We hear it almost everyday: “What’s your rate?” or “Can I get a bond at 5%?”
We know when someone calls and starts with those questions, we probably aren’t going to write the bond. How do we know? We know because the legal bail rates in California are clear. The people we deal with for bail are concerned with our professionalism and how quickly and efficiently we can get their situation settled. They aren’t looking to do business illegally.
So why do people who need bail call with such questions? One word: “Undercutting.” This is the term used for the practice of offering illegally low rates on bail. It’s a major problem in California and particularly so in Orange County and Los Angeles County. This week the Connecticut Law Tribune, reported similar situations in that state in their article “Paying a Price for Dishonest Bail Bondsmen”
While undercutting helps bail bondsmen gain a competitive advantage, it also lets people arrested for dangerous crimes out on the street for relatively little money.
“If the public knew half of what is going on, they’d be appalled,” said Mary Anne Casey, proprietor of Casey Bail Bonds in Hartford and senior vice president of a trade group called the Professional Bail Agents of the United States. “It’s a real public safety issue that needs to be addressed.”
The article goes on to explain extreme cases where hardened criminals were returned to the streets at a discount. Clearly, that is a problem. But the problem goes beyond that. The bail system is in place because it works. Bondsmen provide additional oversight for the defendant as does the indemnitor (the person getting the defendant out). If a bondsman is acting illegally, how could anyone reasonably expect the agent to ensure the defendants return to court?
I will say that indemnitors may not realize that getting a “bargain bond” is illegal. As bail bondsmen, we need to do a beter job of making the public, politicians, courts and police chiefs aware of the safety issues involved in bail undercutting.
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