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Two of Nation's Largest States to Consider Bail Reform in 2017

Posted October 24, 2016 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 1 Comment

It was a seven-day travel week during which I attended annual bail agent conferences in California and Texas.  The serenity of the South Lake Tahoe meeting site belies what lays ahead for the bail industry in The Golden State’s upcoming legislative year. The adverse impact of AB 109 and Prop. 47 have not slowed the insatiable appetite to make an easier path for criminal offenders.  Prop. 57 will be considered by California voters November 8.  This ballot measure, if passed, will pave the way to releasing as many as 30,000 convicted felons from state prisons.  Additionally, state legislators have made it clear, reforming California’s bail system will be a priority in 2017.

Coming off a fallow season in 2016 the Texas state legislature will resume their work in January.  The table is set for introducing legislation that would propose expanding pretrial supervision with little regard for the enormous cost that would be placed at the feet of taxpayers.  You have to question the logic of supplanting a private section bail option which costs the taxpayers nothing with a government program that will cost Texans millions annually.  

While at the PBT meeting in San Antonio, I participated in a panel discussion that included Rep. Terry Canalas, Comal County Sherriff Mark Reynolds, Mike Lozito, Bexar County Pre-trial Director and Houston bondsman John McClusky.  We discussed ways to reduce crowding in county jails.  The suggestions included embracing technology by posting bonds via e-filing (already in use in El Paso and Tyler), expediting the release of defendants upon posting of their bond (currently releases can take up to 12 hours) and, streamlining the bonding process by allowing arrestees to make arrangements for bail soon after booking.  The process should include free calls to bonding companies and criminal attorneys.  Most jails currently charge exorbitant fees for collect calls which frustrate the process.

There are roughly 5500 bail agents operating in the 312 combined counties of California and Texas.  These large states will be two of the key battleground states where bail reforms will be proposed in 2017.  The American Bail Coalition, of which American Surety Company is a founding member, will be working with state bail agent associations to make sure the commercial bail industry is sufficiently represented and defended.  All bail agents should be prepared to participate when called upon.  While bail is protected by the U.S. Constitution, as we know the Constitution cannot defend itself.

Indiana Agent Meeting Update

Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Bill Carmichael addresses ISBAA membership.  Pictured left is Bob Dawson and Lee Sexton.

Bill Carmichael addresses ISBAA members.  Seated left is Bob Dawson and Lee Sexton.

The Indiana Surety Bail Agents Association held their annual meeting yesterday in Indianapolis.  ASC President & CEO Bill Carmichael broke down the recent Indiana Supreme Court addition of Indiana Criminal Rule 26.   Criminal Rule 26 suggests a recommendation to judges they release defendants on their own recognizance if they are not deemed to be a risk to public safety or a risk of flight.  This is the same discretion Indiana judges have always possessed.  Criminal Rule 26 also requires the court to obtain a signed guarantee from defendants who deposit cash equal to less than the full amount of bail.   Perhaps this is more symbolic than anything because it’s hard to collect from a fugitive.  Click here to read Criminal Rule 26 in its entirety.

ISBAA President Lee Sexton asked me teach an hour of continuing education after the scheduled speaker cancelled at the last minute.  While I feigned resistance, claiming I was not prepared, it was more like asking Briar Rabbit to jump into the briar patch, I was happy to help.  I love talking about bail and sharing what is happening around the country and reminding bail agents of the good work they are doing and that while our profession is under constant attack we have the will and fortitude to prevail.

Attorney Dean Knapp informed us Indianapolis has more than 75,000 outstanding warrants for failure to appear with seemingly no effort being made by law enforcement to apprehend these fugitives.  The majority of these fugitives were released on small cash bonds.  Another concerns is the city’s more than 400 public defenders representing eight out of ten criminal defendants.  Not only is this a huge cost to taxpayers it has put a real hurting on criminal attorneys.  Indianapolis earns its share from criminal justice raking in $22 million in traffic fines last year and that’s just from one court.

The underlying theme of Mr. Knapp’s talk was Indianapolis, like many other cities, generates huge amounts of money on criminal defendants from collect calls, jail commissaries, ankle monitoring, ignition interlock devise, classes, fines, cash bail, etc.  And to think some groups complain about the cost of a bail bond, the one component of the criminal justice system that provides a financial guarantee of a defendant’s appearance for trial.

Next week I will be attending the California agents meeting in South Lake Tahoe where I’m certain the Welchan v. Harris case will be discussed.  From there I head to San Antonio for the Texas meeting where they anticipate a huge fight in the state legislature.  There is a big push in the Lone Star state to expand taxpayer funded pretrial release programs.  Both of these meetings are always well attended and informative.  I hope to see you there.

Bail in the Empire State

Posted October 2, 2015 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps, and SGW Golf  - 0 Comments

I traveled to New York City earlier this week where I attended a meeting of the American Bail Coalition and prominent members of the local bail bond community.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss New York’s current bail system and efforts by some politicos to provide taxpayer funded bail to criminal offenders to the exclusion of bail bonds and to develop solutions to address their concerns.

New York City has a large criminal justice system with more than 10,000 people in jail on any given day.  Most criminal offenders are released on their own recognizance while a much smaller percentage is released on a secured bail bond.

New York State has a massive criminal justice system with many areas that require reform.  There are those who want to point to money bail as an area to either reduce or eliminate its use.  However, defendants released on a bail bond are more likely to appear for court than any other release option.  That’s a success, not a failure.

Beware the motivation of the person or entity who seeks the elimination of commercial bail bonds.  They are usually pushing their own agenda which involves their own version of a supervised released program typically underwritten by the taxpayers. 

The New York meeting took place Wednesday, September 30 in Lower Manhattan.  Coincidentally, the following day, October 1, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, N.Y. Lawmaker Proposes Eliminating Bail.  Click here to read the press release issued by the American Bail Coalition in response to the WSJ article. 

Bail Agents Support Kids

At the start of the week I was in Dallas, Texas for the 26th Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament.  This annual charity event partners with The Professional Bondsmen of Texas to raise money for Camp Esperanza, a summer camp for kids battling cancer and receives tremendous support from bail agents throughout Texas and around the country. 

This year’s event raised $45,000 sufficient to fund the cost of sending ninety kids to Camp Esperanza in July 2016.  The good people that work within the bail profession are warm, caring and giving.  I saw a lot of watery eyes when noted Texas bail attorney Ken Good spoke of his daughter Laurel’s participation at Camp Esperanza.  For all the kids who are fortunate enough to attend Camp Esperanza, and there is a waiting list, that week in the hot July heat is the most glorious time of the year for them.  Ultimately, it’s the supporters of SGW that are fortunate as we get the opportunity to help some really great kids.

Thank you to everyone who continues to support this great cause!

Meeting on the Atlantic

Posted August 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 1 Comment

I was eager to make my trip to Wilmington, North Carolina last week to attend an NCBAA meeting.  It was my first time attending.  While American Surety Company has done business in North Carolina for many years over the past three decades we only recently returned to doing business in the state after a multi-year hiatus.

The Tar Heel State has the right to boast about its very effective bail agent association.  The NCBAA enjoys large turnouts at the continuing education classes held across the state and their legislative efforts are as productive as any other bail association in the country.

I only knew a few people at this meeting though I was pleasantly surprised of the number of bail agents who were regular readers of our e-newsletter and appreciative of the positive, information based content of our periodicals.

An election of area directors was held at this meeting off the coast of the Atlantic.  A legislative update was also provided including the announcement HB 446 had been signed by Governor Pat McCrory two days before.

This key piece of legislation does several things.  It increases the minimum age to become a licensed bail agent from 18 to 21.  The period for which to return bond collateral increased from 72 hours to 15 days and bail agents obtained expanded free access to case information provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts.  This increased access alone will save North Carolina bail agents from between four and six thousand dollars in annual access fees.

Good things are occurring in North Carolina and this is an association to keep an eye on.  I’m looking forward to a return visit.

Sun City Weighs Expansion of Pretrial Release Agency

Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

El Paso, TX - There has been an ongoing battle between the Professional Bondsmen of El Paso County and Commissioner Vincent Perez and his proposal to combine the various pretrial release offices into one department.  The local bonding community believes Commissioner Perez intends to expand the use of PR bonds to the detriment of the community.

I attended a meeting of the El Paso County Bail Bond Board last week.  Commissioner Perez was present at that meeting to report on his progress.  He assured board members and those bondsmen in attendance the intent of his proposal was not to put bondsman out of business, that PR bonds were a very small part of his initiative.  Personally, I was not convinced.

Commissioner Perez spoke of his recent trip to San Antonio where he obtained a first-hand look at the Bexar County Pretrial Release Program.  He believes El Paso should model their program after the one used by San Antonio.

Perez said the Bexar County Pretrial Release Program had little impact on the amount of bail written in San Antonio.  After the meeting, I contacted a local San Antonio bondsman who told me twenty-five percent of those arrested in Bexar County are released on a PR bond.  The result has been thousands of outstanding warrants issued for failure to appear and millions in uncollected forfeited PR bonds.

Judge Angelica Barrill is the Chair of the El Paso County Bail Bond Board.  She asked Commissioner Perez to include a representative of all stakeholders in future meetings regarding his proposal.  This includes a representative of the local bonding community.

The Professional Bondsmen of El Paso County has a fight on its hands and will need the help from the larger bonding community if they are to win this battle.   

Also…

El Paso County Bail Bond Board also discussed plans to move to an E-Bond system within the next 120 days.  Training classes will be held for bondsmen and surety company representatives in the coming weeks.

More and more counties and states are considering a move to E-Bonds similar to what is currently done with the Federal E-Bond System for posting Immigration Bonds.

Currently Smith County is the only county in Texas currently using E-Bonds.  Conceptually, it’s a good idea, it saves time and money and the surety is instantly informed whenever a bond has been issued.  The challenges lie in the area of security and preventing fraud.  For example, there must be security measures in place that confirms the person submitting an E-Bond is in fact authorized to do so.  These concerns may very well have been worked out.  We will find out in the coming weeks.  One thing is for certain, E-Bonds are coming so we may as well prepare and participate in this evolution.

Mississippi Rising

Posted January 9, 2015 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

My 2015 travel schedule began with a trip to Jackson, Mississippi earlier this week to attend the Mississippi Bail Agents Association Legislative Reception and the MBAA Winter General Assembly Meeting.

The MBAA is one of the more successful state associations in the country, with an excellent track record at the state assembly and tremendous support from that state’s licensed bail agents.  Their meetings are expertly organized by MBAA President Patty Hodges and her Board of Directors.

The Legislative Reception for state legislators is an annual event and provides a great opportunity to discuss industry concerns with legislators or just get to know the peoples representatives.  Every state association should follow the MBAA’s example.

The membership meeting included two heavyweight speakers, Mississippi Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and Inspector Robert Kay from the US Postal Inspection Service.  Lt. Governor Tate spoke of Mississippi’s $409M Rainy Day Fund and reducing the state’s outstanding debt by 350 million.  Before he was done the Lt. Governor had us believing things were looking brighter in Mississippi.  I sincerely hope that’s the case.

The presentation by Inspector Kay was particularly interesting.  He provided several suggestions on how to protect you from identity theft.  For instance, he recommends you not sign the back of your credit cards forcing store clerks to ask for your ID to confirm ownership.  Putting outgoing mail in your mail box that may contain checks or credit card information is not a good idea.  Thieves are bold and will cherry pick your mail box in broad daylight.  Take your outgoing mail to the post office whenever possible and never mail cash.  Inspector Kay also urged everyone to check their credit reports regularly for alien transactions.

I’ll miss the PBT meeting in Austin, Texas next week but will be attending the FSAA Annual Meeting in Tavares, Florida, January 29.  I’m scheduled to speak at the PBUS Winter Meeting in Las Vegas next month.  Try to attend if you can it should be another great meeting.

Beware of Potholes

Posted March 3, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 1 Comment

Driving on the streets of Indy this time of year looks oddly similar to the warm-up lap just prior to the start of the Indy 500 with commuters zigzagging on city streets.  The reason for the ess maneuvers is not to warm-up tires but to dodge the gaping pot holes created by all the salt put on the roads to deal with the ice and snow.

The Polar Vortex created a miserable winter for everyone from South Dakota to Texas to New York with regular doses of sleet, ice and record snow falls.  This may have been the impetus for the 2014 PBUS Winter Conference in Las Vegas enjoying record attendance.  The near perfect weather in Las Vegas was just too tempting to pass up for many of us.

The fact it was an election year at PBUS may have also contributed to the hefty turnout.  The candidates had strewn their campaign signs throughout the hallways and meeting areas.  No expense was spared.  The General Meeting segments were occasionally heated and at times tumultuous, which made for good theater.  Ultimately, Scott Hall was re-elected for another term as President and Marc Oudin of Arkansas was elected Treasurer.

During the conference I had a chance to speak with several bail agents from around the country.  The common subjects were professionalism and premium financing and payment terms. 

Bail agents have always provided a valuable service within their communities getting defendants to court.  Overall, more work needs to be done to enhance our professionalism and conduct.  As for allowing bond premiums to be made in payments, reasonable terms to pay the balance, is acceptable.  Allowing clients to bond out of jail with low down payments or no money down perpetuates a bad perception.  Even though the bail agent and surety are still liable for the full bond regardless of how much is paid, gives the appearance defendants are bonding out of jail for free.  Perception is reality for some people.

Bail agents must also find ways to broaden the services they provide to their clients and the court system i.e., GPS monitoring, interlocking devices, drug testing, etc.

It falls to the bonding company owners to set the example for dress code and conduct.  Surety companies should also encourage positive changes among their agency force.  A little effort can go a long way in improving an already efficient and effective private sector pretrial service solution that is the bail bond profession.

Another issue raised in conversation, was how little the judiciary, law enforcement and public defender’s offices know about bail bonds, their purpose and procedure.  Bail agents, surety companies and associations must do a much better job educating our partners within the criminal justice system.  Many state associations are already inviting court personnel to attend their continuing education classes and have bail representatives speaking at similar classes for judges and law enforcement.  This is a good start, we must do more.

From all appearances PBUS is in a really healthy place right now with membership numbers up and their fiscal house in order.  As a longtime member of PBUS I would really like to see our national agent association evolve into more of a resource repository to state bail associations providing empirical data and studies upon request to prevent the encroachment of ineffective public pretrial services, deposit bail options and excessive OR releases.

Every profession has its share of potholes.  The key to success is not to dodge the potholes but to fill them.

Cruising California

Posted February 17, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 1 Comment

 I traveled to Sacramento, California last week to attend an area meeting of the California Bail Agents Association.  Current CBAA President Maggie Kreins is following through on her promise have more interaction with California Bail Agents.

The meeting was productive with Lynn Brown, CEO of Advocates for Public Safety, making a presentation on the projected unintended consequences of AB 109 – Prison Realignment.   The released of tens of thousands of “low level offenders” from California State Prison has created a crime wave through the state.

Unfortunately, there are felons convicted of aggregated offenses who are being classified as “low level offenders” release back into society resulting in an increase in violent crime and crime in general.

I met with Assemblyman Curt Hagman at the State Capitol to discuss impact of AB109 and bail issues in general.  Assemblyman Hagman is a licensed bail agent who is in the final year of his second term in the General Assembly.  He is running for a seat on the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors.

Curt, I can call him Curt because I’ve known him for 20 years, says the bail profession must come forward with solutions to help ease prison crowding and the ever increasing failure to appear rate for defendants released on their own recognizance.

State prisoners being housed in county jails are commanding the majority of bed space meant for pretrial detainees resulting in a breach of the jail’s population limit. This breach then creates a need for releasing pretrial detainees with bail as high as $500,000 on their own recognizance.

Curt believes we should continue to push for the implementation of a post conviction bond that would provide a guarantee of appearance by convicted felons the parole board deems worthy of early release.  Curt also endorses the concept of a state recommended bond schedule and an automatic trigger on bail reductions when a jail’s population limit has been breached.

Assemblyman Hagmans time in the California General Assembly has been very productive.   As a Republican and therefore in the minority, Curt has authored more than 40 bills that have passed into law. This is impressive by any standard.

Curt ended our meeting by stressing the need for the bail profession to remain engaged in the legislative process, advocating meaningful legislature that will both improve the bail profession but also enhance public safety.  Bail agents must provide solutions to existing problems if we are to be taken seriously.

My travel buddy this week was American Surety Company’s Vice President Tom Anderson.  We found time in our busy schedule to travel to Roseville where we met with Rob Dick, owner of California Bail Education School.  Rob gave Tom and me an overview of his class and allowed us both to shoot a Glock 19 and an AR-15 in his action shooting simulator.  I haven’t had that much fun in a long time.  I would recommend his class to anyone.

Tom and I will both be in Las Vegas next week for the PBUS Winter Conference.  Be sure to ask us about our experience with the shooting simulator, particularly how I bested Tom on the range.  I have no doubt Tom will agree with me on that point.

Garden State Bail Agents Gather in Trenton

Posted December 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 4 Comments

I travelled to Trenton, New Jersey last Thursday to attend a meeting of bail agents in that state.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss proposed changes to the law that would effectively put the taxpayers of The Garden State in the bail bond business while putting public safety at risk.

New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli has introduced a bill that would put court personnel in charge of monitoring defendants released on their own recognizance pending trial.  In other words place the cost of tracking defendants on the backs of taxpayers.  Costs currently shouldered by criminal defendants and private bonding companies.

Bail professionals fill a critical role within the criminal justice system.   They get defendants to court at their own expense.   Without a defendant present in court the criminal attorney has no one to represent, the prosecutor no one to prosecute and the judge has holes in his docket.  According to a study recently released by the University of Texas at Dallas, it costs taxpayers $1700 each time a defendant fails to appear for court.

It defies logic why Assemblyman Burzichelli and others want to intentionally transfer the costs of monitoring defendants released from jail pending trial to the backs of New Jersey taxpayers.  If you can think of good reason other than money, money or money, let me know.

PBUS Summer Conference Concludes

Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Thursday, August 1, 2013

 

By Michael J. Whitlock

 

New Orleans, LA – It was Tuesday, the third day of the PBUS conference.  As a PBUS instructor, I was assigned to teach the course on Legislation.  Gene Newman is the Education Chair and usually comes to each class to thank everyone for attending and remind them of the importance of education.

 

It is also Gene’s routine to tell my students I know everything there is to know about the legislation process, as if I invented it.  The real truth is, I’m constantly learning new elements and facets of the politics, procedures and maneuvers of state house politics.

 

In the afternoon of that third day of the conference, I attended the meeting of the Council of Presidents.  This meeting always packs them in.  Why is this important to note?  While I can read state legislative updates if necessary, it’s always best to hear straight from the state bail representatives what exactly took place in their legislature this year.

 

The general theme among the states is government intervention in the private sector.  The courts need the money and they’re willing to sacrifice a superior form of release if it suits their purpose.  I’ve written about this issue often.

 

There were more CBA classes and seminars on Tuesday and Wednesday.  One in particular was Awareness and Risks for Apprehending a Fugitive presented by former NYPD Detective Lewis Lilla, Attorney Steven Zalewski and Recovery Agent Chris Seiden.  Knowing the law and the bail and recovery agent's limitations of authority,will keep you out of trouble and out of court.

 

The PBUS Summer Conference official adjourned.

 

I’m glad I attended this conference, though I can’t recall the last one I missed.  I always enjoy seeing and visiting with bail agents from all over the country, all in one setting.  I’ve met so many good people in this profession ,many of whom I’ve met at industry meetings.  You will never regret attending one of these conferences.

 

I took a lot of pictures and one video.  Click on the links below to view either or both.  Also, I would like to hear your comments on the meeting particularly if you attended.  What was your favorite part of this year’s summer conference?  Are you satisfied with the direction PBUS has taken?

 

I’m home for ten days before heading for Texas for the 24th Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament August 14 and the 3rd Quarter Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas August 15 and 16.  It’s going to be a great week.  I hope to see you there.

 

Click to view pictures from 2013 PBUS Summer Conference in New Orleans

Click to view a video of the PBUS parade down Bourbon Street

 


 

PBUS - New Orleans - Day 2 - The Parade

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

By Michael J. Whitlock

New Orleans, LA - The cocktail party was held in the courtyard of the Royal Sonesta Hotel.  There were wall to wall people and I felt like a lobster being steamed to temperature.  I was surviving and embolding myself to sign up for the survivor show, Naked and Afraid.  

 

I was doing my best Peter Parker routine as the self designated event photographer, trying to get pictures of everybody.

 

The parade down Bourbon Street was just a few minutes away and it couldn't come any sooner.  At least Bourbon Street would have some semblance of a breeze.

 

The second day of our national bail agent conference began at 8:15 a.m. with a welcome speech by the Mayor of New Orleans followed by a dissection of the University of Texas Dallas study by Dr. Robert Morris.

 

The final diagnosis was commercial bonds are more conducive to appearance in court.  It's nice to have a study to back what I already knew as fact.  Dr. Morris reached this conclusion after analyzing huge amounts of data gathered from the Dallas County courts.  Dallas County spends roughly 100 million dollars annually jailing defendants.

 

I had a tasty lunch at Gumbo Shop off St. Peter Street with Jared Skelton, Tom Anderson and Randy Adler. It's amazing how everyone has to step to the men's room just as the bill arrives.  As it happens, I got back to the table first.

 

After lunch I sat in on a presentation entitled How to Challenge Pretrial Advocates: The Fallacies of Their Risk Assessment. Attorney Nick Wachinski and ABC Executive Director Dennis Bartlett broke down overrated risk assessment tools employed by public pretrial release agencies.  


The program in Philadelphia was central to their discussion.  That City of Brotherly Love has been undergoing an overhaul of its criminal justice system for the past couple of years after decades of mismanagement.  Commercial Bail is a component of the new structure, as it should be.

 

There were several other seminars in the afternoon which I was unable to attend due to a meeting of the American Bail Coalition.  ABC typically holds a meeting while we're all in town for PBUS meetings.  Why not?  We're all there anyway and conference calls just don't have the same personal affect.  For example how often do my contemporaries get to see me in a pair of shorts?  Pat Wood has nothing on me (inside joke).

 

Oh yeah, the parade.  The open bar was shut down and we all proceeded to Bourbon Street to find a police escort for our 15 minute walk over to The Court of Two Sisters to have dinner.  As parade's go, this one was pretty impressive.  PBUS had its own banner and the tail of bail agents was two blocks long.  Those looking on didn't know who we were but who doesn't like a parade. They happily snatched up the beads being thrown their way.

 

PBUS filled the Two Sisters restaurant to capacity.  It was a pleasant evening.

 

If you're wondering how PBUS is dong these days, I can attest they're doing pretty well.  Attendance is up, meeting content is much improved and they have money in the bank.  If you're not at this meeting you should plan on attending the 2014 Winter Conference in Las Vegas because you're missing out.

The meeting's not over yet.  I teach a class on legislation this morning at 8:30 a.m.  More meetings today, including the Council of (state) Presidents Meeting which is always interesting.  I'll be sure to let you know if anything interesting happens.


PBUS - New Orleans - Day 1

Monday, July 29, 2013

By Michael J. Whitlock

New Orleans, LA - The PBUS Summer Conference got off to a good start on Sunday with a morning round of golf at Audubon Park Golf Course.  I was obligated to participate and enjoyed each and every shot.  Louisiana's own Guy Ruggerio was the host for this event and did an excellent job of it.

 

The day was not all fun and games, well, most of it would be.  We did have to fit in the Board of Directors Meeting in the early afternoon.  Everyone was all smiles when it was reported the country's national bail agent association was in the black for the second year in a row.  


Current PBUS President Scott announced his intention to run for a second term.  I'm hearing PBUS Senior Vice President Beth Chapman will be running in opposition.  That should make for a barn burner of an election next year.

Later in the evening, Tom Anderson and I hosted a dinner of American Surety Company and Underwriters Surety, Inc. agents at Commander's Palace in the Garden District of New Orleans.  Perhaps the best five course meal I've ever eaten. My slice of Cream Cheese Cake was a meal in itself.


We had bail agents in from Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.  It's always a pleasure to show our appreciation to our business partners whenever possible. There were no complaints.

 

The conference gets to it today with several seminars, membership meeting and a parade down Bourbon Street tonight. That will be anything but boring and you know I'll get pictures. :)

Hoosier Bail Agents Meet in Northern Indiana

Posted May 21, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Deposit Bail, Legislation, and Meeting Recaps  - 6 Comments

Michigan City, Indiana – Hoosier bail agents gathered in northern Indiana this past Saturday for the ISBAA’s annual spring meeting.  The meeting was held at the Blue Chip Casino and included six hours of continuing education.  All bail and recovery agents will need to obtain the required continuing education credits prior to license renewal this fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This meeting was anticipated with a particular buzz of excitement, resulting in one of the larger turnouts in recent memory.  Bail agents in Indiana are genuinely concerned about their future.   The amount of bail written in Indiana has been reduced by more than 70% in just eight years.  This sizable reduction can be attributed not to a reduction in crime, but rather an increase in the use of the ten percent cash option offered by the court.

As I reported earlier this year, Tippecanoe County is the latest casualty.  With just sixty days notice, this area, home to Purdue University, instituted a new bond schedule that included a ten percent cash option on all bonds $5000 and under.  The bail agents in Tippecanoe reported an instantaneous reduction in business by as much as ninety-eight percent.

This meeting included a two-hour panel discussion on the concept of repealing Indiana’s no-credit law and other ideas that could bring about positive change to public safety in Indiana and, by extension, the commercial bail industry.  I was a member of the pane, which included Lee Sexton, Bob Dawson, Tony Widgery, John O’Byron and Josh Stroufe.  The panel was moderated by Nick Wachinski.

The panel discussion was cordial for the most part and heated at times.  Bail agents in Indiana are very passionate about their profession.   With current law requiring premiums to be paid in full prior to posting a bond, Hoosier bail agents are simply not familiar with the concept of payment plans.  Many are slow to embrace the idea of credit bonding even though extending a payment option to their clients may be the very thing that can save their profession long-term.

Indiana statute allows a court to offer a defendant a cash bond option of up to 100% of the bond amount and not less than ten percent.  Court and county officials are no fools.  Their goal is to simply use cash bail money to pay fines, costs and public and private attorneys.  From the beginning, the courts viewed bail agents as a competitor and treated them as such.  It was for this reason they cleverly set their cash deposit requirement at an amount equal to the premium charged by bail agents.  Defendants would readily pay the court ten percent with no strings as opposed to a bail agent who has a host of conditions and requirements to ensure appearance, including a financial incentive to apprehend them, should they fail to show for court.

As a member of the panel I did my best to paint an accurate picture of the current state of commercial bail in Indiana and make the argument that at this time in our state’s history, repealing Indiana’s no-credit statute and permitting a defendant to always have the option to post a bond is the answer to our problem.  Making these changes would allow a bail agent to write bail in every county in the state.  Facilitating this would be extending the option to a criminal defendant to pay their premium in installments, as they are able to do with a myriad of other products and services.   Payment plans in no way lessens the surety’s guarantee of the full bond amount.

PBUS in a Healthy Place

Posted March 4, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock Executive Vice President American Surety Company under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Las Vegas, NV - The Professional Bail Agents of the United States recently held its 2013 Winter Conference in Las Vegas.  I was in attendance and found The Mirage Hotel & Casino a welcoming venue for this year’s event.  American Idol was taping its show in the hotel’s Beatles’ Love Theater, which provided an added boost of excitement to the week.

It was apparent at the 2012 Mid-Year meeting in San Diego, PBUS was moving to a healthier place financially.  PBUS had shed itself of the top-heavy expenses that dogged them for too many years.  At the meeting last week, the Board of Directors reported the bail industry’s national association was flush with cash and in a very good place financially.

Current PBUS President Scott Hall of Georgia introduced Corrine Markey as the new Executive Director for PBUS.  Corrine has excellent credentials and did a superb job producing her first national bail conference. No easy feat.

The conference offered something for everyone; Certified Bail Agent classes, the For Women’s Only Luncheon which featured Apollonia Kotero and the Council of President’s meeting which brought us up to date on legislative issues from around the country.  

There was also a very informative lecture during the general meeting on the effective use of the Internet to track fugitives.  I found the facial recognition information to be particularly fascinating.  While the lecture did include explicit material inappropriate for any audience, I did not let this detract from the tremendous amount of new information gleaned from this speaker.

The awards this year went to Jeff Kirkpatrick, PBUS President’s Award; Melanie Ledgerwood, Individual of the Year and Pam Jackson, Bail Agent of the Year.  The lone inductee into the PBUS Hall of Fame was a remarkable gentlemen and veteran of WWII, Leo Dumouchelle.  Mr. Dumouchelle was awarded two Purple Hearts and numerous other medals during the time he was in service to our country.  At 90 years of age, he’s in good health and still writing bail in San Luis Obispo, California. 

The PBUS 2013 Summer Conference will be held at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans in July.

Election Adds Excitement to GAPB Meeting

Posted November 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 2 Comments

The historic city of Savannah, GA was not as inviting as it can be as attendees of the meeting of the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen were met with a cool rain and stiff breeze. However, it didn’t take long for things to heat up inside the Hyatt Regency where the election of GAPB officers and directors was taking place.
 
It was standing room only in the stuffy meeting room where the air was electric and candidates were working to secure votes from GAPB members. It was all, outgoing GAPB President, Jared Skelton could do to keep control of the room while we all heard from the candidates making their case for why they were the most qualified to serve in the positions they were seeking.
 
In the end, Scott Echols was elected President, Charles Shaw, Vice President, Doug Cotter, Treasurer and Jennifer Ricks retained her position as Secretary. Scott has a tough act to follow where Jared is concerned. Georgia saw significant, bail friendly, legislation passed during his administration. GAPB has developed an impressive track record over the past several years and we can expect this to continue under Scott Echols leadership.
 
This meeting was not all about the election, the GAPB held its annual Blowout for the Georgia Sheriffs who were in town attending their own conference. This annual gather is held at The Warehouse on River Street. The turnout was excellent and everyone seemed to have an enjoyable time.
 
The GAPB conference ended with Dale Neese receiving the GAPB Service Award. Dale continues his battle with melanoma. His business partner, Janice Grimes, accepted the award on Dale’s behalf.
 

San Diego Site of PBUS Comeback

Posted July 12, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock,MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

San Diego, CA – The PBUS Mid-Year Meeting held at the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego July 8-11 was by far the best PBUS summer meeting I’ve attended in more than a decade. The success of this meeting is a testament to the new administration and critical administrative changes made in the waning months of the last administration.
 
The coastal venue in Southern California was like an oasis. The hotel, the setting next to the pier and the weather were all very welcoming.  The scheduled was not too crowded and the information offered was fresh.  Both the cocktail party and dinner were first rate and while I did not attend, I understand the For Women’s Only Lunch was successful and everyone had a good time at Sea World on the final day of the conference.
 
I’m not alone in my opinion. Several attendees remarked about how nice the event was this summer.  PBUS has been operating for just over thirty years so it was time for a house cleaning. Gone are the former executive director and staff. Gone is the Washington D. C. office space.  Gone is the tremendous cost associated with both. Changes made at the end of Past President Linda Braswell’s administration have provided a friendly environment for new Executive Director Melanie Ledgerwood and current PBUS President Scott Hall who, as a member of the Board of Directors, enthusiastically argued the changes that have occurred.
 
Scott Hall reported at the Board of Directors meeting that PBUS, as a result of a reduction in overhead, was in good financial health. The 2013 winter conference is set for a return to the Mirage Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. I’m looking forward to seeing what PBUS has in store for us next February. As for this meeting I give them two thumbs up.

 
Meeting Notes
Council of Presidents Meeting – Dave Hyatt from Colorado reminded everyone transfer bonds were no longer permitted in the Rocky Mountain State. If you’re an out of state agent whose client has been arrested Colorado you will now need to refer your client to a Colorado bail agent.
 
Ralph Williams of Alabama reported a suit has been filed regarding the recently imposed $35 per bond fee. The basis of the suit is the Alabama State Legislature is prohibited from passing revenue generating legislation within a certain period prior to the end of the legislative session. Mr. Williams also clarified the surety bail agents must absorb the cost of the $35 fee while professionally licensed bondsmen can pass the fee onto their clients.
 
The Mississippi Bail Agents Association is holding its 40th Anniversary Meeting July 23-24 at the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis. I’m really looking forward to attending this event. MBAA always has a great meeting and a huge turnout. Hope to see you there.

Georgia bondsmen show support for sheriffs' charity

Posted June 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Legacy on Lanier Golf Club located on scenic Lake Lanier near Buford, Georgia was the site of the 6th Annual Georgia Sheriffs’ Association Statewide Golf Tournament held June 22. Proceeds raised from the event go to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes.
 
The Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen made a contribution and placed a sponsor’s tent on the 11th hole where GAPB volunteers handed out cold bottles of water and goodie bags to golfers enduring the 90 degree heat.
 
It doesn’t take a lot of encouragement to help kids. I attended the event on behalf of American Surety Company, an event sponsor. American Surety Company has a number of agent partners in Georgia and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to support the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and their worthwhile efforts on behalf of youths.
 
 
FSAA 40th Anniversary Meeting
I departed Georgia and headed to Coco Beach, Florida for the Florida Surety Agents Association 40th Anniversary Meeting held over the weekend. While attendance was light, it was enthusiastic. FSAA is one of two bail agent associations in Florida and boasts representing bail agents over the last four decades. The expansion of taxpayer funded pretrial release programs has been an ongoing concern in Florida so both FSAA and B.A.I.L. Florida will need to work together to protect the future of commercial bail in Florida.
 
PBUS Mid-Year Meeting a few weeks away
PBUS, under the leadership of new president Scott Hall, will hold its 2012 Mid-Year Meeting July 8-11 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt situated in downtown San Diego.   I always look forward to the Board of Directors Meeting and The Council of Bail Association President’s Meeting. It’s where I get the most information about what is happening in the bail industry nationally. I’ve been tapped to teach the CBA class on legislation so get your tickets early. Click here to view meeting agenda.

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.

Audits on horizon for South Carolina Bail Agents

Posted March 22, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Columbia, SC – I travelled to Columbia this week to attend a continuing education class held by the South Carolina Bail Agents Association. American Surety Company sponsored this particular class and with our sponsorship I was granted the opportunity to teach a segment of the course. I elected to speak about professionalism and the importance of conducting oneself in an appropriate manner when dealing with customers, clerks, judges and law enforcement. There is a steady stream of new licensees entering commercial bail so it is very important each retail owner guide and instruct their staff on the proper way to conduct themselves when dealing with the public and the courts.
 
As is customary in SCBAA continuing education classes, a representative of the Department of Insurance is invited to go over laws and regulations governing bail. Willie Seawright was in attendance at this meeting. Mr. Seawright is familiar to most bail agent in South Carolina. He took this opportunity to break the news to attendees that after a long drought the DOI will once again begin auditing bail agents to make sure they are in compliance with the statute. 
 
The DOI is in the midst of conducting premium tax audits on all 26 commercial bail surety companies operating in South Carolina. In continuation of this effort on April 1st SCDOI will begin auditing 20 bail agents a month to make sure they are in full compliance of SC 38-43-250. The SCDOI will also be focusing on timely remittance of premiums to surety companies, security measures of powers of attorney and proper control of bond collateral. Bail agents will be fined directly for any infractions. Both surety producers and professional bail agents will be subject to an audit. Little or no notice will be given in advance of the audit and it has yet to be determined if bail agents will bear the cost of the exam.
 
Mr. Seawright also advised the surety company representatives in attendance of a forthcoming SCDOI bulletin requiring powers of attorney forms to include specific data fields. The Department is specifically concerned about the bail agent noting the amount of gross premium being charged to the client. It is from this number the Department will be able to calculate the correct amount due for premium tax on a specific bond.
 
While audits may not be welcomed by bail agents, according to Mr. Seawright they have been given a pass for nearly 20 years. Each bail agent should review SC 38-43-250 to make sure they are in compliance as it only takes one violation to have your license revoked. Mr. Seawright made it clear the motivation is not to put bail agents out of business nor to generate revenue for the state, but to make sure all producers are in compliance with the code and that they remain so.
 
General Sessions Court has also started charging ten dollars per bond under an existing statute. Some counties are charging this fee at the time the bond is posted and some counties are invoicing bail agents at the end of each month. The fee cannot be passed along to the client.
 
On a brighter note, the SCBAA was successful in passing HB 3895 where a bail bond is exonerated after 36 months if there has never been an entry of forfeiture and the court has been given sixty days advance notice of intent to conclude the bond term.

PBUS Members Elect New President

Posted February 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Las Vegas, NV - Georgia bondsman Scott Hall is the new President of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States. He won a close election over Connecticut’s Mary Casey. Scott brings many years of bail experience and extensive knowledge of running a business to the position and an impressive track record of legislative achievements as part of the legislative committee of the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen.
 
Also up for election were the Senior Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary. Beth Chapman - that’s right, Mrs. Duane “Dog” Chapman – was elected Senior Vice President while Pam Jackson retained her position as Treasurer and Maggie Kreins was voted in as the new Secretary.
 
Guest speakers included Dennis Bartlett, Executive Director of the American Bail Coalition, and Chief Circuit Court Judge John G. McBain of Jackson County, Michigan. Judge McBain prefers bail bonds to any other form of release. He loves the idea of being able to pick up the phone and contact a bail agent when their client has failed to appear for court. He’s even made the call from the bench. 
 
Awards were handed out by outgoing President Linda Braswell.  The President’s Award went to Scott Hall, Individual of the Year Award to Bill Kreins and the Bail Agent of the Year went to Jeff Kirkpatrick. As a pleasant surprise I was inducted into the PBUS Hall of Fame along with American Surety Company Vice President Dan Amato.
 
I really enjoyed the conference this year. The elections made it interesting, and the American Surety Company Agent Appreciation Event at Voodoo Lounge was a blockbuster. We had a great turnout and everyone had a great time. The annual conference is, in part, about the celebration of the bail agent and the commercial bail industry. I’m looking forward to the positive changes that will surely come with the new PBUS Board of Directors.

PBT uses legislative off year to get fiscal house in order

Posted January 30, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Austin, TX - New PBT President Scott Walstad of Dallas elected to spend his first months at the helm of one of the nation’s prominent bail agent associations getting their fiscal house in order.  The first hour or so of the Board of Directors meeting in the year's first quarterly meeting was spent talking about expense reports and meeting costs.  The objective, where can costs be reduced and processes streamlined to save costs.
 
The meeting, held at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Austin was not all about cost cutting.  There was still work to be done on the legislative front even though Texas Legislature is in hibernation.  Redistricting will bring a number of changes and new faces to the legislature in 2012-2013.  This will require a lot of work by the PBT Legislative Committee to sort it all out.  It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to educate legislators on the benefits of commercial bail both to the criminal justice system and taxpayers.
 
The recent passing of Houston based agent Peter Perrault also highlight the need for changes in the bail bond board statute.  A legacy rule should be added allowing, upon the death of a licensee, a bail bond agency to continue to operate through a surviving spouse, son or daughter until that person can become formerly licensed.  Presently, in the event of the license holder's death the bail bond agency is immediately shut down.  This is not productive for the surviving family members, the county or the clients currently out on bond.  PBT pledged to address this issue in the next session of the legislature.
 
The Professional Bondsmen of Texas will hold their 2nd Quarterly Meeting in Houston April 26-28.

Bail bonds hit airwaves in the Mile High City

Posted January 12, 2012 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Deposit Bail, Legislation, and Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

While in the Mile High City last week, I met with some of our bail agents, attended a meeting of the Committee on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) to hear a presentation on bail bonds and made a guest appearance on "In the Lobby" on WKRP Radio to discuss the bail bond industry.
 
The Colorado Bail Industry has been hit pretty hard lately. Not only because of the poor economy, but also because some courts have stopped setting surety bonds in lieu of small cash bnods with no option of posting a bail bond.
 
You may recall my reporting on SB11-186 (Alternative Bond) last year. This bill would have created a percentage cash bond managed by the local public Pretrial Release Agency. After a lengthy legislative battle SB11-186 failed to pass. Look for a similar bill to be in the upcoming session.
 
The CCJJ was behind the effort to introduce the Alternative Bond and it was a representative of the CCJJ who was called to the carpet during a committee hearing for not inviting a representative of the bail industry to sit on their committee. The CCJJ took immediate steps to remedy this oversight by inviting current PBAC President and local bail agent Steve Mares to join their committee.
 
The CCJJ held a meeting January 6 in Lakewood, Colorado where Steve Mares and fellow bail agent, Jason Alexander, made a two-hour presentation on commercial bail bond procedures.  I attended the meeting as a spectator; only committee members were allowed to comment. 
 
Steve and Jason did an excellent job with their presentation. They took a number of questions from the other committee members. One in particular, is it true most defendants who FTA while out on bond are arrested by law enforcement? Steve did a great job dispelling this myth by explaining 1) bail agents will make every effort to reinstate a bond without surrendering a defendant if there was no intent on the defendant’s behalf to flee; and 2) many times when a bail agent is surrendering a defendant to the county jail the duty officer will not provide a body receipt opting instead to put themselves down as the arresting officer in order to receive credit for the arrest. With the officers taking credit for the arrests it creates a false impression that bail agents are not responsible for the recovery of their fugitives. Committee members seemed to grasp the explanation.
 
Before I made my trip I was invited by lobbyist Cork Kyle to be a guest on his daily radio show, "In the Lobby". I appeared on air last Wednesday and thoroughly enjoyed my first opportunity to do radio.  While nervous at first, I quickly got into the discussion, as I'm quite comfortable when I’m talking bail.    It was a friendly environment as Corky represents the Rocky Mountain Bail Agents Association and it was a good experience. (Listen to my radio interview).
 
All eyes will be on Colorado again this legislative session watching for another effort to pass Alternative Bond legislation. The Colorado bail industry will also be working with the legislature on the proposed Sunset revisions. The regulation of bail by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies is up for renewal and there have been several recommendations made by The Bail Bond Advisory Committee established last year. I will keep you posted as the situation develops.

It’s a new year with new challenges. Together, as a cohesive unit, we continue to promote the effectiveness of commercial bail bonds as a critical component of the criminal justice system.

Click on the picture to listen to my radio interview.

California Bail Industry Aligns in Wake of Prison Realignment

Posted November 11, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 1 Comment

A bail industry meeting took place on the 2nd floor of the Crown Plaza Hotel down the street from LAX on November 2, 2011. The meeting was organized by the American Bail Coalition and included representatives of not only the members of ABC, but California’s two bail agent associations, California Bail Agents Association and The Golden State Bail Agents Association and representatives of Aladdin Bail Bonds, the state’s largest retailer. This cooperative was named the California Bail Coalition (CBC).
 
The purpose of the meeting was to gather stakeholders operating within the California commercial bail community to discuss ways the bail industry can better involve itself in the process of moving thousands of criminal offenders from the state’s prison system to local county jails brought about by the passing of AB109. Specific focus was given to coordinating efforts to communicate, through informed representatives, with members of local Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) who are charged with formulating and recommending a plan for their respective counties on how to manage the influx of state inmates and early release parolees into their local systems, a huge undertaking.
 
CCP’s were established by the Corrections Performance Incentive Act of 2009 (SB 678) and are comprised of primarily public servants working within the criminal justice system with the exception of a representative of victims of crime. A representative of the bail industry, an integral part of the overall criminal justice system, was not included.
 
While bail agents were not included on the CCP board, bail agents have been attending the CCP meetings being held all over the state. The CCP boards are charged with addressing a multitude of issues and challenges presented with the prison realignment, ranging from creating bed space (where none existed), reallocating police and sheriff deputies from the street to the jails, expediting release of pretrial detainees and the increased demand for rehabilitation and medical services. All this is to be accomplished without hindering public safety.
 
The California Bail Coalition is looking for bail agents interested in being a local representative and willing to attend all local meetings of the CCP. Interested bail agents should contact either ABC, CBAA, GSBAA or Aladdin depending upon their affiliation.
 
Recent News Articles Related to Realignment
 

PBT Elects New President

Posted October 31, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Last week’s annual meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas marked the end of John McCluskey’s run as the Association’s President. John was at the helm for four years and I believe most would agree he was an effective leader.
John was tireless in his efforts to have a positive impact on commercial bail in Texas. As part of the Legislative Committee he spent a significant amount of time in Austin promoting the bail industry and derailing legislation like S498 that would have introduced deposit bail in Texas.
John was also key supporter in creating a partnership with the Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament, raising nearly $100,000 for Camp Esperanza in the last three years. PBT had not been formally affiliated with a charity prior to John’s tenure.
John turned over the reins to Dallas area bondsman Scott Walstad who had been serving as Vice President and the Legislative Chair. Scott went unopposed for president in the election held last week. Davie Westmoreland of Bryan, Texas is the new Vice President.
This year’s annual meeting was held at the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio, a departure from The Menger Hotel where the fall meeting had been held for many years. The meeting consisted of a golf outing, cocktail party, general meeting, elections, auction and casino night (Click here to view a photo slide show).
Several awards were handed out to deserving members. Gene Newman received the PBT Award of Distinction. Davie Westmorland and John McCluskey both received the Professional Bondsman of the Year while Ken Good received the Legislative Award of Excellence. A number of members received their ten, fifteen or twenty-five year pin while John McRae received a pin in recognition of his 35 years as a member of PBT.

All in all it was a memorable few days in San Antonio.

2004 GAPB Meeting was the Start of WIW-MW

Posted October 25, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 3 Comments

“Where in the world is Mike?” is a common refrain I hear as I travel around the country meeting with bail agents. I guess I brought this on myself.
 
I recently attended a meeting of the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen in Savannah. Ironically, it was following a fall meeting of the GAPB in 2004 I had written my first blog. That blog proved to be the impetus for what would become my Where in the World is Mike Whitlock online articles.  
 
American Surety Company had been producing a premier industry newsletter for years but it had become clear the information being disseminated was often dated and stale by the time it reached the reader. While I’m no Steve Jobs, we do try to be innovative in our thinking and how we go about communicating with bail agents. After setting the bar with our 24 page, four-color newsletter, we became the first bail surety company to regularly distribute free information electronically to all bail agents.
 
The reaction was immediate and positive. Bail agents began receiving industry meeting updates within days rather than waiting two months for meeting summaries to arrive in the association newsletter via snail mail. American Surety soon followed with regular legislative updates and bail related case information. There was never any consideration to providing this information to our agents exclusively. From the beginning, it was our intent to provide free industry information to all bail agents. The better informed we are as a profession the more professional we become.
 
A few years ago we made profound enhancements to our website at ASC-USI.com to include valuable links, articles, legislative updates, case law information and digital photos from meetings and company events.  We are very proud of our profession and enthusiastically promote the bail agent.
 
GAPB Meeting Notes
Jared Skelton is the current president of GAPB with his term ending next spring. The meeting was well attending and the cocktail party held for the sheriffs, who were also in Savannah for their annual meeting, was a huge success.
 
While nothing significant occurred in the legislature this year that would impact the bail industry in Georgia, a bill (HB 265) creating the 2011 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians was enacted.  This council was created to review and submit recommendations to “enhance public safety, reduce victimization, hold offenders more accountable, enhance probation and parole supervision, and better manage a growing prison population through increasing public safety, improving rehabilitation, and lower state expense”.
 
The GAPB will be working closely with the house and senate members of this council to ensure the voice of the commercial bail industry is heard. A council of this nature can be productive yet can also be harmful if the proven effectiveness of the commercial bail industry is ignored.

AB109 - Game Changer for Bail/Public Safety

Posted October 14, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

It’s been six months since Governor Brown signed into law AB 109, part of California’s criminal justice realignment agenda. AB 109 purportedly will help ease prison overcrowding by retaining lower-level offenders and parole violators with short term sentences in the county jails and releasing from custody qualifying pretrial detainees with only a GPS monitor to ensure appearance. Counties are to be paid by the state for housing convicted felons.
 
AB 109 could dramatically impact the use of commercial bail as county jail officials will be releasing pretrial detainees by any means possible to make room for the paying customers; convicted felons. Under AB 109, a pretrial detainee is not eligible for release on a GPS monitor until after they have been in custody for 30 days, therefore we will see an increase in release on own recognizance and through taxpayer funded pretrial release programs. 
 
With a recidivism rate of nearly 70 percent, the number of parolees alone could prove overwhelming to the newly enlisted county jail facilities, making for an unmanageable housing dilemma.
 
In the wake of a housing dilemma at the county level, we may begin to witness an increase in the issuance of citations and fewer arrests. Fewer arrests means higher crime rates which translates to more victims and unsafe neighborhoods. A higher number of offenders released on unsecured bond or no bond will result in increased failures to appear and more warrants translating to more work for law enforcement.
 
AB 109 was a major topic of conversation at the recent meeting of the California Bail Agents Association in San Diego. CBAA has joined forces with the GSBAA, the Golden State Bail Agents Association, to increase awareness of the effectiveness of commercial bail bonds in controlling failures to appear and enhancing public safety by securing bonds with third party cosigners by way of family members, friends and employers.
 
California bail agents need to be aware of how AB 109 may impact their market and be prepared to contribute time and resources to protect their livelihood.
 
AB 109 became effective October 1.

Ohio Bail Agents Get Some Good News

Posted October 10, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Executive Vice President under Deposit Bail, Meeting Recaps, and Post Conviction Bonds  - 0 Comments

Bail agents of The Buckeye State met in Columbus on September 22-24 for the 6th Annual Meeting of the Ohio Bail Agents Association. The OBAA has been quietly trying to improve conditions for commercial bail in that state.
 
Senator Bill Seitz was on hand to speak about his 309 page Sentence Bill (HB 86) which became effective September 27. The bill includes an amendment from the bail industry which provides for the clerk to mail a notice to the surety within 15 days after the declaration of the forfeiture. The show cause period has also been increased from a minimum of 20 days to 45 days.
 
Senator Seitz is an enthusiastic and loyal supporter of commercial bail and the role it plays in the criminal justice system. Senator Seitz fought hard to include the bail amendment to HB 86. He also committed to incorporating a post conviction bond in legislation he will introduce next year that he calls the Son of HB 86.
 
Franklin County Municipal Clerk of Court Lori Tyack was also an invited speaker. After hearing her position on deposit bail, the Ohio bail industry can now count Ms. Tyack as a friend in addition to Senator Seitz and Judge Nancy Russo of Cuyahoga County. Ms. Tyack is one of only a handful of Court Clerks in Ohio who are elected as opposed to appointed. She is also the President of the Ohio Clerk’s Association and has invited OBAA members to attend their October meeting and have a booth in their vendor section.
 
Finally, there was some discussion on the suit brought against an Ohio court clerk who had denied a bondsman from posting a bail bond on a 10% deposit. The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the bail agent and directed the court clerk to accept the bond.
 
The use of deposit bail as an option to a fully secured bail bond is spreading in Ohio. The courts are mesmerized by the cash and quickly forget about the purpose of bail. It will take a continued effort by the bail industry to bring the courts back around to reality.

Plenty of Bail Meetings Yet to Come

Posted August 24, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice Pesident, American Surety Company under Meeting Recaps  - 1 Comment

I’m happy to be home in Indianapolis for a few weeks before embarking on the fall swing of state association meetings which begin next month.  While home, I was able to help get our three girls back to school and our son off to his first year of college. Go WKU Hilltoppers!
How’s that?
Back to the job and stark reality, a defendant was charged in Los Angeles recently for engaging in sodomy with another consenting adult, while sodomy is illegal in California, arrests are rare.   His bond was set and posted at one million dollars.  Conversely, in South Bend, Indiana a two time sex offender charged with yet another sex related crime involving a six year old boy was released on a $3000 cash bond by a St. Joseph County judge. It’s enough to make your head spin.
In Tennessee some judges are upset because their local bondsmen are allowing their clients to pay as little as 30 percent of the premium down to gain release from jail. While credit bonding and discounting are an on-going issue for the bail industry to address, I fail to see why judges are concerned. If a bondsman makes a business decision to take less than the full amount of premium up front to write a bond, he or she is still responsible for 100% of the bond. A judge can question the bondsman’s business acumen but not the guarantee on the bond. The bondsmen still has to get his client to court or risk a financial penalty equal to the bond amount.
A former agent of American Surety Company pled guilty this week to one count of felony grand theft; receiving 90 days in jail, five years of felony probation and ordered to pay restitution. This former bail agent failed to remit insurance premiums to the surety; that’s a crime. It’s important to remember, bail agents representing surety companies are collecting premium on the surety’s behalf. These premiums are fiduciary funds and are to be held in a separate account before being timely remitted to the surety.
You probably saw the announcement where Tom Anderson has joined American Surety Company. Personally, I could not have been more excited when Tom became available. We have both been in bail about the same length of time, thirty years and have similar work experience. Tom will be a tremendous asset to American Surety Company and we’re thrilled to have him on board.
Upcoming Events (click on the state link for additional details)
Connecticut – The Constitution State was finally able to pass some form of bail reform (SB 28) addressing client solicitation and premium discounting. The new law goes into effect October 1. The Bail Association of Connecticut will be holding a meeting September 8 in Hartford where they have invited representatives of the Department of Insurance to break down and discuss the new law. The new law will impact surety companies as well by requiring each bail agent to be audited twice a year. Our own Gary Logue will be in attendance at this meeting.
Idaho - I received the nifty newsletter from the PBAI regarding their fall meeting in Jackpot, Nevada September 12-14. Idaho agents must have an affinity for Jackpot because they hold all their meetings at Cactus Pete Casino just south of the Idaho border.
Tennessee – The T.A.P.B.A. will be holding another one of their barn burning continuing education classes September 16 in Murfreesboro. No one seems to show for the general meeting but you could have as many as 300 bail agents show for the class. Tennessee had no less than seven pieces of legislation pass into law this year. This meeting would be a great opportunity to learn how the new laws will impact your business.
Ohio – The OBAA will hold its 6th Annual Conference September 22-24 in Columbus. OBAA President Eddie Miller has promised a great meeting and discussion on HB 86 which passed earlier this year. Attendees can also expect to hear about the “surety is equal to cash” case brought against a county clerk and won by bail agent Woody Fox. Way to go Woody!
Florida – This state boasts two agent associations B.A.I.L. Florida and the Florida Surety Agents Association. B.A.I.L. Florida will be holding their next meeting September 28 in Bradenton. This is a continuing fight against the expanded use of taxpayer funded pretrial release in this state, which I’m sure will be an agenda topic. The Florida bail industry also lost two of its own earlier this year. B.A.I.L Florida has created the Downed Agent Funds to help provide assistance to families of fallen bail agents. Be sure to say hello to our own Dan Amato, who is certain to be in attendance.
Washington – I’ve been on the receiving end of several emails from WSBAA President Jeremy Hubbard advising of their upcoming Fall Conference September 28 in Yakima. Yakima is considered part of the Tri-City area and is in the central part of the state. The centralized location should attract bail agents throughout the state. Washington is dealing with the mission-creep of deposit bail. As we’ve learned, once the courts get a taste of revenue without accountability they lose all perspective of the purpose of bail. Look for American Surety Company’s Tom Anderson to be in attendance.
Wait, there’s more…
California – Like Florida, California also has two bail agent associations, the California Bail Agents Association and the Golden State Bail Agents Association. Both associations have been working together in a joint PR campaign to promote the use of commercial bail. The PR campaign is funded by bail agents and surety companies like American Surety Company.   California is currently dealing with county’s adopting the use of GPS ankle monitors in lieu of bail and the state subcontracting with county sheriffs to house some 40,000 state inmates in a cost cutting measure. This “cash for beds” plan will reduce the amount of beds available for pretrial detainees, as sheriffs will be financially incentivized to release defendants as quickly as possible to make room for paying customers. Who says government employees don’t understand capitalism?   American Surety Company is sponsoring Casino Night at the 32nd Annual CBAA Convention October 2-4 at the Westin Emerald Plaza in San Diego. I’m hoping to get my first job as a pit boss. 
Georgia – The Peach State is always one of my favorite stops. The agents in Georgia are very proactive in the preservation of bail in that state and they have an impressive track record of passing pro-bail legislation.  The GAPB Fall Conference always coincides with the Georgia Sheriffs Association Annual Meeting. GAPB always hosts a cocktail party for the sheriff’s. This year’s party will be sponsored, in part, by American Surety Company. The GAPB Fall Conference will be held at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront Hotel October 11-13 and will include a general meeting and a continuing education class.
South Carolina – The SCBAA Fall Meeting and Class will be held October 19 in Columbia. The SCBAA holds several classes a year and always enjoys a large turnout of bail agents. This meeting will include a number of state representatives and should make for an informative event.
Texas – The Professional Bondsmen of Texas will hold their 2011 PBT Annual Meeting at a new location this year, the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio October 26-29. The meeting will be proceded by the 5th Annual PBT Golf Classic which raises money for the PBT PAC. PBT’s annual meeting is always great fun with a huge cocktail party, awards dinner and the auction & casino party. American Surety Company is sponsoring a Continental Breakfast for the general meeting.   This is a great opportunity to meet with Texas bondsman and experience a high quality and fun event.   It’s a good way to end the fall meeting season.

With the current economic downturn and ever growing government intervention into the private sector I’m frequently asked if the commercial bail industry will survive. Interestingly enough, my father, Jack Whitlock got the same question thirty years ago. My answer is the same as his, the bail industry can and will survive as long as we continue to act as professionals, join forces when necessary and take it to the opposing forces in a united front. You can do your part by trading apathy for action and join your state and national associations.

10% Bail all the Talk at PBUS Meeting

Posted July 25, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President under Faxing Bonds, and Meeting Recaps  - 2 Comments

There is a character in the book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who dons a t-shirt with the slogan ARMAGEDDON WAS YESTERDAY – TODAY WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM. I laughed out loud knowing how germane this was to the state of the commercial bail industry.
I vividly recall participating in a panel discussion at the 2006 PBUS Winter Conference, it was the year Dog and Beth Chapman made their first appearance. During this discussion I spoke about the expanding use of deposit bail and its threat to the commercial bail industry.
 
Dave Stuckman of Kansas receives certfificate for sponsorship.
It was my opinion then as now deposit bail is a greater threat to the commercial bail industry than taxpayer funded pretrial service agencies.   Why? Because where public funded pretrial release requires funding for staffing and significant overhead, deposit bail requires only a receipt book and someone to collect the cash. 
Deposit bail relies largely on 1) smoke and mirror tactics, a bond reported to be set at $100,000 is actually a $10,000 cash bond with 90% unsecured;   2) uninformed taxpayers, people tend to believe what public officials tell them because they’re unfamiliar with the process; and 3) hollow justifications, a defendant is more likely to appear in court if they know they will get their bail deposit returned. 
Since that 2006 meeting in Las Vegas, we have seen an expansion of the use of deposit bail in Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina, Washington and many other states. The commercial bail industry had to mount huge efforts to defeat deposit bail legislation in Colorado and Texas. Both battles were won but only after spending a significant amount of money and investing a considerable amount time.
Counties who have switched to deposit bail immediately lose all perspective after seeing the revenue stream of cash bail. Deposit bail is like a drug to these counties, once the court begins using, we quickly see the effects of abuse. Public officials start to dismiss the failure to appear rate as a nonissue, ‘these absconders will be picked up on a traffic stop’, ignore mounting unresolved cases, ‘we don’t have the staff anyway to handle all these cases’ and promote the new revenue, ‘how can the taxpayers not be happy about all the money deposit bail is raising for the county?’
What they don’t want to talk about is the huge increase of failure to appear warrants, the disenfranchisement of victims of crime and significant expense associated with a defendant’s failure to appear and the cost of county staffers preparing for these hearings.

The use of deposit bail continues to be a threat to public safety and commercial bail and must be derailed. As the t-shirt says, ARMAGEDDON WAS YESTERDAY – TODAY WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM.

Meeting Pictures (click here)

 

Bail Agents Meet in Balmy Biloxi

Posted July 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President, American Surety Company under Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

Biloxi, MS – The Mississippi Bail Agents Association held its Annual Assembly and Membership Meeting at the IP Resort and Casino in Biloxi earlier this week. It was a two day meeting July 11-12 consisting of a board meeting on the first day with the general meeting held the following day.
 
The MBAA is very good about making each bail agent and guest feel welcome. At registration you’re provide an agenda, copy of the By-Laws, current balance sheet and an updated copy of the MBAA Bail Bond Court Procedures Manual, all this and a cool t-shirt to boot.
 
Each Mississippi bail agent must obtain 16 hours of continuing education prior to license renewal which occurs every two years. The MBAA has made it to where their members can earn eight hours continuing education by attending three association general meetings a year. 
 
The association successfully pushed legislation to extend the forfeiture remission period to 18 months. Thus, bail agents are incentivized to continue searching for their fugitive clients until they’re caught. No mercy.
 
On the Horizon
July 17-20 The Professional Bail Agents of the United States is holding its mid-year meeting next week at the Don Cesar Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida. I have been asked to be one of the guest speakers talking on various issues facing bail agents across the country.
 
August 10-13 The Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament benefiting Camp Esperanza is just weeks away. This annual charitable event brought to you by the Professional Bondsmen of Texas is receiving tremendous support from the bail industry (see advertising). We are witnessing bail agents at their finest, generously contributing their time and money to help brave kids battling cancer take a break from their troubles.  This is an accurate reflection of the overwhelmingly generous nature of the bail industry. Click here to see how you can participate.

Bail in Indiana and Tennessee Differ

Posted May 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President, American Surety Company under Meeting Recaps  - 2 Comments

This past week I attended the ISBAA Spring Meeting in Indianapolis and the TAPBA General Meeting and Continuing Education Class in Pigeon Forge. You could not pick two more distinctly different bail bond markets and associations if you tried. Both states have their market threats and both have an upside.
 
For starters, the number of licensed bail agents in Indiana has shrunk to 350 while Tennessee boasts around 1400 bail agents. Bail agents in Indiana must write with corporate surety backing while Tennessee has the option to write either through a surety or on personal assets.
 
Both Indiana and Tennessee offer classes for required continuing education. While the ISBAA had sixty bail agents attend the CE portion of the Spring Meeting, Tennessee had more than 350 in attendance at their class.  One significant difference is Tennessee law requires all bail agents to obtain their CE credits through classes provided by TAPBA, while the ISBAA must attract agents who are willing to support the state association through membership dues and in return obtain free CE classes. The vital revenue ISBAA must generate from membership dues has been adversely impacted by low cost providers and attendees with little or no interest in supporting the preservation of bail in the Hoosier State.
  
How premium is collected is another area where these two states differ. In Indiana it is a Class D Felony for a bail agent to charge less than their surety’s filed premium rate, typically ten percent of the bond. Tennessee also has a ten percent premium rate though agents can extend credit to their clients. Several judges in Tennessee have begun to speak out about the extension of credit to criminal defendants seeking bond.   Some of these judges are considering promulgating a local rule in contradiction to state law; premium must be collected in full prior to posting a bond.
 
Then there is the issue of fugitive recovery. Bounty hunting has become a topic of conversation in Tennessee with several fugitive recovery mishaps making the news lately. Currently, the Volunteer State has no meaningful rules or regulations pertaining to bounty hunting. The TAPBA is being proactive, working to pass legislation to effectively regulate private sector fugitive recovery in their state. Indiana does issue a Recovery Agent license to those individuals that meet the requirements and pass an exam.
 
Indiana and Tennessee are different yet very similar. Both have hard working bail agents working long hours with virtually never a day off. Both are doing their level best to make a sunny impact on the darker side of the communities, a cog in the wheel of justice.
 
 
ISBAA Meeting Notes
  • Jim Degan was elected Vice President.
  • Smeed v. State – Indiana Appellate Court decision requiring courts to accept a bail bond in lieu of cash.
  • SB 525 (Enacted) – Late Surrender Fee and Recovery Agent forms can now be filed with the two year license renewal application.
  • SB 590 (Enacted) – The deportation of a defendant is grounds for exoneration of the bond.
 
TAPBA Meeting Notes
  •  Re-elected were Charles White, Sr. (President), Danny Blankenship (Vice President), Miriam Lawson (Secretary) and Ronnie Carter (Treasurer).
  • Nearly $3,000,000 has been generated in bail bond taxes collected and submitted by bail agents
  • TAPBA pledged $5000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the Holly Bobo case. Holly Bobo was abducted from her Darden, Tennessee home April 13, 2011.
  • CRTK – Prior to the passing of Citizens Right to Know Legislation (pretrial date reporting requirements), Davidson and Knox Counties have both agreed to provide statistical information on their taxpayer funded pretrial release programs. Shelby County has taken the matter under consideration.

Deposit Bail Creeps Into Washington State

Posted May 2, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President, American Surety Company under Credit Card Bail "Bond", Deposit Bail, and Meeting Recaps  - 1 Comment

Shelton, WA – The Washington State Bail Agents Association held its Spring Meeting at the Little Creek Casino south of Puget Sound last Thursday. The morning was devoted to continuing education with the general meeting held in the afternoon.
 
On the legislative front, nothing passed in the 2011 session that will impact bail in this state.  There has been significant debate on the issue of how much premium a bail agent should collect prior to posting a bond.   The amount included in legislation is 5% of the bond (50% of the premium). This bill is not expected to pass this year but we can expect to see it again in 2012.
 
I was surprised to learn of the expanding deposit bail operation in Washington. Apparently, there is no statute on the books that provides for the courts accepting a ten percent deposit on a bond in lieu of a bail bond or full cash. Several counties in Washington have simply decided they were going to enact a local rule regardless, law or no law. They do that sometimes.
 
There was a lengthy discussion on what to do about the illegal acceptance of ten percent deposit. I shared some ideas on how we have been dealing with deposit bail in Indiana where it is currently legal. I also stressed the need to be proactive in eliminating this practice as the use of deposit bail will continue to spread throughout the state once the courts become blinded by the revenue (sans risk or accountability) and forget what the true purpose of bail really is, to guarantee a
 
defendant appears in court, each time, every time.
 
Every state should be paying attention to what is occurring across the country and learn from their sister associations on what is being done to address these efforts of government encroachment on a service best provided by the private sector.
 

Austin Turns Blind Eye to Attorneys Charging for Jail Release

Posted April 22, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President, American Surety Company under Meeting Recaps, and Surety Bail Bonds  - 5 Comments

Austin, TX – I attended the 2nd Quarterly Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas at the Doubletree Hotel in Austin last week. The beautiful weather belied the continuing problem for the bail industry in Travis County; attorneys charging clients to obtain release on personal recognizance.
Local attorney Eve Schatelowitz Alcantar was a guest speaker and spoke about how attorneys flaunt the fact that neither the law nor the State Bar is taking notice of the practice of several local lawyers operating as defacto bail agents by arranging for defendants to be released on personal recognizance bonds and then charging them for “jail release”.
These attorneys are capitalizing on relationships formed with court clerks and judges receptive to requests to recommend or order a defendant’s release from jail on a PR bond. The fact the attorney has no financial liability or obligation to have the defendant in court or return the defendant to custody after a failure to appear seems to have no impact on court personnel willing to assist these attorneys.
The local bail bond industry has suffered significantly from this ongoing practice. Bail agents are forced to write bonds on defendants in the higher risk pool; i.e., out of county residents, convicted felons and defendants with prior failures to appear.  Higher risk means higher recovery costs and losses. Several bonding companies have closed their doors in the past three years due to overwhelming losses. They simply cannot compete with attorneys who can charge for getting a defendant released from jail with no obligation whatsoever.
Something has to be done about this self serving practice by some local attorneys. Neither the Texas Attorney General’s Office nor the FBI has been willing to step in and investigate. Until they do, Travis County residents will continue to live in an unsafe environment where felony violators are released from jail, unsupervised, pending trial while bail agents will have to continue enduring unfair trade practices.
Other Meeting News
The Texas Legislature is in session and the PBT Legislative Committee, Chaired by Scott Walstad, has been at the State Capital every day of open session. PBT does an excellent job advocating for pro-bail legislation and opposing any legislation that is bad for the bail industry and bad for Texas. Their efforts in 2008 quelled an attempt to introduce a deposit bond to Texas.
The 3rd Quarterly Meeting will be held in Fort Worth August 10-13 at the Hilton Fort Worth. This meeting begins Wednesday, August 10 with the 22nd Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament benefiting Camp Esperanza. The charity golf outing will be held at Iron Horse Golf Course.  PBT SGW-Golf Chair, Marge Walstad collected $1500 in sponsorships during the meeting.
Upcoming Meetings

Bail Agents to Meet Next Week in Las Vegas

Posted February 18, 2011 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President American Surety Company under Bail Bond Insurance, Meeting Recaps, and Surety Bail Bonds  - 1 Comment

PBUS is holding its 30th Anniversary Conference (Agenda) in Las Vegas next week.  The meeting will be held at the Flamingo Hotel February 20 - 24.  Fans of Dog Chapman will get another chance to hear from him and his posse.

 

A must attend is the Political Action Luncheon at 11:45 AM on Wednesday and the Council of Presidents Meeting that afternoon at 2:30 PM.  At this meeting you will hear from the various state presidents about pending legislation and other hot issues they are dealing with in their markets.

 

Surety companies will be holding dinners and cocktail parties for their agents.  American Surety Company will be holding its Bail Agent Appreciation Evening at the Voodoo Lounge located on

the 50th Floor of the Rio Hotel (Send me an email if you would like to be added the guest list).

 

The annual PBUS meeting affords bail bond agents from across the nation to gather and discuss issues relating to the commercial bail industry.  I hope to see there!

Local Bail Associations Can Be Effective

Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President, American Surety Company under Bail Bond Insurance, and Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

After spending the weekend at home in Indy, I boarded a direct flight to LAX Sunday night. I sat across from Reggie Miller (#31) on the flight across country, he never said a word. Reggie will forever be treated like the rock star he is, in Indiana.

American Surety has a number of agents in California and I wanted to visit as many as I possibly could before winding down this year’s travel schedule.

As was the case during my time in Colorado last week, where I was able to attend the second meeting ever of the Rocky Mountain Bail Bond Agents, I got wind that a year end meeting of the San Diego County Bail Agents Association was being held at the The Butcher Shop Restaurant on Tuesday. I can’t help myself, I like to participate in any discussions about bail and local meetings can be the grittiest of all.

Not being a member of the San Diego County association, I called my good friend Marco LiMandri to obtain permission to attend. Permission granted, I attended the meeting with Brian Smith of Captain Smith’s Bail Bonds, a new agent to American Surety Company. Brian is a former Marine and a second generation bail agent (his father was Larry Smith), who began writing bail shortly after returning from serving in the first Gulf War. Brian is proud of his service and it is clearly evident in how he decorates his office.

The luncheon meeting was well attended. The discussion focused on how to improve the competitive dynamic in San Diego. There has been significant solicitation around jails, as well as bail slamming, the practice of bonding defendants without first obtain cosigners and premium, which presumably are secured after the bond has been posted. The SDBAA is very proactive and consciences about how the bail profession is conducted and perceived in the San Diego market. Their goal seems to be to maintain a high level of professionalism in an environment of fair competition.

While a number of states have a state association, I can only think of a handful of cities with a local association, Fort Worth, Houston, San Jose, San Diego and Santa Ana. The San Bernardino area agents dissolved their association earlier this year apparently due to a lack of participation. County associations can be very useful when dealing with local issues involving the interaction between bail agents and the jail, concerning solicitation, consumer complaints, etc., which are issues too local to be handled by a state association. Taking up an issue of concern for local agents is best done with one voice as opposed to one bail agent standing alone.

Large cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, New York City, Miami and Dallas should consider forming a local association. Big cities tend to have big problems. Working together on a local level to resolve local issues can be beneficial to all bail agents and a good way to maintain a high level of professionalism and unity.

Send me a comment if your county has an established local association.

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.
 

Georgia Bondsmen Meet in Savannah

Posted November 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President American Surety Company under Bail Bond Insurance, and Meeting Recaps  - 0 Comments

The bail bondsmen of Georgia surely know on which side their bread is buttered. As one person put it, in Georgia, “bondsmen serve at the pleasure of their sheriff”.   Considering this, it should come as no surprise GAPB holds it’s Annual Conference in the same city and hotel as does the Georgia Sheriff’s Association. 
 
GAPB rolls out the red carpet hosting a special evening of dinner and dancing exclusively for Georgia sheriffs.  The big event was held at the Warehouse on River Street in downtown Savannah. The evening was sponsored, in part, by American Surety Company. ASC also contributed a Big Green Egg Smoker; Sherriff Thomas Brown of DeKalb County held the winning ticket.
 
Meeting Notes
Attorney Matt Tucker was retained as GAPB’s legal counsel while Beverly Iseghohi, the Association’s lobbyist, had her contract renewed. Beverly played a key role earlier this year in the passing of HB 889, the bail restrictions legislation. HB 889 provides that offenders charged with select felony offenses must post a bail bond unless expressly overruled by an elected judge.
 
HB 889 was a topic of conversation during the meeting. Some agents were concerned about those judges who were not happy about being held directly accountable for releasing a defendant without bond who would otherwise be required to post a bond under HB 889. Others were less sympathetic arguing that bail bondsmen and the general public watched for years as judges released defendants charged with aggravated offenses without bond and without accountability. Bail bondsmen are financially accountable for every bond they write.
 
The GAPB membership voted to contribute $1,000 to family of Chief Deputy Kevin Roberts of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, killed in the line of duty.
 
Jared Skelton was re-elected President while Kelly Winkles was elected to replace Terry Genone as the association’s Vice President.  Area directors remained the same.
 
The GAPB Spring meeting will return to the King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island, date to be announced.
 
That’s it for now. Have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.
 
 

Memphis Bail Bond Blues

Posted November 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA Vice President American Surety Company under Bail Bond Insurance, Meeting Recaps, and Pretrial Release  - 0 Comments

During my recent stop in Memphis I found the bail bond market there to be but a shadow of its former self. No more bail bond agents hustling bonds in the basement of the courthouse or visiting inmates. Pretrial Release is accepting more and more defendants into their program which grants release at the taxpayer’s expense. Bonding companies have either shut their doors or let go a number of their agents adding to the seeming lack of activity in and around the courthouse.

I have roots in Memphis; our family lived there in the early to mid-seventies. My father, Jack Whitlock, owned Allied Bonding Company and did a bustling business. On occasion I would make a Saturday morning trip down Poplar Avenue with my Dad to spend the morning at this office. Those Saturday morning visits at the age of nine or ten were my earliest memories of being around the bail bond business. Many of his employees and associates from that time are still writing bail there today.

Mildred Battle, owner of Battle Bonding and a longtime American Surety agent, says “business is as tough as it’s ever been”. A year ago, Mildred had several agents working for her and was able to work a regular schedule. 

Within the last year, Mildred has had to release five agents reducing her staff to one agent in the daytime.   She must now carry the load herself, working 12 hour shifts, seven days a week and still taking bond calls after eleven until the office opens at seven in the morning. “I think I can keep this up another six months before I start to break down”, Mildred says, “Just doing what needs to be done to survive”. 

With the down economy and aggressive premium financing tactics of her competitors, it has been tough to keep her doors open. She has been able to prevail by writing smart bail and keeping her forfeitures to a minimum. “I’ve never had a problem with forfeitures” Mildred declares. “That’s what’s saving me now”.

It is projected the Shelby County Justice Center will be relocated from its current downtown location to East Memphis near the Shelby County Penal Farm. The property surrounding the Penal Farm is all government owned.  As a result there will be no bonding companies situated in close proximity to the jail or courthouse. This will present a significant change for bond companies like Battle Bonding who is currently located about 300 feet from the front door of the courthouse. As for Mildred Battle’s outlook, “we will just have to tough it out”.

Tennessee Association Meeting

Call it timing, call it scheduling conflicts, but for whatever reason I’ve not made it to a Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents meeting in a few years which ASC agent J.R. Henderson was good enough to remind me.

TAPBA held a continuing education class at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, on Friday, November 13 with a turnout of near 300 bail agents. At the meeting we heard from longtime TAPBA lobbyist William Pope, regarding SB 2654 and SB 2916, favorable bail bond bills that passed earlier in the year.

TAPBA President Charles White spoke of the financial support ($5,000 to date) the Tennessee association was contributing to the Santa Clara County (San Jose, CA) Bail Agents Association fight against their local pretrial release agency. Tennessee has limited pretrial release programs with agencies operating in Memphis and Nashville. TAPBA recognizes the potential threat pretrial services present to the public safety and the bonding community and their contribution to the California fight is a clear recognition of this fact.

It always gets my blood pumping when I see several hundred bail agents in one setting as was the case in Tunica. Bail agents can be a mighty force for good when joined in a common cause. TAPBA holds five classes a year and this one event had 20% of the state’s 1500 licensed bail agents present, very impressive.

Next Up

I’ll be travelling to Savannah, Georgia for the year-end meeting of the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen. American Surety Company is sponsoring GAPB’s Sheriff’s Appreciation Night. It is always a great event and well attended. I hope to see you there.

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!

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
 

Mississippi is Rolling

Posted July 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA under Bail Bond Insurance, Meeting Recaps, and Surety Bail Bonds  - 0 Comments

Governor Barbour was on TV recently touting how clean the beaches are on the Mississippi coast, that the BP Oil Spill had not harmed their shores, so “come on down”.  Well I came on down, not because the Governor asked, but because I was already scheduled to attend the MBAA’s Summer Conference in Biloxi.

Unfortunately, while the clean white sandy beaches of Biloxi were spotless, they were also empty.  Everyone must have been at the Treasure Bay Casino because it was packed with gamblers and MBAA members in town for the conference.

The conference started with a fete at Thunders in Pascagoula where it was hot and sticky with cold beverages and karaoke.  Everyone seemed to have a good time enjoying some down time.

Click to view MBAA 2010 Summer Meeting Slideshow

Patty Hodges is the current president of the MBAA and was re-elected to another term at this meeting.  The MBAA is a well run organization and each meeting I’ve attended has well over 75 agents in attendance.  They always make it fun by providing T-shirts to each attendee along with their conference packet.  This year the T-shirt had a caricature of someone getting arrested over a slogan of “Support your local bondsmen, get arrested”.

House Bill 900 was passed earlier this year and soon becomes effective.  Robert L. Perkins, Director of Licensing at the Mississippi Insurance Department, was on hand to discuss that portion of HB 900 that prohibits a bondsman from writing bail in a county where they are related to someone who comes in contact with bailable inmates.  To demonstrate the breadth of the definition of relation, you would be in violation of this section of law if you are writing bail in a county where you are related to the coroner or someone who held a seat on the County Board of Supervisors. Furthermore, if you are related to a circuit court judge you are prohibited from writing bail bonds in any county located within that circuit.

The meeting also had a pleasant diversion with non-bail speaker Marshall Ramsey, a political cartoonist with The Clarion-Ledger who narrated a slide show presentation of his cartoons from the last ten years which included Hurricane Katrina.  I was fortunate to win a signed copy of his collection of cartoons, 10! Marshall Ramsey’s Ten-Year Celebration.

MBAA Scholarships were awarded to three college students who met the character and academic requirements.

American Surety Company contributed to the MBAA’s already healthy bank account as one of the sponsors of 2010 Summer Conference.  MBAA doesn’t get as much notice for their strong organization, as do some of the larger states, but they’re no less effective.  Nice job MBAA, I can’t wait to return for your next big meeting.

 


 

On the schedule for this week is the PBUS Mid-Year Meeting in Chicago.  The meeting is being held at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park and runs July 21-24.

Bail Bonds in Ohio - Looking Ahead

Posted July 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock, MCBA under Bail Bond Insurance, Meeting Recaps, and Post Conviction Bonds  - 0 Comments

The Ohio Bail Agents Association held their third quarter meeting in Columbus this past Saturday.  The discussion centered on the upcoming legislative season and the needs of the commercial bail bond industry in Ohio.

Similar to Indiana, Ohio courts are moving more and more toward the, revenue inspired, 10% bond option with many courts accepting to accept only 10% deposits; no bail bonds.  This short sighted strategy by some Ohio courts has placed a strain on the criminal justice system through increased failure to appear warrants, reduced conviction rates and the disenfranchisement of victims of crime.

The State of Ohio is staring at an ugly $8 billion dollar budget shortfall in 2011 and must find ways to administer huge cuts in overhead.  One of the areas being looked at is the state’s criminal justice system.  Senator Bill Seitz (R) is the sponsor of SB 22, and a member of the Judiciary – Criminal Justice Senate Committee. SB 22 is a reform bill that addresses sentencing reform, GPS monitoring of inmates released early from prison and recommends releasing early, prisoners who have served 85% of their prison term.

Opportunity for Post Conviction Bond

The early release of prisoners is an area where the bail bond industry can offer an effective tool for getting parolees to comply with the terms of their release resulting in a decrease in the recidivism rate.  A Bureau of Justice Statistics study of prisoners released in 2006 indicates Ohio had a 30% recidivism rate.  The study shows, of the 11,621 inmates paroled in 2006,  3,486 were arrested on a new charge, absconded and remain at large or otherwise violated various terms of their parole.

 

By requiring as a condition of early release, the parolee obtain a Post Conviction Bond, family and friends would be brought into the process by providing a financial guarantee the defendant will comply with the terms of their parolee or risk returning to prison. 

The use of a Post Conviction Bond would not interfere, in any way, with the work being done by parole officers.  It would serve as additional incentive for the parolee to comply with the terms of their parolee and reintegrate into society.

I had the honor of meeting with Senator Seitz last October on behalf of the American Bail Coalition to discuss an amendment to SB 22 that would create an option for the parole board to require a Post Conviction Bond.  The idea was well received and is still being considered.

Legislative Initiatives

The OBAA, which will hold their annual conference on September 23 and 25, is considering introducing legislation which require a bail bond be posted on defendants charged with an aggravated felony (bail restrictions), requiring a defendant to post a bail bond upon being rearrested for failing to appear on a deposit bond (One bite at the apple) and establishish a time certain for the court to notify the surety of a failure to appear.

 

OBAA President Eddie Miller is determined to see the passing of legislation that will benefit the bail bond industry in Ohio.  Eddie said, “We have little chance at success without the support and participation of every licensed bail bond agent in this state.”

The bail bond industry in Ohio faces huge challenges ahead and will only succeed if the bail agents and surety companies operating in the Buckeye State work together as a cohesive unit.  Success is within our reach.  We just need to make it happen and we will.

Making the Case for a Post Conviction Bond

Hilton Head Site of GAPB Meeting

Posted May 23, 2010 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock under Bail Bond Insurance, Federal Bail Bonds, Meeting Recaps, and Post Conviction Bonds  - 0 Comments

Hilton Head, SC - GAPB usually holds its spring meeting on St.SimonsIsland in Southeastern Georgia.  This year they opted to go across state lines to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and the Westin Hotel.  The turnout was respectable though I expected more bondsmen to be present in light of the recent enactment of House Bill 889.

 

Speaking of HB 889, Scott Hall, GAPB Legislative Chair, gave an extensive overview of the efforts which led to the successful passing of this pivotal piece of legislation.  Scott went into detail on how HB 889 will benefit all bondsmen operating in Georgia.   The language of HB 889 leaves nothing to the imagination, if an offender is arrested for a felony offense of anything from DUI to trafficking in cocaine they will be required to post a bail bond.  Only an elected magistrate has the authority to deviate from the bail restrictions and release a defendant on his or her own recognizance.  In doing so the magistrate must list the reasons for this exceptional release, for the record.

Much like the chewy center of a lollypop this bill had a hidden surprise.  While the language found in HB 889 specifically references that offenders charged with a felony offense shall not be released through an ROR, pretrial release, diversion programs or pretrial intervention, it also includes 10% deposit bail through the reference of Uniform Superior Court Rule 27. 

FultonCounty jail pretrial, only about one third were required to post a bail bond.

  

 

While the purpose of bail bond insurance is to insure a defendant’s appearance in court there is a financial penalty if a bail bondsman is unable to perform which serves as an incentive to complete the task.  Pretrial release and deposit bail are not subject to similar penalties or accountability.  With a, produce the defendant or pay the bond, environment, commercial bail is the only best option for reducing jail crowding, outstanding warrants and costs to taxpayers.

 

 

 

 

National Update

 

I was asked to speak by GAPB President Jarrod Skelton on bail related issues impacting the bail industry nationally.  Members seemed to be very interested in ongoing efforts to legislatively reinstate commercial bail to the State of Oregon.  The issue of credit card bail kiosks popping up all over the country was also a hot topic.  Owners of these credit card kiosks are operating as bail agents by allowing defendants to access cash on their credit card, for a fee, for the purposes of posting a full cash or percentage bond.

 

 

 

We also discussed efforts to pass post conviction bond legislation.  Post conviction bonds are designed to be an added condition on prisoners being granted early release.  In the event a parolee violates their parole the bondsmen is responsible to have the parolee in court to answer to the violation or risk a bond forfeiture.   

 

Post conviction bond legislation was enacted in South Dakota earlier this year and the California agents association is working diligently to get the same result in their state which is currently experiencing major prison overcrowding and budget problems.

 

 

 

 

GAPB to Dispatch Emissaries to Texas

 

During a membership meeting discussion on how to encourage more Georgia bondsmen to participate in the association I suggested GAPB send emissaries to other state association meetings to see what could be learned.  While they considered California, North Carolina and Oklahoma they settled on paying registration fees for up to five GAPB members who would like to attend the Annual Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas being held at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio this October.

   

 

While some GAPB members will be attending the PBT meeting in October, some PBT members may want to return the favor and attend GAPB’s annual meeting in Savannah.  That event will be held at Hyatt November 16 – 18 and also has a great turnout in a fantastic setting.

 

Calendar Note

The 21st Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament will be held August 4, 2010 at the Woodhaven Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas in conjunction with the 3rd Quarter Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas.  All are welcome to attend or contribute to our efforts to raise money for kids battling cancer to attend CampEsperanza.

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

 

PBT always has a great turnout at the year-ending meeting.  There will be much to gain by interacting with Texas bondsmen.  In turn, I’m sure PBT members would be very interested to hear about GAPB’s recent legislative successes and achievements.

 

 

 

County government will most certainly see an increase of revenue through the payment of bond forfeitures where a bondsman was unable to perform.  Taxpayers will certainly see a reduction in their tax dollars going to provide free bail to criminal defendants. 

 

 

While Georgia bondsmen will benefit from this new legislation, citizens and local governments will also benefit through a reduction in crime and outstanding failure to appear warrants due to more defendants being released from jail on a secured bail bond. 

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.

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

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.