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Aside from the high risk and the fugitives, the missed vacations and phones ringing at all hours, bail agents have a pretty good job. Occasionally we are handed a case that reminds us how effective the bail system can be. [Read more →]

“Going Into Labor”

Once when I was working with Jake, one of our defendants failed to appear in court. We had doubts about him to begin with, and he had caused nothing but trouble. He’d lied on his paperwork, [Read more →]

“Mall Security”

A defendant charged with child molestation skipped town. I had his photo, and I knew he lived near a shopping mall where his sister worked. Even though he left his home, I figured his sister was the best lead I had. [Read more →]

“Turning The Law Upside Down”

This is a frightening situation about a criminal who knew the law too well. A convicted sex offender, he was required to register in California, where he lived with his wife, stepchildren and one child from a previous marriage.
He worked as a truck driver. [

“The Prostitute’s Car”

It happened about twice a week between midnight and 2:00 a.m. A guy named Joe would call and with a bunch of slang talk, explain to me that he needed to bail out his girlfriend who had just been arrested. He never bothered to change his name or his accent. He just kept calling, and every time he called, he’d say, “Yeah, this is Joe. My girlfriend’s in jail.”
I didn’t have to be a seasoned veteran to know he was a pimp calling to bail out one of his prostitutes. [Read more →]

“Court Surrender”

I had just started working as a bondsman and I was with a big agency. My two bosses wanted me at court with them one day. A defendant was supposed to appear, and they intended to surrender him back to the court. [Read more →]

United States Bail Law

U.S. v. Humberto Laura-Cota, 262 F. Supp.2d 1118 (S.D. Cal. 2003) set aside forfeiture of the bond because the Government increased the surety’s risk by deporting the defendant.

In United States v. King, 349 F.3d 964 (7th Cir. 2003) the trial court, over the government’s objection, permitted the defendant to travel to Nigeria despite the fact that he had shown what the court calls a propensity for flight. However, he in fact returned to New York and then skipped. The Seventh Circuit’s decision contains excellent language on exoneration of the surety by an unconsented to increase in the risk assumed, including “That a material change in risk can discharge the surety’s obligation is a staple of suretyship law; the principle is not limited to criminal cases.” [Read more →]

Wyoming Bail Law

Application of Action Bail Bonds, 2004 WL 583592 (Wyo. March 25, 2004) reviewed the standards that a trial court must follow in exercising its discretion on what part of a bond forfeiture should be remitted. The Court held that remission of 50% was not an abuse of discretion and affirmed the trial court.

Washington Bail Law

In Ranger Insurance Company v. Pierce County, 2004 WL 1834650 (Wash. App. August 17, 2004) Ranger wrote two separate bonds for a defendant named Rogers. The bail agent on both was Signature Bail Bonds, Inc. owned by Ray Hrdlicka. Signature also wrote a bond for Rogers, and two bonds for another defendant, with Granite State Insurance Co. as the surety. One of Ranger’s bonds for Rogers was forfeited along with Granite’s bonds. Signature issued checks to pay the forfeitures but then called Ranger and said that it did not have the funds to pay and that both of Ranger’s bonds had been forfeited. Ranger paid the Clerk the face amount of its two bonds — $35,000, and Signature stopped payment on its checks. The Signature manager (James Barbieri) told the Clerk to apply the $35,000 to pay the forfeited Ranger bond ($15,000) and the forfeited Granite bonds. After the defendants were recovered, Signature had the forfeitures set aside and told the Clerk that it had paid the forfeitures (using copies of the checks it stopped payment on as evidence) and the Clerk refunded the money to Signature. Signature did not send any of it to Ranger.

Ranger sued the Clerk for negligence in applying the payment (which Ranger had designated for the cases on which it was surety) to the Granite bonds and for returning its money to Signature. The trial court granted summary judgment to the Clerk on the theories that Signature was Ranger’s agent and could direct how the payment was to be applied and receive the refunds on Ranger’s behalf and that the Clerk had quasi-judicial immunity for negligent acts.

The Court of Appeals held that Signature had no actual authority to apply Ranger’s money to Granite’s obligation and that there were material issues of fact as Signature’s apparent authority. It also held that the Clerk was acting in a ministerial capacity and was not protected by quasi-judicial immunity. It vacated the summary judgment and remanded the case. A dissenting judge would have affirmed the trial court.

In State v. Surety Bankers Insurance Co., 2005 WL 583404 (Wash. App. March 14, 2005) the defendant was not apprehended in the 60 day period following forfeiture, and the surety paid the forfeiture. A few days later, the defendant was arrested on a new charge. The surety played no part in the arrest. The trial court refused to remit any of the forfeiture. The surety did not meet the statutory requirement for relief because it was not directly responsible for producing the defendant. It argued that the court nevertheless had discretion to grant relief on equitable grounds. The government argued that the statute foreclosed such equitable relief. The Court of Appeals held that it did not need to reach the issue of whether equitable relief was possible because the trial court exercised its discretion and was within its discretion in denying the relief requested by the surety.

Utah Bail Law

State of Utah v. Sun Surety Insurance Company, 2003 WL 21295845 (Utah App. February 27, 2003) held that the bail bond was exonerated because the notice of nonappearance was sent to the bail agent not the surety company as required by Utah Code Section 77-20b-101.

In State v. Cobos, 2003 WL 22361492 (Utah App. October 17, 2003) the surety filed a motion in the trial court to set aside entry of judgment against the surety and exonerate the bond. The trial court denied the motion and the surety appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. According to the Court, in Utah the surety can obtain review only as part of an appeal from the final judgment in the criminal case or by filing a petition for an extraordinary writ.

State v. Sun Surety Insurance Company, 99 P.3d 818 (Utah 2004) held that a bail bond surety did not have standing to appeal the trial court’s refusal to set aside forfeiture of the bond. The Utah Supreme Court thus vacated the Court of Appeals holding that the forfeiture should be vacated because notice of the forfeiture was mailed only to the bail agent and not to the surety. The Supreme Court held that only the criminal defendant and the State are parties to a criminal case with standing to appeal, but in a footnote it suggested that the proper method for the surety to raise its objections is by “extraordinary writ.”

In Lee v. Langley, 2005 WL 1831115 (Utah App. August 4, 2005) the defendant failed to appear for criminal charges in Colorado and left the state in violation of the bond and of his contract with the surety. He was apprehended in Utah at his brother’s house by a recovery agent licensed in Colorado but not in Utah. The defendant and his brother sued the surety, bail agent and recovery agent for false imprisonment, assault and reckless endangerment. The trial court dismissed the false imprisonment claim. The Court of Appeals held that the recovery agent was not protected by the Utah Bail Bond Recovery statute because he was not properly licensed, but that his apprehension of the defendant was authorized under the contract between the defendant and the surety and so was lawful and could not form the basis of a false imprisonment claim. The jury found for the recovery agent on the other claims, and the bail agent and surety could not be liable if the primary actor was not liable.