,000 failure to appear warrants.  Assuming an average bond amount of $2500 the amount of forfeited bail in 2009 would have been $62,500,000.  If these defendants were released on secured bail bonds, then you can expect that 2% or $1,250,000 of the total forfeited bail would be paid to the county.  However, because Philadelphia releases almost every defendant on a 10% deposit (90% unsecured) bond to the court, with no financial guarantee of payment, Philadelphia would have failed to collect $30,000,000 in 2009 alone.

D.A. Williams’ solution to the problem was to hire more staff for the purpose of vetting bond guarantors in addition to hiring a collection firm to pursue payment of the unsecured 90% on forfeited bonds.  This would result in added costs to the tax payers for hiring additional staff and paying a minimum 30% to a collection firm.  D.A. Williams is clearly not thinking outside the bureaucratic box, opting instead to expanding the box and having an adverse impact on Philadelphians safety and pocket book.  

By using commercial bail, you increase revenue to the county and reduce fugitive warrants.  Commercial bail also restores a sense of security to the community.  Reinstating the use of commercial bail is the answer to Philadelphia’s fugitive problem.  ABC Executive Director Dennis Bartlett expertly testified to the advantages of commercial bail prompting Senator Specter to say, "..it may be time to take another look it (commercial bail)."

Bail Industry Proactive in 2010

Posted January 11, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Mike Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, and Commercial Bail  - 0 Comments

Multiple States Have Efforts Underway to Preserve Bail Profession 

The last year of the decade may prove to be a memorable one for commercial bail as bail agents and surety companies alike will be working together to protect and expand this honorable profession.  As a bail bonds agent, if you're not aware of what's happening in  your state then you're just not paying attention.  If you're currently not participating in protecting the bail industry in your state then you're doing yourself and your profession a disservice.  Make 2010 the year you make a difference.

Here is just a sample of what's happening across the country.

California
Credit card kiosks have made their way into several California jails causing much concern to bail agents.  As a result, the legality of placing credit cards kiosks in jails for the purposes of posting cash bail is being challenged.  Some sheriffs are said to be receiving a portion of each transaction fee and in return are allowing the kiosk to be placed on jail premises.  One of the primary concerns with these kiosks is the owner is operating as a bonding company by receiving compensation for facilitating the release of an offender from custody.  Bail agents are prohibited from soliciting and advertising on jail premises and most certainly are prohibited from sharing their premiums with an unlicensed bail agent, in this case, the sheriff.  These kiosks are popping up all over the country and can be found in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Washington and, of course, California.

Georgia
The Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen (GAPB) will followup its successful legislative effort in 2009 by introducing legislation that would place bail restrictions on any offender charged with an aggravated offense.  If passed, these offenders would not be eligible for OR release or through pretrial release services.  Pretrial Services continues to expand their footprint in Fulton County and in doing so are breaching their mandate of supervising indigents by releasing repeat offenders and offenders charged with aggravated offenses.   

Missouri
The Missouri Department of Insurance just released The Final Report of the Missouri Bail Bond Study Committee on January 6, 2010.  H.B. 577, passed in 2009, required the Department of Insurance to conduct a study of its licensing rules and other policies governing the bail bond industry.  The Department subsequently held four public hearings on bail.  The recently issued report includes their recommendations for changes in the law.  At issue, in part, are prohibiting felons from obtaining a bail license, enhanced continuing education and centralizing consent for the approval of assets pledged by property bail agents.  The Missouri State Legislature is expected to consider these recommendations when drafting new legislation in the 2010 session.

Oregon
Work continues in Oregon to reinstate commercial bail after a nearly forty year absence.  Oregon is ready to attack their chronic failure to appear problem, outstanding warrants and address their image as being a safe haven for fugitives.

Pennsylvania
The Philadelphia Inquirer recently published a four part series on the fragile state of the criminal justice system in that city.  One of the components cited as a complete failure was the current bail system which is predominantly ten percent (ninety percent unsecured) to the court.  This series of articles is a followup to the investigate report the Inquirer ran in 2009.  In that article it was reported Philadelphia had lost more than one billion dollars in revenue due to the failure to collect the remaining ninety percent of forfeited deposit bonds.  A return to commercial bail would be the answer to this massive problem.  The result would be a reduction in failure to appear warrants, an increase percentage of closed criminal cases and revenue to the county on unresolved bond forfeitures.  Look for the Pennsylvania legislature to consider bail related legislation this session.

Philadelphia Inquire Articles:  Editorial, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

South Carolina
South Carolina is working on legislation that would increase the minimum deposit on a percentage bond from 10% to 25%, bail restrictions on violent offenders, post conviction bonds and fending off efforts to establish a taxpayer funded pretrial release program.

Virginia
Virginia bail agents are facing, head on, their state's, taxpayer funded, pretrial release program.   Virginians for the Preservation of Bail has been running radio spots drawing attention to how taxpayer money would be better spent employing more teachers and law enforcement officers as opposed to providing free release to criminal offenders.

Radio Spot - "Kids Against Pretrial" 

Washington
Bail agents in Washington are on the alert for any legislation impacting bail in that state as fallout stemming from the recent tragedy where an offender, released on bond, killed four Lakewood, WA police officers on November 29, 2009.  The bonding company, who posted the bond, was cleared by the Washington Department of Insurance of any neglect in that transaction.  The judge in that case came under fire for setting a relatively low bond on an offender with a lengthy criminal history, on parole from Arkansas. 

Remember, the time is now to participate in the preservation of this honorable profession, commercial bail.  Visit our website at www.ASC-USI.com or click on this link to view pending legislation for your state.  The Professional Bail Agents of the United States is holding it's annual conference next month in Las Vegas.  This would be a great opportunity to obtain more knowledge about your profession and learn more about what other states are doing to address challenges facing them in their market.  Click here to view conference details.

Make 2010 the year YOU make a difference.
 

Texas Bondsmen Show Up in Droves

Posted October 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM by Mike Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, and Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

  

   For once, it would be nice to attend a meeting where we do not have to address recurring problems with abuse by pretrial release, attorneys writing bonds and credit card kiosks.  Alas, that was not to be the case at the year end membership meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas held at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio.
   PBT, as always, is ever vigilante in its overview of the commercial bail bond industry in Texas.  There will always be one threat or another to public safety by those who would try to eliminate the 100% guarantee that bail bond insurance provides to ensure a defendant appears in court to answer to the crime for which they have been charged.
   In addition to PBT's association with charitable causes, it also works to improve the professionalism and level of education of the bondsmen in the Lone Star State.  I believe this is why their quarterly meetings are so well attended and supported by membership.
   At this meeting, PBT President John McCluskey was reelected to his post and will serve another term.  As is customary, at the year end meeting, awards were presented to individuals who went above and beyond in their support of the association during the previous year.  Scott Walstad of Dallas was awarded the Professional Bondsman of the Year, for his hard work and leadership as Legislative Committee Chair in the successful effort to derail percentage bond legislation.  Also receiving awards were Representative Allen Fletcher who received the Legislative Friend of PBT award and Nancy Reese who received the Friend of PBT award.
   Two board members were elected, Ken Good and Alicia Davis. Bill Pastor was appointed to complete the term of Roger Moore, who resigned his post.
   The Texas legislature is out of session in 2010, so PBT will be working hard to develop a legislative agenda for 2011.  Congratulations to PBT for fighting the good fight in 2009!

Next Up
The Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen will hold their year end meeting in Savannah November 17-19.  Hope to see you there.

2009 Conference Much Ado About Something

Posted October 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM by Mike Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, Meeting Recaps, and Surety Bail Bonds  - 0 Comments

Where does one begin in a year that brings so many issues to the table?  CBAA celebrated its 30th annual convention at Harrah's Casino Resort in South Lake Tahoe October 11 - 13.  The turnout was good and everyone seemed to have something on their mind with respect to one issue or another impacting California bail bond agents.  
   Depending on where you operate in California, you could be dealing with any number of problems.  In northern California they're dealing with pretrial release, credit card kiosks and cities limiting the number of bonding companies around the jail.  In the southern part of the state they're dealing with excessive OR releases, large bond schedules and uncontrolled marketeers on the steps of the courthouse and jails.
CBAA and Golden State Combine Forces to Protect Industry
   
Perhaps it's the size of California, they have multiple baseball and football teams and the bail industry has two associations representing their interests.   The California Bail Agents Association and the Golden State Bail Agents Association held a joint meeting during this year's conference to discuss a variety of issues facing the bail industry.  This meeting was a continuation of the commitment they had made in Las Vegas in February to begin working together in the common interests of their respective members.
Credit Cards Charging Forward
   California is seeing the beginnings of a movement to introduce credit card kiosks to county jails.  At least one company, Government Payment Express (GovPay), has entered into agreements with sheriffs to place a kiosk in their jail which will provide several services, one of which is posting cash bail on a credit card.  According to an advertisement placed in the California Sheriffs Association newsletter, GovPay promises to pay the sheriff 15% of each processing.  Can anyone say payoff?  Rest assured this financial relationship is being looked into to determine if it's legal or ethical. 
Post Conviction Bond Still a Possibility
   California is about to release tens of thousands of prisoners upon the public.  With over 174,000 offenders in California state prisons (200% of capacity) and with a daily housing cost of $11 million, something has to be done.  A post conviction bond is just one option being considered to manage those offenders which must be released early due to prison crowding.  Mississippi has a post conviction bond in place while Michigan just passed its own version of this bond.  Assemblyman Curt Hagman continues to work with CBAA, GSBAA and surety companies to get a post conviction bond passed in California.
House Cleaning?
  Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich spoke to CBAA members and made assurances something would be done about the excessive marketing around jails deemed to be problems.  He reported that some arrests have been made for negotiating bail without a license.
What's next?
   Georgia, Michigan,Texas and South Carolina all have meetings scheduled over the next several weeks.  I will be attending the annual meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas later this week in San Antonio.  I hope to see you there!

CBAA 2009 Annual Convention - Why You Sould Attend

Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM by Mike Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, and Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

   There may not have been a time in the last thirty years where there has been so much focus on what the government has done and continues to do to impact the lives of everyday citizens and business owners.  Between health care and stimulus bills they have captured our complete attention and in some cases, our ire.
   The commercial bail industry has been impacted by this economy as much or more than any other profession.  Even though crime is up, people don't have the money for bail and more and more offenders are either being released OR or site released.

   Assemblyman Curt Hagman, of the 60th District and license bail agent, has been working very hard to make a post conviction bond a condition of any legislative remedy to reduce prison crowding.  Assemblymen Hagman has also met with several sheriffs to discuss reducing ORs and site releases in addition to speaking to judges about reducing the bond scheduled to make it possible for offenders to post bond.
   A recent development in California is the introduction of credit card vendors processing cash bonds at the jails.  While this is new to the West Coast, these vendors have been operating in the Midwest for many years.  The concern about credit card vendors is they are operating as a bail agent, charge a fee for posting a cash bond without a bail license and advertising in the jail, violating solicitation laws.
   The California Bail Bond Agents Association is holding it's 30th Annual Convention in South Lake Tahoe October 11-13.  The convention will once again be held at the Harrah's Casino Resort.  There have never been more reasons to attend this annual convention.  Remember, prison overcrowding, site releases, OR, large bond schedules and credit card vendors continue to have adverse impact on your bottom line.  No less concern is the harm these problems pose to the personal safety of the citizens of California.  Visit www.cbaa.com for more information about this year's convention.  I hope to see you there.

 California Post Conviction Bond Effort

   Californians are acutely aware of the woes that lay in the path to recovery.  With a huge budget shortfall, massive prison overcrowding and county sheriffs' leasing bed space to generate revenue.  These problems, which require solutions, have a direct impact on public safety and commercial bail.
   Jail crowding will result in the early release of prisoners from state prison over the next next several months.  A number of Sheriffs have increased OR and site releases in order to make room in their jails, which they then turn around and lease to the FEDS to house federal inmates and illegals aliens awaiting deportation..
   An effort has been underway to introduce a post conviction bond as a condition of early release from prison.  A post conviction bond would help reduce the recidivism rate and create an entirely new market for commercial bail.


A Piece of Fiction

 

 


Remembering Rich Martin

Richard Martin owner of Otay Mesa Bail Bonds in Santee died unexpectedly this past July.  Richard had been a licensed bail agent since 1992.  He was affiliated with Calvin Minard as an agent before signing on with American Surety Company directly in 2005.  Richard was well thought of in the bonding community and by the many patrons of his local tavern.  Richard was known for writing quality bail and being a true professional.

 


Please Support Assemblyman Hagman 

Assemblyman Hagman represents the 60th District.  He is also a voice for commercial bail agents throughout the State of California.  There is only a brief window of time commercial bail will have Curt Hagman in Sacramento speaking intelligently about how commercial bail intersects with public safety.  He deserves the support of all bail agents writing in California.

 

Curt is willing to speak with your local judges and sheriffs on issues of bail, bond schedules, site releases and ORs.  Contact his office directly at 909.627.7021 and speak with Curt's Senior Assistant Victoria Stewart.  Curt will be a guest speaker at the CBAA Annual Convention in South Lake Tahoe.

 

Curt has made quick inroads during his short time in Sacramento.

 

  • Republican Floor Leader
  • Committee Membership
  • Public Safety - Vice Chair
  • Aging and Long Term Care
  • Joint Legislative Audit
  • Accountability and Administrative Review
  • Select Committee on Ports
  • Select Committee on Aerospace
  • Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture

 

The National Association of Pretrial Services (NAPSA) recently released a document they call The Truth About Commercial Bail Bonding in America.  This document is rife with inaccuracies, half truths and demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the critical role the commercial bail industry plays in the criminal justice system, impacting public safety and reducing costs to tax payers.


NAPSA Document

Making the Case for a Post Conviction Bond

Posted June 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, Commercial Bail, and Post Conviction Bonds  - 0 Comments

California is giving serious consideration to approving the use of a post conviction bond in those cases of prisoners being released early as an effort to ease prison overcrowding.  California is experiencing historic budget short falls and reducing the costs of running their prison system is just one area being targeted for funding cuts.  Governor Swartzennegger has already spoke of the need to release as many as 55,000 convicted felons prison early which has sent shivers through the spines of the that state's citizenry.  What is a post conviction bond and how can it use effectively reduce prison crowding?

A Concept Originating From Bail Bonds
According to a 2007 study released by the U.S. Department of Justice - Bureau of Justice Statistics title Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants in State Courts, the commercial bail bond industry is the most effective in ensuring a defendant appears in court.  The study further shows that a defendant is less likely to commit another crime while released on a bail bond pending trial.

Bail bonds are effective because the obligor (the insurance company) is 100% responsible for the defendant’s appearance in court until their case is adjudicated.  If the defendant fails to appear for court the bail agent must locate and return the defendant to the custody of the court or risk a financial penalty equal to the amount of the bail bond.

Bail bond agents minimize their risk by securing the bond, much like a bank would secure a loan, with real estate or cash pledged by third parties (spouse, employer, parents, friends, etc.) who are willing to become financially responsible for the defendant appearing in court.  This process is successful because between the bail agent and the bond indemnitors a net of supervision over the defendant is created with all parties having a financial interest in the defendant appearing in court.  The same concept can be applied to supervising a prisoner released from prison on parole and charged with complying with conditions of their parole.

Recidivism Rate Among Parolees
A 1994 Study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics titled Reentry Trends in the U.S. tracked 272,111 prisoners released from prison in 15 states.  The study found that within this group of parolees 67.5% were rearrested within 3 years.  The 1994 study also showed that 51.8% of these prisoners were back in prison either because of a new crime for which they received another prison sentence or because of a technical violation of their parole.

Post Conviction Bonds
The same principles for securing a defendant’s release pretrial through a bail agent can be applied to a post conviction situation where a convicted felon is being released early from prison.  The bail agent does not replace the parole officer but rather makes their job easier by providing an environment by which the parole officer and parolee are not the only parties involved with their release.

The net of supervision and financial responsibility brought about in a defendant’s pretrial release through a bail agent would also apply to convicted felons seeking a release from prison early whether through their own efforts or a need by the state to relieve overcrowding.  Several people would be financially responsible for the parolee complying with the terms of his/her parole.

If a parolee released through a Post Conviction Bond should fail to comply with any or all of the terms of his/her parole, the court will order the bond forfeited and issue a warrant for the parolee’s arrest.  The bail agent then has a specific period of time in which to locate, apprehend and return the defendant to the custody of the court.  In the event the bail agent is unable to return the defendant to the custody of the court, a financial penalty equal to the full amount of the bond would have to be paid to the court.

Goal of a Post Conviction Bond
The need for a method of ensuring a parolee’s compliance with the terms of the parole is simple.  Once they are released from incarceration the goal is not to go back to prison.  One way to not return to prison is to remain crime free and comply with the terms of their parole.  Whereas the 2007 BJS Study showed that defendants released pretrial were less likely to commit another crime while out on a bail bond, we believe the same will apply to prisoners released early on parole.  By making third parties financially responsible for seeing that a parolee successfully completes the terms of the parole, it not only saves the tax payers money through the easing of the prison population, but perhaps more importantly it creates a safer environment for the public when parolees are released back into society in a more secure fashion.

California bail bonds industry is in need of solutions to a very real problem; prison overcrowding.  A Post Conviction Bond is not the only solution but one of many that should be considered.  If made available, the use of a Post Conviction Bond would have a direct impact on reducing the number of parolees returning to prison for violating terms of their parole.  By reducing the recidivism rate among parolees you thereby reduce the problem and the costs associated with dealing with the problem.  Post Conviction Bonds can be effective and should be employed in California.

Tax Day, Tea Parties and Capitol Invasion

Posted April 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM by Mike Whitlock under Commercial Bail, and Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

   The lawn out front of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin, this past Wednesday, was packed with people exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.  Throughout the crowd were signs and banners decrying high taxes and big government.  It was a Texas size tea party on a day symbolizing one of life's certainties, taxes have to be paid.
   The following day, Texas bondsmen were exercising their right to meet with their elected officials.  The sizable contingency from the Professional Bondsmen of Texas were negotiating the maze of hollowed halls within the state capitol building meeting with the Representatives and Senators from their respective districts.  
   This initiative was the brain child of PBT President John McClusky who, as part of his acceptance speech after being elected to his position, promised to build a grass roots effort within the bail bond community in an effort to bring awareness of the effectiveness of commercial bail to state legislators and for bondsmen to build relationships with their local representatives.
   The legislative visits were incorporated into the agenda of PBT's 2nd Quarter Meeting, held at the Doubletree Hotel located within walking distance of the Capitol.  Approximately thirty bondsmen, surety company representatives and lobbyists for PBT took part in this effort considered a success by any measure.
   The PBT association continues to impress.  Their organization, participation and leadership is second to none.  I attended the PBT Legislative Committee meeting on April 15.  The committee, chaired by Dallas area bondsman Scott Walstad, was run efficiently.  Difficult to do when you have 18 members with varying opinions.   The committee went through each of the more than 50 bail related bills one at a time to ensure each piece of legislation was carefully reviewed with the board taking a formal position on each whether to support or oppose.  Thy lobbying team hired by PBT has proven themselves to be capable and dependable, worthy traits necessary to handle such an overwhelming task.  Because unlike death and taxes, the legislative process is anything but certain.

Mike Whitlock
mwhitlock@asc-usi.com


Next Up
I'm returning to Salem, Oregon next week for a hearing before the House Judiciary on a bill amendment which would reinstate the use of commercial bail in Oregon.  In early May I'll be attending the GAPB meeting on St. Simons Island, Georiga.  Hope to see you there.

Following Oregon
If you have been following the Oregon updates you may want to tune into the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, April 21.  Click 
here to link to the appropriate site.