Is it Ethical to Revoke a Bond When the Defendant Posts Bail With Another Company?
Should a bondsman revoke a bond on the basis of the defendant bonding out with another company on an unrelated charge?
There’s a hot discussion in the Bail Bond Professionals LinkedIn group discussing when it is ethically and legally justifiable to revoke a bond when a defendant bonds with another company. Mike Miller, the group member who asked the question, clarified that his company had recently bonded out a defendant who was already out on bond with another agency. “The next day the defendant called me scared because the other agent called him threatening to revoke the bonds he had him on because he bonded out with us,” Miller explained. “I think it is wrong for a bondsman to revoke someone’s bond solely for bonding with another agent/agency,” he noted, sharing that the question was asked to get feedback from other agents. What followed is the group’s most popular discussion to date.
A number of issues are brought to light in the discussion, including whether this is a case-by-case discrepancy, the potential reasons the defendant did not call back on the second bond, increased liability, working with other bondsmen, and the question of whether or not this qualifies as extortion. Many bondsmen acknowledged that the situation can be a difficult one to handle, as there are many potential explanations and scenarios that come into play.
Of course a bondsman can drop a defendant's bond for using another bondsmen on a new charge. The financial picture that the bondsman viewed while accepting to do the first bond has changed when defendant is charged. It should be a requirement for the defendant to notify the first bondsman and get permission before bonding with someone else.Sherry Rogers
“This can be a touchy situation,” group member Jay Lindsey shared. “Knowing the client and his/her history, your indemnitor and collateral, and exactly who posted the new bond can usually explain the situation.”
But Sherry Rogers disagrees. “Of course a bondsman can drop a defendant’s bond for using another bondsman on a new charge,” she said. “The financial picture that the bondsman viewed while accepting to do the first bond has changed when the defendant is charged, arrested, and bonded again.” Rogers shared that she believes it should be a requirement for the defendant to notify the first bondsmen and obtain permission before bonding with someone else.
Miller respectfully disagrees with Rogers’ stance, except in the financial aspect of the bond or increased risk and liability. “No one should be threatened to be put back in jail just because they choose to bail with another bail agency.”
The sections below further outline comments on the subject.
Is there increased liability?
Group member Cheryl Williams notes that the kind of charges in both instances can be a factor. “If both charges were felonies then your liability has just increased,” Williams also noted. “Two back-to-back felonies is a good enough reason to come off a bond, but not just because you are upset that he used another company.” She notes that if both charges are misdemeanors she wouldn’t rescind the bond.
“To threaten to revoke someone’s bond if they do not use your business is certainly extortion,” Jason Armstrong adds. “However, a risk-based decision may be made to revoke the first bond depending on the circumstances.” Armstrong provides the circumstance of having written a bond for a DUI and a second bond being written by another company for attempted murder. “A decision to revoke may be made completely based on risk,” he said. “The first bond would have been written with underwriting relative to the risk that the defendant was facing given the penalties for a DUI, and obviously that risk has risen dramatically if one is charged with a much more serious crime.”
Noting liability, group member and AboutBail guest contributor Jason Pollock shares that questions like whether it is legal, moral, and ethical to revoke the client’s bail and whether the client is truly an increased risk to the company need to be examined in each scenario. “These decisions are made on an individual case-by-case basis,” he says. “For example, if a bail agent posts a bail bond for a person who was accused of dealing drugs and then that client is arrested again for the same offense while on bail, that client has increased his liability, in my opinion.” Doug Metzger agrees, citing his own example of another bondsman perhaps offering to write an additional bond he is not willing to write, and noting each bond is different and should be evaluated on its own circumstances. “If the liability is increased because of a new charge, I usually will come off the original bond.”
But working with other agencies poses yet another potential issue.
“In my experience, the majority of the time the defendant goes to someone else because they are in arrears with their current bondsman,” Michael Schon. “You also have to consider whether or not the new bond will be larger or smaller than your current bond. The reason being is that we all know, whether we want to admit it or not, that if the defendant runs on your bigger bond and the other agent's smaller bond, that the tendency unfortunately is for the other guy to sit on his/her butt and let you do all the work because you have more to lose.”
“Without a doubt there are many factors to consider on siding one way or the other in this situation,” he notes. “I don't think there is a standard catch-all answer to this.”
Violation of original bond agreement
Group member Christopher Baker shares that the scenario could potentially violate his company’s terms and conditions. “If we didn’t know about the police contact, then for us it would have violated our terms and conditions to report all police contact,” he said, though he also shared that with the option there it’s likely he wouldn’t surrender the defendant. In his words, the move would be “dirt baggish” and the only scenario he could see rescinding the bond is, “if it was a lot of money or we felt they were sketchy to begin with.”
Is it lawful and ethical, or is it extortion?
Armstrong wasn’t the only person to declare that this scenario qualifies as extortion. Many group members agreed.
“That is a classic case of extortion,” Stacie Chandler said. “If you have to get clients by using fear of imprisonment you need to question your profession. Long term it’s not going to matter because when people realize how you conduct business, you will have no clients to bully.”
Other group members agreed. “In my opinion that would be unlawful and a form of extortion, which in Virginia is a class 5 felony,” Nadia Sosa said. “With that being said, no I do not believe a bondsman should in any way threaten to revoke a defendant’s prior bond due to them trying to bond out with another company.”
“It is sad to know that some agents/agencies are so desperate or hungry for the premiums that they would resort to what is essentially extortion disguised by increased liability to get defendants to keep using their services,” Miller said.
“As long as the client is keeping his/her agreement with the bondsman that posted the original bond, I would say that it would be unethical to revoke the bond,” Jeremy Rowland shares.
“To have their bond revoked solely for choosing to bail out with another agent/agency is highly unethical,” Mike Miller notes. “If the first agency wanted to revoke the bond for any other reason: missed check ins, wrong information on the application, the seriousness of the new charges, or any other reason which increased the agent’s overall risk of forfeiture, then by all means revoke the bond. But just for bailing out with another agency: No!”
Why didn’t they call?
As long as your bond is collateralized, it shouldn't make a difference who they go to. But you should find out why they didn't come back to you.John Carpenter
John Carpenter shared that defendants have the right to work with whichever bonding agency they choose. “As long as your bond is collateralized, it shouldn’t make a difference who they go to,” he said. “But you should find out why they didn’t come back to you.” Carpenter raises an important point in looking further into what kept that person from calling.
“Maybe they received less than desirable service from the first agency--disrespect, rudeness, unprofessionalism,” Miller suggests. “There are many reasons a client may choose not to work with an agency they previously worked with.”
With customer service in mind, many agents shared their goals in working with clients. “What it boils down to is trying to have a good relationship with your customers, signers included, to where hopefully they'll talk to you (or another employee) and trust you enough to where they don't think of you surrendering their bond,” Jay Lindsey adds. “Then you can make a decision from there and just hope its a good one.”
But one group member points out that it’s not always the defendant calling to post the bond. “Sometimes a family member makes the call to the bonding company and they may not know who they have used before,” group member Cheryl Williams notes. She also shared that in the Georgia counties her company services the sheriff usually asks why the bond was rescinded. Jay Lindsey also notes that, “If a friend of the defendant goes and makes a bond elsewhere thinking ‘What does it matter? A bond is a bond,’ you’re most likely safe.” Lindsey furthers that if the original signer goes elsewhere and uses the same property, however, you have a problem.
“I believe that if you are always professional and informative that the clients and his/her family will always call the original bondsman they used first,” Jeremy Rowland closes.
Should the agent revoke the bond?
Comments from group members summarize the general opinion of the group.
Generally, no, unless there is a liability issue. But find out why they didn't call back.
“No, I do not believe a bondsman should in any way threaten to revoke a defendant’s prior bond due to them trying to bond out with another company.” Nadia Sosa
“Surrendering the bond out of spite or thinking you’re just being safe could affect your credibility with the courts, attorneys, and future business,” Lindsey closes.
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