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Plenty of Bail Meetings Yet to Come

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.