How to Prevent Clients from Jumping Bail
Editor's note: This article was written by industry professional and guest contributor Jason Pollock. The views and opinions in this article are of the author and do not reflect the views of AboutBail. If you are interested in becomeing a guest contributor, send an email to [email protected]
Paying extremely close attention to details, being extra careful, and taking a more proactive approach towards lowering your risks can go a long way towards mitigating liabilities. The following paragraphs describe some additional measures that the bail agent can utilize to further reduce liabilities, thus helping to ensure his or her success in writing bail and also alleviate some common mistakes made by some less experienced bail agents. You do not have to repeat the mistakes that others have made if you can learn from those mistakes before you make them. This statement reminds me of something that my dad constantly repeated to me in my younger years, “The wise man learns from others’ mistakes, the average man learns from his own mistakes, but the fool never learns.”
We should all strive to be wise by learning from the mistakes that others have made so that we do not have to endure hardships firsthand like the average man or the fool. Here are some of my experiences and tips for how to prevent a client from jumping bail.
1. Build rapport with the applicant
Building a rapport with all of your applicants will help them to relax in your presence. After they become a little bit more comfortable with you, they will usually open up to you and be more forthcoming with the information that you will need.
2. Tell your applicants what they need
Advise all of your applicants prior to proceeding to your bail bond office, that they will need to bring their government-issued picture identification, Social Security Card, proof of residence, proof of employment, and their personal address/phone book (so that they can provide you with personal reference contact information). You can also create a printable document or checklist in Microsoft Word/Works or Google Documents that outlines all of the required items that all of your applicants must bring in order to apply for the bond. You can email this checklist to your potential indemnitors prior to having them come to your office to fill out the necessary bail bond paperwork.
This approach makes the bail bond process a much more customer friendly, convenient, and streamlined for your business. It also takes the guesswork out of determining which items will be accepted by your bail bond company as an appropriate form of identification, proof of residence, and proof of employment. With the checklist in hand, the potential indemnitor can retrieve the required items from home and check each required item off of the list as they proceed to secure all of the required items. After the required items listed on the checklist have all been secured, then the potential indemnitor will know that s/he can then proceed to your bail bond office to begin filling out the necessary bail bond paperwork to bail their loved one out of jail.
3. Copy the applicant’s proof of identification, residence, and employment
Make photocopies of all of your applicant’s:
- Government/DMV Picture Identification: This will help you establish that the applicants are indeed the individuals who they purport themselves to be.
- Social Security Card: This will help you to determine that the Social Security Numbers that the applicants provide to you is actually theirs.
- Proof of Residence: Such as an electric bill, gas bill, water bill, phone bill (land line only), cable or satellite T.V. bill, mortgage bill, rental contract for an apartment, etc. You basically want something that ties that applicant in to that physical address. I would recommend that you do not accept cell phone bills as a proof of residence, because cell phone bills can be mailed to any address and they don’t necessarily tie a person in to a physical location.
- Proof of Employment: Such as paycheck stubs, Union Membership Documentation, maybe even their W-2 forms. This will depend on your "comfort level," so make sure that you are completely satisfied with the form of proof provided.
My experience: On one forfeiture case that I worked in Las Vegas many years ago, the client provided a photocopy of a utility bill from the Pacific Gas & Electric company as his proof of residence. It had his name and address listed on the bill. What the bail bond company employee failed to realize at that time was that PG&E was not located anywhere in Nevada, nor did they provide any services anywhere in Nevada. PG&E is a California utility company. That client skipped before the ink was dry. What he did was pretty slick. He typed up his name and address on a separate sheet of paper. Then, he trimmed that paper down to fit the original bill and he fixed that information over the actual customer's name and address and then he ran a photocopy of this "new bill." Never accept a photocopy as proof. Take the actual, original document (bill, paycheck stub, social security card, etc.) into your hands and make a photocopy for yourself. Some bail bond clients can be rather crafty individuals.
4. Take a photograph of the applicant and compare it with the booking photograph
If you secure the defendant’s booking photograph before the defendant appears at your office to fill out the required paperwork, you will be able to determine whether or not the person who appears at your office is truly the defendant that you bailed out of jail.
After you have posted a bond for a client and the defendant appears at your office to fill out the necessary paperwork, you should take a photograph of that defendant. In addition to a photograph of the defendant’s face, you will also want to photograph any identifying marks on the defendant’s body, like scars, birthmarks, moles, and tattoos. You will want to take photographs of these identifying marks because wayward bail clients don’t always carry their identification with them. Identifying marks can aid you in confirming the true identities of those clients who you must pursue. I suggest that you place an emphasis on taking photographs of identifying marks that are more easily accessible, like on the neck, arms, shoulders, legs, and backs. At the very least, you should take a photograph of the defendant’s face. Later on, you can compare the photographs that you took of the defendant with the booking photograph, after you acquire it from the Sheriff’s Department.
I know a professional bail enforcement agent, who purchases booking photographs from the Sheriff’s Department for a few dollars ($3.00 or $4.00) per photograph. He purchases a photograph of every defendant that his client bails out of jail because that client doesn’t take photographs of the defendants that his bail bond company bails out of jail. This bail enforcement agent turns around and sells booking photographs to his client for $15.00 each. He’s making a pretty clean profit simply by doing something that the bail bond company should be doing for itself. One of the issues that gives that bail enforcement agent the ability to sell those booking photographs to his client, especially at a great profit margin, is because when that bail bond company runs into issues, and they deem that it is necessary to apprehend one of their wayward bail clients, it is often at night or on a weekend, when the Sheriff’s Department is not open to distribute booking photographs and the client can’t retrieve the booking photograph from the Sheriff’s Department. Because that bail bond company had not been taking photographs of their clients at their bail bond office, they don’t know what that wayward bail client looks like. So, in a pinch, they can contact that Bail Enforcement Agent and he will sell them a copy of the booking photograph for a rather handsome profit.
My Experience: Personally, I have pursued somebody who I believed was the defendant, only to find out that the person who I was pursuing was actually the defendant’s cousin. This situation was caused because instead of the defendant coming to the bail bond office to fill out the necessary paperwork and get her photograph taken, the defendant sent her cousin in her place. That was a pretty nasty little trick to pull, but it was also extremely effective. It wasn’t until I acquired the defendant’s booking photograph that I realized that the person who I was pursuing was actually the defendant’s cousin. It wasn’t a very fun assignment to work, but it sure was educational. I would recommend that once you post bail for a client, you should acquire the defendant’s booking photograph from the Sheriff’s Department at your earliest possible convenience, because you want to be sure that the person that came to your office to fill out the necessary paperwork is actually the defendant that you bailed out of jail. The only way that you are going to know that for certain is if you compare the defendant’s booking photograph with the photograph that you took of the person that filled out your paperwork.
5. Secure additional records and items
After you post a bail bond, you might also want to secure the:
- Booking Sheet (if you can): This can reveal more valuable information about the defendant.
- Defendant’s Passport: This can prevent the defendant from leaving the country.
- Cell Phone Downloads: This can yield valuable information about the defendant’s associates.
- G.P.S. Ankle Bracelet: This can provide you with great insight in regards to where the defendant spends his/her time. It can also help you locate the defendant should he/she fail to appear in court. Before you pursue this approach, check your State laws regarding G.P.S. tracking and consult with an attorney to draft a G.P.S. Tracking Consent Form that you can use for your business.
6. Utilize fingerprint cards
Fingerprint cards can also aid you in your efforts to positively identify any wayward bail clients that you might need to surrender. I cannot count the times a wayward bail client lied to me about their true identities in an effort to maintain their ill-gotten freedom. Some law enforcement agencies keep portable devices in their vehicles that will allow them to scan fingerprints while out in the field. Once those fingerprints have been scanned, the device will then positively identify the subject, provided that the law enforcement agency has already scanned that subject’s fingerprints into their computer system. You can do the same thing if you feel compelled to do so. This can be a great idea for immigration bond companies to employ, as many of their clients remain on bond for several years, thus changing their physical appearances over great lengths of time.
7. Track court appearances
Keep track of the defendant’s mandatory court appearances and status check all of these court dates after every appearance date. Doing so will save you from having to wait to receive a forfeiture letter in the mail; which can take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks.
8. Verify phone numbers
Have all of your applicants call your business phone from their phone so that you can verify their phone numbers with your caller I.D. The general idea here is to ensure that the phone number your applicants have provided to you are actually good, working phone numbers and that they are actually tied to your applicants. Some applicants will provide you with a phone number that doesn’t actually belong to them; this is done as an early warning system to inform them that an authority figure is on to them. So, if you are the unfortunate victim of this ruse, when you call that phone number that your applicant provided to you, that applicant will know that it’s time to relocate. I’ve seen this happen a time or two. Typically, the defendants pack up their belongings, they travel hard and fast, they make tracks, they don’t stop, and they don’t look back.
9. Verify all information
Approach every encounter with a healthy dose of suspicion as to whether or not the information the applicant has provided is truthful. At all times, treat everybody with the utmost dignity and respect, however, be extremely diligent in your applicant screening processes. Approach the situation as though you have been provided with false information without letting on that you believe that you may have been lied to and always verify the information that was provided.
By following these additional protective underwriting measures, you may find yourself writing less bail; however, the positive tradeoff is that you will be writing much higher quality (loosely translated: “less risky”) bail and you will find yourself dealing with a whole lot less headaches in the end. Proactive approaches also make curing forfeited bail bonds a much simpler task.
More on preventing clients from jumping bail
- Information to Collect From Every Bail Applicant
- Information to Collect From Bail Applicant References
- 10 Types of Collateral and Tips to Secure It
- Mandating Check Ins for Your Bail Clients
Stay tuned for more tips on how you can prevent clients from jumping bail.
About the Author: Jason Pollock received his first glimpse into the mysterious world of Fugitive Recovery as an operator in 1999 and he is now the owner and operator of Surety Risk Management, a professional Bail Enforcement and Risk Management Agency based in Los Angeles, California. Jason has successfully located and apprehended approximately 1,700 “wayward bail clients” during his career as an operator, all with zero post-operation residual liability. He is the former owner of a bail bond company that never paid a single summary judgment to any court and he is currently working on his first book, a project that is now more then ten years in the making. Jason may be contacted at [email protected]
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