On August, 31st bail bond agents were arrested in California in what the Department of Insurance is calling “the largest enforcement action ever conducted by the department.” The raid was the result of a year investigation by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Insurance. The California Department of Insurance claims that the bondsmen violated the law when they colluded with inmates who alerted them when new inmates came into the jail. In some cases, bail agents illegally posted bail for inmates without permission. This is the beginning of a series of arrests as California seeks to crack down on bail bondsmen.
When a person is arrested, they generally stay in jail for a limited time until they can post bail. Sometimes prisoners post 10 percent of the bail amount to the bail bondsman who swears that they will appear in court. Unfortunately, the bail bonds industry has gotten extremely competitive. Some bail agents even swarm courthouses and compete for new customers. Often they pitch really low deals in exchange of representation. In California, many bondsmen went even further by using inmates as informants. This was a violation of the law of jail agents.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Insurance began their investigation when consumer complaints began to skyrocket. This made the department launch an investigation and listen in on calls from inside various Santa Clara County jails. The investigation uncovered a system where inmates would tip off bondsmen when new arrestees arrived. The state claims that bondsmen compensated informants by adding to inmate jail accounts.
The state began issuing warning letters to agents in 2013, however some bail agents declined to heed the state’s warnings. As a result, the state decided to arrest the bail agents who continued in the illegal practices. According to the Department of Insurance, licenses of the arrested agents were also suspended. More arrests and investigations of bail bond agents are on the horizon as a national debate heats up around the fairness and safety of the bail bonds system. From California to Connecticut, states are increasing scrutiny on bail bonds companies and their operations. Agents should fall into compliance with regulations as legislators attempt to clean house.
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