Illegal Bail Practices

I was driving last Sunday when an ad came on the radio for Aladdin Bail Bonds. Intrigued, I turned up the volume in time to catch the ad telling listeners to go with their agency, because other agencies only give you “gobbledygook.” I smiled to myself. The “gobbledygook” of the bail industry is what I had been thinking about for weeks. Heck, my whole criminal law and policy class had been thinking about it for weeks. Let me tell you, dear reader, about the “gobbledygook” of the bail industry, in the form of all the illegal practices that get bail agencies into trouble.

As I talked about in my last post, the bail industry is fiercely competitive. This has led some bail agents to turn to illegal bail practices to stay in the game. Just last year, a sting brought down 31 bail agents in 5 of our local counties (Santa Clara, Alameda, Mon20800521029_9d77204ea8_nterey, San Benito and Merced County). In Santa Clara County, the sting involved some of our most prominent bail agencies: Aladdin Bail Bonds, All-Pro Bail Bonds, and Bail Hotline Bail Bonds. The sting, ironically named “Operation Bail Out,” was put together through cooperation between the California Department of Insurance and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office. This cooperation was long overdue. The California Department of Insurance had been receiving complaints against bail agents for years. As early as 2013, there were so many complaints that the Department of Insurance thought it necessary to send out a “reminder” letter of solicitation laws to all licensed bail agents in California.

Even local bail agents themselves had been pushing for better enforcement of bail laws. The former President of the Santa Clara County Bail Association told me that he had been recommending enforcement of the laws for years. Frustrated with the illegal practices of other bail agencies, he had been pushing for there to be a Department of Insurance regulatory officer placed in our area. There currently is none, and having one would help the Department of Insurance investigate claims of illegality. He even supported the idea of bail agencies paying a $10 fee on every posted bond that would be paid to the Department of Insurance to fund this. But his complaints and suggestions got nowhere.

So what exactly gets bail agents into trouble? Let’s examine the ways. Continue reading “Illegal Bail Practices”

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The Invisible Hand of For Profit Bail

My name is Forest Miles. I am currently a third year law student at Santa Clara University. Prior to beginning my studies at Santa Clara University, I obtained my B.S. in Physics from San Jose State University.  This background has led me to my current field of work – patent prosecution. Throughout the course of my law school career, I have engaged in multiple projects pertaining to human rights work.  In particular, I have participated in several clinical programs offered by Santa Clara where I gained hands on exposure to human rights work.  For example, I have had the opportunity to prepare participants for a thematic hearing with the Inter-American Commission.  I have also co-authored an amicus curiae brief for a case before the Inter-American Court.

This semester, I am seeking to tie together my human rights experience with another interest of mine – criminal law.  Criminal law and policy is becoming increasingly intertwined with human rights issues.  For example, the United States is facing increasing pressure by human rights groups for its policies on solitary confinement, capital punishment, and life sentences for juveniles.  My focus, though, is on the United States’ nearly unique “for-profit,” or privatized, bail system.

Ideally, I would like to leverage my experience with various legal structures to analyze the for-profit bail system.  The bail industry is large, highly profitable, and arguably serves a public need.  Under closer examination, however, it is not clear that: the jobs created by the industry surpass an equivalent public model; the monetization creates competition, which drives better service for customers; the needs of our justice system are well met; or even that the industry accomplishes its most basic function, to ensure that those accused of crimes show up for trial.  Additionally, I will examine the public policy motivations and detractions behind monetizing the pretrial release of the presumptively innocent defendants in our criminal justice system.