What makes a bail bond “good”?

The grizzled veterans who have been around a while will say that a stamped certificate of discharge from the Clerk of the Court is the only thing that makes a bail bond good. There is some obvious truth to this. When the obligation on the bail bond has been satisfied with no failure to appear by the defendant it’s a unquestionably a “good” bond. Of course this status is being established after the fact.

Certificate of DischargeHow do we make a bail bond good?

We recently posted a very large bond. During the process of putting it together I was reminded of something that the late Barry Hodus used to say. Hodus was a legendary bondsman and quite a character in South Florida courtrooms. Hodus would often bellow, “If they had all of the premium and they had all of the collateral, what would they need me for?”

His point is well taken. Anyone can assess that a bail bond is “good” if the parties have the entire premium due and full collateral. What Barry Hodus meant is that it takes a real bondsman to assess the risk and determine how to make the bond good, in the absence of being fully covered against a possible financial loss. Hodus could look each of the potential indemnitors in the eye and quickly figure out what it would take from them each in order to make it work.

On our recent large bond, there was no way we were ever going to have sufficient collateral to cover the entire bond amount. The family simply didn’t have it. As is often the case, the client is not so much of a criminal, per se. However, he definitely has a capacity for spectacular idiocy, almost certainly aided by large quantities of alcohol. He has a loving family, willing to go to bat for him. How much, depends on the bondsman and whether or not the bondsman does his job.

Mom says she will help but her boyfriend is not her son’s father and so won’t put his house up as bond collateral. The bondsman says, “Well then, good luck and if you ever decide you do need me, please give me a call.”

“Wait! You won’t help?”

“If your boyfriend knows your son and knows you and won’t risk his house, how stupid would I have to be to risk mine when I don’t even know your son?”

A real bondsman professionally explains that he needs everyone in the family fully on board and “all in” in order to assist their loved one.

“Do you know the only person in the world who could put your boyfriend’s house at risk?”

“My son?”

“That’s correct. As long as your son goes to court as required — as long as he refrains from actually becoming a fugitive — your property is safe. You have no existing obligation or debt. You only have a problem if your own son flees. If you are not completely comfortable that he will appear as required, then you shouldn’t proceed. And neither should I.”

A real bondsman will secure everything that they have, even though the dollar value may be far less than the bond amount. A real bondsman is not timid or worried about the competition. Barry Hodus had no competition. And a real bondsman is straight, often to the point of bluntness, with his client.

“The properties that your families put up do not have enough value to cover your bond.  But if you flee and become a fugitive, I will sell the properties in order to fund your capture. They will lose their homes and you will be caught. But of course that won’t happen because you’ll go to court as required in order to resolve your case.”

“And make sure you thank each person in your family. They put everything on the line for you.”

By bringing everyone on board on the large bond we wrote, we made a day’s pay and we made the bond as good as we possibly could.

Years ago, a timid bail agent (worried about the competition) decided not to ask the defendant’s mother to put up her house. She would have likely done so if the agent had asked her for it and carefully explained to her what it meant. But the agent didn’t ask. The only collateral security that the agent took on the bond was an Indemnity Agreement signed by mom.

When the defendant failed to appear in court and the bail bond was ordered forfeited, the bail agent called his mother.

“But Ma’am, you are financially liable for the $15,000.00 bond forfeiture. You need to tell me where your son is?”

“Son, I am 85-years-old. My son is a full grown man. If you have a problem with him, please deal with him and not with me.” 

“But Ma’am, you are responsible. We could sue you for the bond amount because of what you signed.”

To which she laughed and laughed and said, “What, you are going to ruin my credit? I really don’t care what you do. Do what you need to do. Have a nice day!”

If the bail agent had been a real bondsman and secured the mother’s modest home as collateral, the conversation following her son’s failure to appear would have surely been very different.

“Yes, sir. Would you like me to bring my son by your office or should I bring him to the jail to meet you?”

And what of our recent large bond? Is it a good bond?

I’ll let you know if the stamped certificate of discharge shows up.

A 6-year-old child is murdered; one of the shooters was wearing a GPS “monitoring” bracelet.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and 6-year old King Carter was playing with friends outside of the Northwest Miami apartment complex where he lived. His dad had just given him $3 to go buy some candy.

King Carter was in the first-grade at nearby Van E. Blanton Elementary School. He liked playing football and wanted to become a police man when he grew up. He was very loved by his family and friends.

King Carter, RIP

King Carter, RIP

A black car pulled into the parking lot. Two young men jumped out of the car and immediately opened fire, unleashing a hail of bullets. They were looking to kill a man police have only identified so far as “Ju Ju.” The two shooters were trying to kill Ju Ju over — of all things — a beef arising from Facebook postings. Ju Ju returned fire. All three of the gunfight shooters survived, though one of them got nicked in his neck by a bullet. King Carter did not survive. He was murdered by one of the errant shots, right there outside of his apartment, on his way to buy some candy, on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

This kind of horrific tragedy is all-too-common in Miami and other large cities. In Miami-Dade county, more than 45 children or teenagers have lost their lives to gunfire in the last year. Scores more have been wounded.

Following the murder of King Carter, the community and the police responded as they usually do. Marches and candle light vigils were held. Tears were shed and speeches were made. The police implored the public to come forward with tips and vowed to locate and arrest his killers.

Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said, “It’s another tragic event involving young males and gunfights for really senseless acts.”

Director Perez continued:

 “We are not going to stand idle. It’s all hands on deck … We are tired of this.’’

 “I’m angry, our officers are angry, the community behind me is angry, so hopefully they’re angry enough that they could provide some information that will lead to the arrest of these individuals who are responsible for this heinous act.”

Lastly, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez issued a warning directly to the killers:

“We are hunting for you. If you’re involved, you may as well turn yourselves in, because I don’t believe that the community is going to stand idle on this. I think that the community is going to stand tall and will hand these individuals off to us.”

“We’re going to get you today, tomorrow, or eventually. When it’s a small child, we don’t give up.”

I’m not sure how difficult it was for the police to actually locate and apprehend the killers. On the Wednesday following his murder, the killers of King Carter were arrested. Miami police took Irwen Pressley and Leonard Adams into custody. They were each charged with second-degree murder for the death of 6-year-old King Carter as well as the attempted first-degree murder of their intended target, “Ju Ju.”  They are both currently being held in jail without bond.

Adams was the one who was nicked in the neck during the gunfight. The treating hospital called the police, as they are required to do whenever they treat a gunshot wound. Adams suffered the neck wound from a bullet fired by Ju Ju and sought treatment immediately following the gunfight.

The second suspect, Pressley, was wearing a GPS monitor on his ankle during the gunfight in which King Carter was murdered. He was still dutifully wearing his “monitor” when police arrested him. The GPS monitor, of course, places him at the scene of the gunfight during the time 6-year-old Carter was murdered.

If the scientific proof that Pressley was at the scene of the gunfight during the time of the murder is not sufficient proof, there is also the hand gun that police recovered. During his arrest, the police found a 9 mm handgun at Pressley’s home. Pressley evidently admitted that he used the gun to target Ju Ju.

Irwen Pressley, a violent felon released on a GPS bracelet.

Irwen Pressley, a violent felon released on a GPS bracelet.

Why was Pressley being “monitored” with a GPS bracelet in the first place? So that he wouldn’t have to be jailed for his prior conviction for strong-arm robbery. Someone decided that it would be cheaper and no-doubt more humane to “monitor” Pressley than to incarcerate him.

Pressley is tragically young himself, but he’s been in trouble with the law since he was 13. He is not a non-violent offender.  His past cases include robbery, armed robbery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, armed carjacking and armed robbery with a deadly firearm. He was sentenced to a Miami-Dade Corrections “Boot Camp” last year until they decided to release him with the GPS “monitor” that he was still wearing at the time of King Carter’s murder.

The groups who promote the use of GPS monitors as an alternative to incarceration like to talk about hypothetical non-violent, first-time offenders with strong community ties. The reality is all-too-often a bad actor like Irwen Pressley. It’s no consolation to the mourning friends and family of a murdered child that the shooter was being “monitored” by a GPS bracelet.

There is a growing and dangerous trend in our criminal justice system, epitomized by voices like Alec Karakatsanis, the misguided co-founder of an outfit called “Equal Justice Under Law” and idiots like Tim Schnacke. They rail against the practice of what they call “human caging.” But the sad reality is that we need jails and prisons. There are people who need to be locked up. It is a figment of our imagination to pretend that a GPS ankle monitor constitutes adequate supervision of violent criminals. It is delusional and dangerous to believe that violent criminals will behave if we simply ask them to.

Richard Pryor once said, “Thank god we got penitentiaries!”  Warning: the language on the attached video is probably not suitable for work and will likely offend some folks. But you know what offends me more than the use of profanity? Murdered 6-year-old children.

What does it cost you to not join your local, state and national bail agent associations?

Near the close of the first full day of the PBUS (Professional Bail Agents of the United States) winter conference they hold a happy hour mixer and new member reception. I have been a member of PBUS for many years, so the Las Vegas cocktail party is a little less awkward for me than perhaps it once was. I’ve learned that you’re among friends who speak the same language you do and understand this business we’re in. I really enjoy being in a room full of bail agents from all across the United States.

Michael Hansen, Sr., a satisfied member of PBUS

Michael Hansen, Sr., a satisfied member of PBUS

Anyhow, I spotted a guy that I have never met before but had noticed earlier in the PBUS General Session featuring Michèle Stuart of Jag Investigations. Stuart had presented an all-day interactive breakout session on Internet Profiling and Intelligence Gathering. I asked this stranger what he thought of the class. He answered by pulling out his cell phone to show me a photo of a very unhappy looking guy sitting in the back seat of a car. He took a look at all the ribbons hanging off of my PBUS name badge. Concluding that I must be active with the association, he said, “You people need to raise the registration fees.”

Here is what happened. This agent, Michael Hansen, Sr., — like every other bail agent I spoke with — loved Michèle Stuart’s presentation. Even though it took up almost an entire day, most attendees were left with the feeling that it could have been longer still. Stuart really knows her stuff. And her stuff is of great value to us bail agents.

Michael Hansen, Sr., took notes during the class and paid particular attention when Stuart talked about how photos on the internet often contain “hidden” information which may well include geo-location on a subject. She taught us how you can often learn precisely where a photo was taken.

Hansen didn’t need to hear this part twice. He and his son, Mike Jr., have been seeking a fugitive on a $20, 000 bond they posted in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Using what they learned in the first breakout session of the PBUS winter conference, they had their bond skip in custody within three hours of the class.

This is why Michael Hansen, Sr., joked about PBUS raising their registration fees. This is also why his first PBUS conference will surely not be his last. What he learned directly resulted in the apprehension and surrender of his fugitive. This took place within three hours of learning the information in the PBUS class.  I didn’t catch a bond skip, but now if I need help in York, Pennsylvania I know who to call for help. And I also learned a thing or two (or 50) in Michèle Stuart’s class.

If you are in the bail bond business, maybe you should be making arrangements to join and support the PBUS. The summer conference will be in Biloxi this July. How much will it cost you to miss it?

Thirty-three hours after being released from jail upon a promise to appear, drunk driver kills himself and four innocent people.

A suspended driver’s license didn’t deter 61-year-old James Pohlabein from driving his 1997 Chevy Silverado while drunk. At about 2:30am on Thursday, February 11, 2016 he lost control of his car and crashed it into a parked car. He hit it hard enough that the parked car slammed into another parked car.

It’s a safe bet that the Ohio police who responded to the scene had little difficulty in determining that Pohlabein was drunk. They arrested him for operating a motor vehicle without reasonable control and driving while intoxicated. The police took Pohlabein to jail.

James Pohlebeln

James Pohlebein, murdered four innocent people

When Pohlabein was dragged before the judge a few hours later, he pleaded not guilty. The presiding judge ordered Pohlabein released on his own recognizance.  He was let out of jail about 7pm on Thursday night, conditioned solely upon his own promise to appear.

No one has to worry about Pohlabein keeping his promise to appear in court to face criminal charges of driving drunk.

Approximately 33 hours after being released from jail — at about 3am on Saturday February 13 — Pohlabein was driving his car the wrong way on I-75 at a high rate of speed. It’s evident that he was committing the same crimes that caused his earlier arrest. He was driving blind drunk on his still suspended license and completely out of control. A witness called 9-1-1 to report their own narrow miss with the wrong-way car. But it was a futile call.

Pohlabein drove his car head-on into an oncoming SUV and murdered all four of its occupants. Four young, innocent, vibrant, useful and loved people died at the scene: Kyle Canter, 23; Earl Miller II, 27; Vashti Nicole Brown, 29; and Devin Bachmann, 26. Perhaps mercifully, Pohlabein died at the scene as well. It was a horrific and tragic wrong-way accident.

The article in the Dayton Daily News does not mention the name of the municipal court judge who released Pohlabein on his own recognizance. Nor will I. It is not the intent of this blog post to second-guess the judge’s decision. No one can accurately predict or guarantee human behavior. As both a human being and a judge he most certainly must feel horrible about what happened.

I would like instead to foster a discussion about a natural consequence and benefit of private, financially secured bail. What would have happened if Pohlabein had to post a secured bail bond, rather than simply issuing a promise to appear?

In such case — absent possessing the entire penal amount of the bail bond in cash — the accused defendant has to make a phone call. He needs help to secure his release. He cannot get out of jail by himself. So he calls a bail bondsman. What does the bondsman do first? The bondsman first brings the friends and family members of the defendant into the picture. The bail agent enlists people who are willing to be accountable and responsible for the accused defendant’s appearance. The bail agent needs people who will vouch for the defendant. As every bondsman knows, this is even more important than obtaining the premium for posting the bail bond. The bondsman needs people willing to help the accused and willing to participate in the posting of his financially secured bail bond.

A significant number of people who find themselves arrested are in the grips of alcoholism and/or drug addiction. Such was almost certainly the case with James Pohlabein. His former wife said that months earlier he had sent her text messages saying he wanted police to kill him after the death of his brother. A former neighbor of Pohlabeln said he drank frequently and that she had witnessed him stumbling “half-drunk” out of his car on several occasions. After the horrific wrong-way crash, the same neighbor told reporters, “He was always drunk” and “Somebody should [have done] something because everybody knows that he’s drinking like this.”

What would have happened if a bail agent had to speak to the ex-wife and the former neighbor of Pohlabeln in order to secure his bail bond? What if the bail agent had to speak to relatives of Pohlabeln before he could be released from jail?

Denial is a defining characteristic of sufferers afflicted with alcoholism and drug addiction. (“I don’t have a problem! You have a problem!”) In the warped world view of the active alcoholic it is all-too-often the parked car’s fault. Or whoever parked the car there — it’s their fault!

The purpose of a bail bond is appearance in court, make no mistake. But the process of obtaining a financially secured bail bond through a licensed bail agent requires bringing friends and family of the accused together. It is not uncommon for this to lead directly to an intervention with the accused. For many of our clients the arrest and — more importantly — the participation of family and friends, leads the accused to move beyond his denial. They begin to accept at last that they have a serious problem. It is a truism that admitting there is a problem is the first step in recovery.

I have no idea whether James Pohlabeln had anyone left in his life willing to vouch for him, to be accountable and to help. But I do know many of our clients turn their lives around and find the help they need following an arrest and the posting of their secured bail bond. I do know that as bail agents we often get to play a small but vital role in helping families to heal. During the course of doing our jobs, we often times bring families together and get a front row seat to miracles. We get to watch our clients find the help they need and transform their lives. This is often the most rewarding aspect of being a bail agent.

Again, I am not second guessing the judge who released James Pohlabeln on his own recognizance. But I cannot help but wonder what might have occurred had he been required to enlist the help of responsible family members and friends in order to secure his release from jail.

This is what the “free” publicly-funded pretrial release charlatans try to pass off as neutral, unbiased, and “evidence-based” when they peddle their baloney.

I recently received a link to a blog written by a disingenuous lying twit named Tim Schnacke. Schnacke wants to eliminate financially secured bail. That’s certainly his prerogative and he is not alone in his misguided beliefs. There are a number of folks — invariably on some version of the public dole — who think financially secured bail is somehow wrong. They try to create data to support their position but, lacking that, they typically fall back on their fundamental belief that what we do for a living as bail agents is somehow morally wrong. They don’t like us. They don’t like that we earn a living (“money bail”). If you scratch hard enough what they really don’t like is “caging” people. (This is their latest euphemism for jailing criminals.)

Tim Schnacke, liar

Tim Schnacke. Academic degrees? Yep! Integrity? Not so much.

Tim Schnacke and the folks like him advocate that when a police officer makes an arrest for a crime — immediately following the arrest — the officer should apologize to the accused for society’s many shortcomings. The officer should also express remorse for the inconvenience of having had to endure the arrest. After issuing a sincere and heartfelt apology, the police officer should then uncuff the accused criminal and issue to them a written notice to pretty please appear in court for their trial. What could possibly go wrong with that?

But I don’t begrudge Tim Schnacke for being a misguided and naïve moron. He, of course, holds quite a different opinion of himself (taken from his website):

“I think I’ve had plenty of formal education, and I hope I’m not forced to get any more (although I’m taking two classes on Coursera!)

And even though he wants to eliminate my livelihood, I don’t have any qualms with him running his outfit “The Center for Legal and Evidence-Based Practices” and hustling up as many handouts and grants as he can. (I am not sure how he makes a living but panhandling on the internet is part of the mix.) What does irk me, though, is that Tim Schnacke consistently and repeatedly claims to be neutral.

“The Center is neutral and nonpartisan, but articulates positions when they are supported by unbiased research and laws with firm constitutional bases.”

On his website, he writes:

“I’m Tim, a neutral voice in the world of bail reform and pretrial justice.”

Astoundingly, he italicizes and bold faces “a neutral voice,” presumably to emphasize his shameless lie

Does this well-educated (“I have a law degree, a masters of law degree, and a masters of criminal justice degree in addition to the two degrees that I got in college!”) dolt sound “neutral” to you? Please read the following excerpts from his blog and website and make a determination as to whether he is unbiased and neutral.

“The secured money bail system not only causes countless harms to society, it defies virtually every notion of American freedom and equality that we defend in our founding documents. Its very existence makes us worse.”

“The American bail system hasn’t worked since 1900.”

“This generation of bail reform, as most of you now know, is not so much a fight against bail agents as it is a fight about money at bail – which is why the statement on the agenda of all the “threatening arguments against the bail industry” is so misleading.”

“with insurance companies making money for doing nothing”

“when people are fully educated in bail, they automatically move toward change, and that change involves adopting a risk-informed system of pretrial release and detention (both for assessment and supervision) using less or no money.”

“the current system – with all of those huge amounts of money based on charge – is fundamentally flawed”

“the idea of a bail schedule being anything less than arbitrary and completely irrational is ludicrous.”

“As my dear friend’s delightful middle school daughter might respond, “OMG!” Doesn’t discriminate against the poor?! Are you nuts? It’s a money-based system, for goodness sake. Bail agents only help defendants with money.”

“we have simply spent too long not thinking money bail wrong”

“There may be a place for private pretrial in America, but the window for finding that place is rapidly closing.”

“Personally, I don’t think money is ever appropriate, but for those judges having a hard time with that idea, using an unsecured bond at least gets the defendant out of jail quickly”

“If I were in the bail insurance business, I would stop trying to pick apart the Arnold study and start trying to figure out how to change my business practices so that defendants deemed safe enough for release would at least get released quickly, even if that meant I might not make as much money.”

“They are a business, after all, supported by big corporate insurance companies with a fiduciary duty to make money despite whatever erosion to justice that may cause.”

“We need complete reform, and we can only accomplish that reform by intentionally leaving out many of the people responsible for the current broken system.”

“The other day I had an older gentleman who had been involved in criminal justice for decades try to argue with me about what he saw were the benefits of secured money bail.”

Does any of this poppycock sound remotely “neutral” or “objective” to you?  Schnacke is a poster child for opponents of accountability in pretrial release practices. When the data doesn’t support their beliefs, these hypocrites shamelessly lie and change their terminology. (“Calling it ‘Risk Assessment’ will work!”) This is why Schnacke is so adamant in his claims that bail is not about appearance. (“The purpose of bail itself is to release people!”)

If Schnacke can persuade gullible policy makers that bail is about release and not appearance then pretrial release programs can compete effectively with private bail. Any program — even inept ones run by government employees — can release people from jail. That’s the easy part. The answer to jail overcrowding according to these morons? It’s simple. Just release defendants from jail and ask them to please appear in court for their trial date. In Schnacke’s fantasy world, bail is solely about releasing people from jail. That has never been the purpose of any of the thousands of bail bonds I have been involved in posting. Each bail bond we post is a commitment and an obligation to have the defendant appear in court. Failing in that obligation, we risk paying a substantial penalty to the state.

Hypocrites like Schnacke claim that bail agents don’t arrest bond skips and return them to court following a non appearance. (“I have research to prove it!” he claims.)  Have you ever met a single bail agency owner who has not located, apprehended and surrendered their bond skips back to the court? Have you ever met a bail agent who hasn’t on occasion had to pay a bond forfeiture because he or she was unable to locate a fugitive in time? I have not.

Private bail works because independent committed bail agents are financially accountable to the courts for the appearance of accused defendants. To protect their financial guarantee, bail agents enlist the support and participation of the accused defendant’s family members, friends, and employers to help ensure their appearance.

Pretrial release on private financially secured bail works. Tim Schnacke? Not so much. In lieu of actual work, he prefers to panhandle on the internet and try to convince anyone who will listen that our honorable profession ought to be eliminated and replaced with ineffective government programs. Here then is my “neutral” and “objective” informed opinion of Tim Schnacke: He is a liar and a hypocrite.

A compassionate bail bond agent helps bring about positive change to her local jail’s release policy

I love everything about this story that aired last week on KATV news in Arkansas.

First, a disclaimer: this bail bond agent, Carmen Moore, does not work with or for me and we have never met. That said, based upon the news story, I am a fan. Carmen Moore’s actions make me proud to be a bondsman.

Bondsman Carmen Moore

Bondsman Carmen Moore

Moore works for Buddy York Bail Bonds in White County, Arkansas and she spoke out publicly against her local jail’s release policies and practices. This takes courage. Sometimes it’s a safer and easier course to stay silent about issues that don’t involve us directly. This is especially true if it potentially affects our pocket book as is certainly the case here. Many bail agents are understandably hesitant to criticize a jail publicly, knowing that release officers and deputies at the jail have the potential to make a bondsman’s professional life horrible.

Carmen Moore spoke out, regardless of the potentially adverse consequences to her in doing so.

The first thing I love about this story is that bail agent Carmen Moore stated that she “just happened to be in her office” at 2:30am. It is not uncommon for us bail agents to “just happen to be” in our offices at 2:30am. If an employee of a publicly-funded pretrial release program just happened to be in his government office at 2:30am it would be to steal the office’s flat screen TV.

So Carmen “just happened to be in her office” at 2:30am when her bail bond office’s door bell rings and it’s two guys, freshly released from the White County Detention Center across the street. Carmen did not stay silent. Instead, she spoke out, at first on her Facebook page, posting the following:

“I am so frustrated, it boggles my mind how a facility can be so cruel and inhumane. It’s 2:30 in the morning, I’m at my office working, when my door bell rings, it’s 2 guys who were just released from jail, WITHOUT even a phone call.. . This happens every day!!!! One of the guys is from West Memphis, who just spent 30 day for a failure to pay on a ticket from 2004. He has on a short sleeve shirt, sweat pants and NO freakin’ shoes, and it’s freakin’ cold outside. The inmates are not notified when they will be released, they are only told it can be at anytime after midnight. so they can’t make arrangements to be picked up. This happens every freaking day. About a month ago a lady was release right after midnight, lucky for her I was at my office she had been jail for 90 days, she was in shorts, a tank top and again No Shoes, she lived in Beebe, this was during one of our coldest days. I made her some coffee, gave her a pair of my shoes I had at the office, let her use the phone and stay in my office until she got a ride back to Beebe. The closest gas station that is OPEN at this time is about a mile away. What the heck is wrong with our world…. Losing faith in people!!”

Carmen Moore did more than publicly rant. She took the time and effort to listen and learn about the poor guy who appeared at her bail bond office’s door. She found out that he is a 52-year-old disabled Vet, who served our country during Desert Storm. She found out he was unable to reach his mother, who is suffering from cancer. Carmen Moore got him coffee, breakfast, shoes and arranged to get him a ride home to West Memphis. She cared.

It is important to note that this gentleman was at no time eligible for a bail bond. He served a 30-day sentence, evidently as a result of not paying a very small fine from 2004. When he was released from the jail at 2:30 am, it was without any advance warning or notice. He was released from the jail without shoes, without a jacket and without the opportunity to make a phone call. It was 29 degrees outside. Carmen Moore thought this was wrong and she did something about it.

Following her posts on social media, Carmen attracted the attention of TV news station KATV and they published the story, calling into question the White County Detention Center’s release policies.

Here’s my favorite quote from the interview:

 “I understand people have done some crimes and it is not supposed to be a hotel. They are also living, breathing human beings. Dignity you know?”

The good news is that following Carmen’s actions, the Sheriff’s Department properly addressed this issue. They no longer release inmates in the middle of the night without a phone call and a ride or other appropriate and safe arrangements being made. Obviously, this does not apply to defendants who are bonded out and have friends and family waiting with the bail agent.

Carmen reminds us that as bail agents we really are in an amazing position to help so many people. There are resources and services available to people in need. As bail agents we are often uniquely qualified to assist. Carmen reminds us that being a good bail agent and being a compassionate human being is never incompatible.

Thank you, Carmen Moore for your own compassion and efforts and for bringing some dignity to our profession.

Having your cake and eating it, too.

The literal meaning of this shopworn expression is that you cannot both retain your cake and yet still eat it, too. If you eat the cake, it’s gone. You cannot have two incompatible things. The meaning of “having your cake and eating it, too” is similar to saying, “you can’t have it both ways.”

Yet more and more often lately, that’s precisely what the state seeks in bail bond forfeiture matters. The purpose of a bail bond posted by a surety bail agent is to have the defendant appear as required in court. If the defendant becomes a fugitive and fails to appear, the bail agent must locate, apprehend and surrender the fugitive defendant back to the jurisdiction. Failing that, the bail agent must pay a substantial penalty to the state — the full penal amount of the bond forfeiture. So the bail agent either produces the body in court, or pays the penalty for failing to do so. It sounds simple, correct?

The state wants to eat your cake, and have it, too.

The state wants to eat your cake, and have it, too.

But what happens when the state doesn’t want the body? Common sense would tell you that if the state doesn’t want the fugitive, then the bail agent should not have to pay a penalty for failing to deliver. More and more often though, this is precisely what is happening. The state determines that it doesn’t want the fugitive yet still pursues the collection of the penalty from the bail agent. The state wants two incompatible things. Actually, they want one thing: revenue. But revenue to the state has never been the purpose of a bail bond. The purpose of the bail bond is to ensure the appearance in court of the accused.

Laws governing bail vary greatly from state to state. In some jurisdictions a bail agent is prohibited from lawfully apprehending his or her fugitive. For example, if I write a bail bond returnable to Miami-Dade County, Florida and the accused flees to Kentucky, it is illegal for me to enter Kentucky and apprehend him. The only lawful way for me to fulfill my obligation in this case would be to have Kentucky law enforcement take the fugitive into their custody on the Florida warrant and to extradite the fugitive back to the jurisdiction of Miami-Dade County. I would then be liable to the state for the costs incurred by them in transporting my bond principal back to Miami-Dade, Florida.

All-too-often, though, in cases such as this, the state refuses to seek nationwide extradition of the defendant — even though the bail agent is on the hook for the costs of transportation. The warrant will specify that it is for Florida only or otherwise geographically limited. The reality is that the state often in actuality does not want to prosecute or deal with the defendant, but they do want the proceeds of the bond forfeiture. They want to eat your cake.

To help remedy this situation in Florida, the Florida Bail Agents Association is seeking to pass HB 731. The complete text of the proposed legislation is here. The pertinent language in the proposed bill reads as follows:

(d) A determination that the state is unwilling to seek nationwide extradition of the fugitive defendant within 10 days after a request by the surety to do so, and contingent upon the surety agent’s consent to pay all transportation costs incurred by an official in returning the defendant to the jurisdiction of the court, up to the penal amount of the bond.

If you are a Florida bail agent you should join the Florida Bail Agents Association and support these efforts. Don’t sit on the sidelines while the state tries to change your bond into a revenue stream. Don’t allow the state to eat your cake for breakfast.

A frog is a wonderful bird — except for the flying part

The Miami Dolphins ended another season, absent once again from the playoffs. They have been mired in mediocrity-at-best for a decade. But team owner Steven Ross, following a meaningless victory over the Patriots, has an interesting perspective. He told the assembled locker-room press that other than the actual winning football games part, the Dolphins are doing great.

“From every aspect except on the playing field we’re probably the first class organization in the National Football League”

I never thought about it this way before. If we judge the Dolphins based upon their cheerleaders or trainers, or landscapers, or things other than actually winning football games, then heck, maybe they are champions after all. Someone should let their legions of perpetually heartbroken fans know about this.

This sort of outlook sheds new light on the possibility that publicly funded pretrial release programs really are effective and worthwhile. They do many things well; except for the part about having defendants who are released pretrial actually show up for court.

For instance, these programs employ bunches of additional government workers and we all know what a great thing that is. Some of these pretrial release programs collect hundreds of gallons of urine from compliant (and presumed innocent) accused criminals. Some install electronic bracelets which helps the bracelet manufacturers and the paid electronic “monitors” who can track compliant defendants. (Non-compliant clients simply cut the bracelet off or fail to appear for the first appointment to have it put on.) These programs send out court notices to those accused criminals who are thoughtful enough to provide them with accurate addresses. They answer the phones during office hours except during lunch breaks, work breaks or paid government holidays. They have a lot of file cabinets, computers, coffee breaks, and government employee benefits.

For every aspect except actually being held accountable for the appearance of the defendant, these taxpayer funded pretrial release programs are first class organizations.

In my state of Florida, the statutes read that the terms “bail” and “bond” include any and all forms of pretrial release. So when an accused criminal is released pretrial — as most are and should be — they are released on bail. The only relevant questions are: who pays for that bail and is it truly a secured release or a figment of everyone’s imagination? Will someone actually be held accountable for the defendant’s appearance at trial?

The woman who supervises the Manatee County, Florida’s taxpayer funded “conditional release program” said, “The County does not ever post bond for anyone. That is the purpose of our program.”

For every aspect except the part about knowing what she actually does for a living, she is a winner! She goes on to say, “How are we to be held accountable for them attending court? Short of watching clients 24 hours per day, that is not possible. The bondsman don’t do that either.”

For every aspect except truthfulness, that’s a great statement!  Of course bondsman actually are held accountable. By tying up friends and family of the accused and by risking their own money, bail bond agents are indeed accountable for their defendants’ appearance in court. When their defendants fail to appear, the bail agents — on their own dime — locate, apprehend and surrender them back to the jurisdiction of the court. Failing that, they pay a substantial penalty to the government. When defendants are released pretrial on a taxpayer funded bail and subsequently fail to appear, we get another open felony warrant entered into the system.

And probably a government requisition form for some new office plants and urine cups.

A New Year’s Poem.

There are worse ways to spend 59-seconds than by watching this video of Tom Waits reading “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski. Happy New Years to you and yours!

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Tom Waits is an American singer-song songwriter and actor.  Charles Bukowski was an American author of poems, novels, short stories, and letters.

A few moments with bail bondsman Marco Polo Vital on being in the appearance business

Advocates of publicly funded pretrial release programs would have us believe that defendants who are released from jail pretrial simply need a friendly reminder of their court dates. In total disregard of the truth, they continue to tell gullible policymakers, politicians and judges that accused criminals can be trusted to appear in court as required. They argue that secured, private bail in which a bail agent is held accountable for the defendant’s appearance can be replaced with an expensive, ineffective government program that sends out court date notices.

Private bail agents, such as Marco Polo Vital, know that this is bunk. Vital has been a bondsman for 9-years in Broward County, Florida. He writes bail in Miami-Dade as well as Fort Lauderdale.

“Some you have to call; some are knuckleheads.”