I just received a letter from Linda Braswell, PBUS President, regarding bounty hunter Leonard Padilla and the Casey Anthony bail. Ms. Braswell was commenting on the sad “carnival” atmosphere around the case and specifically Mr. Padilla’s comments regarding bail bondsmen.
Ms. Braswell’s letter brought to mind a topic that is perhaps a hot button for me: ethics in the bail industry. The bail bond profession, perhaps more than most other professions, presents us with daily ethical and professional challenges. Doing the right thing is not always easy. At the end of the day, you have to be able to look in the mirror and like what you see.
For example, I know most bail agents have been involved in bail transactions involving extremely large amounts of cash. The cash is sitting on the table in front of them: $5,000, maybe even $10,000 in cash. They can smell the cash. They have mentally already begun spending the money. They are thinking about which pocket would be best suited for this big wad of cash. There is a huge adrenaline rush involved. All of a sudden, the indemnitor throws an ethical twist into the transaction that makes the entire deal illegal. What would you do?
Almost daily, I get calls from potential bail bond customers who are asking me to do a 5% bail bond. I explain to the customer that this is illegal. In most cases, the customer says, “thank you” and hangs up. I’m sure many are undeterred by my cautions of legality and are calling the next bail bondsman who will hopefully bite on their illegal offer. Likely, these customers will find a bail bond agency willing to collaborate in this illegal scheme or offer them some other bail scam that is bad for our industry.
Sometimes being a professional transcends beyond whether something is legal or illegal. For example, I have personally seen bail agents transacting bail bonds wearing t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. I’ve observed agents transacting bail with alcohol on their breath. I’ve heard bondsmen needlessly trashing other bail agents. All of these scenarios are not illegal, but they are certainly unprofessional. The customers will likely tell their friends about their experience with “that bail bondsman“. The unprofessional bail agents not only make themselves look disgusting, but indirectly make the entire bail industry look terrible.
When you ask the average guy on the street, “what are your thoughts of typical bail bondsman,” you will probably get a smirk.They will say something like, “a bail bondsman is a guy with a ponytail, with the top 3 buttons of his shirt undone, gold chains and a pinky ring“. Often, this is how bail bondsmen are portrayed in the media. In all fairness, this stereotype is partially true as I have met my share of bail agents that perfectly fit that stereotype.
Prior to making bail a full-time profession, I had the fortune of working in the insurance industry for 15 years. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to have my professional skills honed. However, many bail agents simply never had a similar opportunity. Nor, did they independently take the time to learn how to be true professional. I sincerely believe that some bail agents simply don’t know any better. Unfortunately, they probably never will. It is a sad reality that the bail profession will probably always face.