If you read this blog, you know that bail ethics is a hot button for me. My family has been in the bail bond industry since 1969. I’m extremely concerned about a growing trend that I believe has reached critical mass in our industry. Permit me to further explain the problem:

Let’s say, a defendant is arrested. During the booking process the defendant’s information is entered into various jail computer databases. Unscrupulous bail agents will then “hack” into computer databases to get the names of the defendant sometimes within minutes of the inmate being booked. Armed with the illegally obtained defendant’s name, jail location and date of birth, these unscrupulous bail agents will then utilize investigative techniques to gather information about those associated with the defendant. These bail agents begin to illegally cold call family members, friends and others associated with the defendant for the purposes of negotiating bail.

In a time when we are all concerned with privacy rights, perhaps most disturbing from a public policy perspective are cold calls to those loosely associated with the defendant such as current or former bosses, ex-spouses or family members that have been estranged for years. Many of these contacted individuals have absolutely no right knowing that the defendant has been arrested. Jobs and custody situations can be jeopardized.

In some cases, these corrupt bail agents will illegally visit the defendant in jail (usually within 1-2 hours of the beginning of the booking process). While at the jail, the corrupt bail agent will directly negotiate with the defendant or contact friends or family members at the direction of the defendant. Often, the corrupt bail agents are offering illegally low bail premium rates. This not only undercuts normal market forces, it puts the bail agents clients in a position of breaking the law.

This above described scenario is happening on a massive scale in my county of Los Angeles, but I’m seeing this happen throughout the state of California. Somehow, these unscrupulous bail agents are gaining computer access to booking information within minutes of the defendant being booked. Based on my observations, and those of my fellow bail agents, these unscrupulous bail agents are engaged in a unprecedented operation that involves, at minimum, hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance premium per day and invades the privacy of hundreds, if not thousands of California residents.

I have been told by many clients that they have been called by a bondsmen who was not contacted by family, friends or the defendant. When the client asks where the bondsmen found their information, they are told that they found it online. This illegal activity is hurting legitimate bail bond companies everywhere. In my opinion, it won’t be long until legitimate retail bail companies will be hard to find. The bail industry will be left with a large network of criminal computer hackers and illegal solicitors that ultimately will crack every computer database, in every county, of California.

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  1. Matt
    February 9, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I agree totally….There’s a company that some customers get us confused with, and not a day goes by where we don’t get an angry call where the caller feels cheated on something!…Something the “unscrupulous” company did to them! After we explain that we’re a different company, the caller usually feels at ease. It’s sad and I’m sure it leaves more of a scar on the local industry here than just on our company.

  2. Alen Becker
    April 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I liked your article about unscrupulous bail bond agents. A bail agent having the technological knowhow on hacking into governmental computers and getting information about inmates is amazing. However you should also talk about a much bigger problem in the bail industry; lawyer referrals and kickbacks. Too many agents have been illegally paying attorneys a kickback for referrals and vice-versa. As you very well know, that type of practice violates both state and federal laws. It is interesting how you have not mentioned the trail of a certain attorney and two bail agents from Orange County who were sentenced last year. I believe it had something to do with former Sheriff Mike Corona. Anyway I hope future city Attorney Trutanich will put this illegal and damaging practice on top of his to do list. I know that Steve Cooley, Jerry Brown, the California Bar association, and FBI have.

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