The Bail Bond Industry and Dealing With The Element of The Unknown

The average person has never dealt with a bail bonds company unless he or she has been in trouble with the law. Except for those working within the legal system, it is an industry in which the unknown is a fact of life despite its regulation by both the state Department of Licensing and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. In order to receive a license, bail bond agents must pass exams by both agencies and go through criminal background checks.

Every time a bail bond is granted, it is a gamble for the bond company, because no one ever really knows for sure if the client will appear in court. Agencies usually require 10% of the total cost of the bond upfront and also collateral, such as a lien on a residence, for the remainder of the amount. The agency must promise the court that if a defendant fails to appear in court, they are responsible for paying the bail.

And therein lies the gamble on the unknown for all who make a living in the bail bond industry. In the state of Washington, in a recent case where a defendant named Clemmons was killed in a shootout after taking the lives of two police officers, the company that issued the bond, Chehalis-based Jail Sucks Bail Bonds, was not required to pay the full amount of the bail. According to the Pierce County Prosecutor office, the defendant had been rejected by two other bail agencies because of his history of failure to appear in court.

The charges against Clemmons were very serious and included second-degree rape of a child and assault. State Representative vice chairman of the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, Al O'Brien, told the press that he wants to change the current law so that those charged with serious violent crimes have to pay the entire bail themselves instead of being allowed to post 10 percent through a bail-bond agency.

State administrators have promised to examine the matter both in terms of this specific case and as far as a general evaluation of the existing bail system. The executive secretary of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Tom McBride, believes that the state of Washington has more rights than many other states regarding the setting of bail amounts. State law forbids judges to deny bail for all crimes except those involving aggravated murder. He says: “The truth is the state Constitution presumes you have a right to bail and presumes it won't be an excessive bail.”

The element of the unknown will never be eliminated from the bail bond industry as no one can ever really vouch for another’s true nature. At best, these professionals can only hope that their gut instincts will prevail and they will be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Posted by M Dee Dubroff, on November 21, 2012 at 9:00 AM