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


Add your own Comment!

Posted May 16,2011 at 02:15 PM by Lee Sexton

As past president of the ISBAA it was always our number one objective to increase membership in the association. We thought it would be a good idea to pass legislation in Indiana requiring PLE / CE of bail and recovery agents. This would serve our state association well by encouraging membership and generate income in an effort to pass stronger restrictions on the 10% cash bail bonds that are bring used in much of the state. What actually happened was it created more bitterness among bail agents and has divided this os. We did not think we were creating a new business for those who do not support the work of the association. This has caused a distruction of the association instead of building it up. My hat is off to TAPBA for doing it right. When will the ISBAA get their heads out of the sand and be proactive in getting legislation passed to improve bail in Indiana?

Posted May 17,2011 at 09:26 PM by Tony Widgery

Thank you Mike for these great articles you put out. I enjoy reading them and get a great deal out of them.

As President of the ISBAA I can tell you "you can't please all the people all the time" as I am sure you are aware. Many of the things the association does is behind the scenes. Lots of work is done by a small few and there was still some positive legislation passed. When the PLE and CE requirements were first presented to legislature, an attempt to have the Association as a sole provider (as in Tennessee)was our intention. However, the Author of our Bill wanted to avoid the appearance of a "monopoly" so to speak so we took out that provision. None the less here we are.

It is frustrating to see the Indiana bail agents so divided. For what ever the reason it has been that way for some time. Much of the problem is that it seems as if every county in Indiana is like a different country when it comes to Bail. Many of the Indiana agents (members of the association or not) work very hard to keep their business going by meeting and educating their local officials the benefit of using commercial bail. Many of those agents may not agree with the associations legislative direction because they may like things the way they are in their county.

However, cash and 10% cash bonds are rapidly closing in on us. I agree something proactive needs to be done and I feel we have in many cases. I welcome new leadership and more membership. If the majority of the bail agents in Indiana want something to change then they can make it happen. But there are also many who enjoy complaining but you never see them take any positive action. I feel that all of us have benefited from the associations accomplishments and believe things will improve.

I commend the TAPBA on their unity and success. Perhaps we could all take some lessons from them.

Thank you for letting me ramble on.

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