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