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Winter is Coming…to the Criminal Justice System

One of my favorite TV shows is the HBO mythological series Game of Thrones.  For those of you who watch this series you’re familiar with the oft stated ominous warning of dread, “winter is coming”.   In the Game of Thrones winter can last ten years.  Well, winter is coming to the commercial bail bond industry and that’s no myth.

The Indiana Legislature’s Commission on Courts held its final hearing of this summer study committee earlier this week.   Senator Brent Steele, Chair of the Commission, proposed changes to the statue that would in part allow a criminal defendant to choose how they want to secure their bond.

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Brent Dickson and members of the Commission spoke in opposition to the proposed bill expressing concern the proposed changes would prevent a defendant from being released on their own recognizance.  Not so, said Senator Steele.

Justice Dickson went on to read NAPSA talking points in support of risk assessment tools.  These magical tools would empower judges or their proxies to make decisions on the type of release option that would determine the likelihood of a defendant reappearing for court.   There was no mention of what would happen when a defendant failed to appear. Winter is coming.

On the east coast, New Jersey, The Garden State, is considering legislation that would keep aggravated criminal offenders in jail pending trial and release all other offenders on their own recognizance.  Should this legislative effort succeed, the negative fiscal impact on this state would be immense and the increase in crime unprecedented.  Winter is coming.

The State of California has been dealing with the fallout of AB 109 for several years now.  AB 109 was this State’s answer to the court ordered reduction of the state prison population.   The early release of tens of thousands of convicted felons to local California communities has not gone well, to say the least.  Crime is up significantly, parole officers are overwhelmed and public safety under attack.  Winter is coming.

While several state and local governments devise plans to take over the pretrial system of bail from the private sector commercial bail agent and place it on the backs of the taxpayers, bail agents are going about the business of the day, getting their clients to court.

Earlier this week Indiana recovery agents working for Ace Bail Bonds apprehended fugitive Daniel Pennington.  Pennington, who was hiding on a farm in Southern Michigan, had failed to appear for sentencing in a case where he was charged with running over 19 month old Mariah Gibson with his truck.

Pennington, who has begun serving his 23 year prison sentence, was at large for several months before being apprehended by bail recovery agents.  Bail agents are motivated by the threat of financial loss, personal pride and duty, to bring fugitives back to court.  These characteristics are totally lacking in any government run pretrial release program that operates without risk or accountability.

Winter may be coming; however, as long as members of the commercial bail industry continue to remain cohesive and diligent we can prevent winter from arriving.

South Carolina Bail Agent Association

I attended the SCBAA fall meeting in Columbia earlier this week.  The primary issue of discussion centered around South Carolina Department of Insurance Bulletin 2013-10 released October 10, 2013.

The SCDOI’s Willie Seawright spoke to a packed room at the Embassy Suites addressing questions on Bulletin 2013-10.   Yes, surety bail agents must begin remitting premiums to their surety company within thirty days of the execution of the bond.  Yes, surety bail agents must notate the gross premium charged on the home office copy of the power of attorney.  This is necessary for calculating the premium tax the surety pays the state.  Yes, surety companies must timely report any violations to the SCDOI. 

Mr. Seawright went on to say there is no such thing as a lost power of attorney.    The surety will be charged premium tax on the face amount of each lost power which means the surety bail agent can expect to pay their surety on any power reported to be lost or stolen.

The SCDOI will be reminding the State’s General Sessions Courts to begin charging the $10.00 bond fee per bond.   Apparently this has been overlooked by some courts. 

Finally, don’t forget to report any change of address to the SCDOI.  Failing to do so will cost you $2500.  Ouch!