Multiple States Have Efforts Underway to Preserve Bail Profession
The last year of the decade may prove to be a memorable one for commercial bail as bail agents and surety companies alike will be working together to protect and expand this honorable profession. As a bail bonds agent, if you’re not aware of what’s happening in your state then you’re just not paying attention. If you’re currently not participating in protecting the bail industry in your state then you’re doing yourself and your profession a disservice. Make 2010 the year you make a difference.
Here is just a sample of what’s happening across the country.
Credit card kiosks have made their way into several California jails causing much concern to bail agents. As a result, the legality of placing credit cards kiosks in jails for the purposes of posting cash bail is being challenged. Some sheriffs are said to be receiving a portion of each transaction fee and in return are allowing the kiosk to be placed on jail premises. One of the primary concerns with these kiosks is the owner is operating as a bonding company by receiving compensation for facilitating the release of an offender from custody. Bail agents are prohibited from soliciting and advertising on jail premises and most certainly are prohibited from sharing their premiums with an unlicensed bail agent, in this case, the sheriff. These kiosks are popping up all over the country and can be found in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Washington and, of course, California.
The Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen (GAPB) will followup its successful legislative effort in 2009 by introducing legislation that would place bail restrictions on any offender charged with an aggravated offense. If passed, these offenders would not be eligible for OR release or through pretrial release services. Pretrial Services continues to expand their footprint in Fulton County and in doing so are breaching their mandate of supervising indigents by releasing repeat offenders and offenders charged with aggravated offenses.
The Missouri Department of Insurance just released The Final Report of the Missouri Bail Bond Study Committee on January 6, 2010. H.B. 577, passed in 2009, required the Department of Insurance to conduct a study of its licensing rules and other policies governing the bail bond industry. The Department subsequently held four public hearings on bail. The recently issued report includes their recommendations for changes in the law. At issue, in part, are prohibiting felons from obtaining a bail license, enhanced continuing education and centralizing consent for the approval of assets pledged by property bail agents. The Missouri State Legislature is expected to consider these recommendations when drafting new legislation in the 2010 session.
Work continues in Oregon to reinstate commercial bail after a nearly forty year absence. Oregon is ready to attack their chronic failure to appear problem, outstanding warrants and address their image as being a safe haven for fugitives.
The Philadelphia Inquirer recently published a four part series on the fragile state of the criminal justice system in that city. One of the components cited as a complete failure was the current bail system which is predominantly ten percent (ninety percent unsecured) to the court. This series of articles is a followup to the investigate report the Inquirer ran in 2009. In that article it was reported Philadelphia had lost more than one billion dollars in revenue due to the failure to collect the remaining ninety percent of forfeited deposit bonds. A return to commercial bail would be the answer to this massive problem. The result would be a reduction in failure to appear warrants, an increase percentage of closed criminal cases and revenue to the county on unresolved bond forfeitures. Look for the Pennsylvania legislature to consider bail related legislation this session.
South Carolina is working on legislation that would increase the minimum deposit on a percentage bond from 10% to 25%, bail restrictions on violent offenders, post conviction bonds and fending off efforts to establish a taxpayer funded pretrial release program.
Virginia bail agents are facing, head on, their state’s, taxpayer funded, pretrial release program. Virginians for the Preservation of Bail has been running radio spots drawing attention to how taxpayer money would be better spent employing more teachers and law enforcement officers as opposed to providing free release to criminal offenders.
Bail agents in Washington are on the alert for any legislation impacting bail in that state as fallout stemming from the recent tragedy where an offender, released on bond, killed four Lakewood, WA police officers on November 29, 2009. The bonding company, who posted the bond, was cleared by the Washington Department of Insurance of any neglect in that transaction. The judge in that case came under fire for setting a relatively low bond on an offender with a lengthy criminal history, on parole from Arkansas.
Remember, the time is now to participate in the preservation of this honorable profession, commercial bail. Visit our website at www.ASC-USI.com or click on this link to view pending legislation for your state. The Professional Bail Agents of the United States is holding it’s annual conference next month in Las Vegas. This would be a great opportunity to obtain more knowledge about your profession and learn more about what other states are doing to address challenges facing them in their market. Click here to view conference details.
Make 2010 the year YOU make a difference.