A Salute to a Bondsman Who Charged into Harm’s Way

Jeff Downer   Gerald Madrid, a New Mexico bail bondsman, was playing the flute during morning mass at St. Jude Thaddeus, a Catholic church in Northwest Albuquerque, when a man entered the church and began attacking the choir director with a knife.

Mr. Madrid immediately leapt to the defense of the director and was seriously injured while successfully protecting him.  He tells his story in this CNN interview.

Well done Mr. Madrid.  Your actions make the bail bond community proud.  Godspeed on your recovery.

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Posted in Bail, Bondsman, Video.

Posting a Bail Bond After a Failure to Appear

Jeff Downer  Defendants who fail to appear (FTA) and become fugitives are a fact of life.  Since the insuring a defendant’s risk of failing to appear is the basis of the commercial bail industry, posting the bail of someone who has chosen to become a fugitive and subsequently been returned to court can be problematic.

While considering the effects of bonding someone out of custody after a FTA, think of a car insurance.  A car insurer assumes financial responsibility for damages caused in automobile accidents.  The occurrence of car accidents is going to change the dynamics of the relationship between the car owner and the insurance company.  Things are going to be different after an accident and may include:

  • The cost of insurance can increase.
  • The deductible may become larger
  • The policy can be cancelled.

In bail bonding a FTA, like a car accident, is going to change the dynamics of the bail bondsman and defendant relationship:

  • More premium may be required for a new and larger court ordered bond amount.
  • Cash collateral may now be expected.
  • Additional co-signers could be necessary.
  • Real property could be required to secure the bail bond with a mortgage.
  • Conditions such as check ins and electronic monitoring may be put in place.
  • The bonding company may decline to post any further bail for the defendant.

Keep in mind the court is going to have final say in the matter and is under no obligation to let the defendant out on bond again.  If the judge permits another bail bond, amounts can be increased and the court may impose additional conditions of its own.

All the above is not to say on occasions such as being hit by a bus on the way to court can’t result in the judge and the bonding company agreeing to adhere to the original bond and conditions, but it is important to remember that will take place at their option and not the defendant’s.

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Posted in Bail, Business, Fugitive. Tagged with , .

Jeff Downer Bail Bonds and Social Media

Jeff Downer  It is 2013 and social media is firmly entrenched as a means for people and organizations to interact.  Many businesses are now using social media to acquire and retain customers.  Jeff Downer Bail Bonds is no different.

I have found social media offers wonderful opportunities to share news and educate the public about our business, bail bonds and the commercial bail industry.  Jeff Downer Bail Bonds posts daily items of interest on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.  These efforts have not gone unnoticed.  I feel quite honored to have been recognized by the AboutBail network on their list of 50 Bail Professionals You Should Follow on Twitter.

Everyone who is interested is welcome to join us.   All you have to is pick the social media platform of you choice listed on the sidebar and then Like, Add or Follow us.  The whole experience is meant to be interactive so please weigh in with your comments, questions and items to share.  Your thoughts and input are just as important as mine…probably more so.

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Posted in Bail Bonds, Business. Tagged with , , , .

Using Someone Else’s Name When Arrested

Jeff Downer  There are those who believe there is some benefit to using someone else’s name or an alias when being arrested. The fact is that any benefit is short lived at best and creates even more long term problems in this age of extensive integrated automated fingerprint identification (IAFIS) database networks and post 9/11 diligence.

How?  The most important thing to bear in mind is that within the criminal justice system, people are literally numbers, not names.  These numbers are associated with fingerprints, pictures and other unique physical identifiers of the person actually arrested and become part of nationwide computer databases.  Whatever alias name or names that are used simply become notations attached to those identifying numbers.

Using multiple names is no different than changing one’s hairstyle or getting a new tattoo.  Besides, having more than one legitimate name is hardly unusual within the criminal justice system, consider those folks who have maiden and married names.  Their identification number still doesn’t change when they marry.

Then there are the long term problems that arise with using different folk’s identities.  Now the system can earmark that person as deceptive and, as such, untrustworthy.   This earmark can have negative repercussions when setting bail and determination of a sentence.  This stigma can remain beyond the initial instance of using an alias.  Also there are the hassles which must be sorted out for any friend or family member whose name may have been used (usually by obtaining a certified document they not the individual associated with that case).

The fact is you cannot escape yourself by using an alias.

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Posted in Bail, Fugitive, Law Enforcement. Tagged with , .

Bail Bond Exoneration

Jeff Downer  When a court finds that the obligations of a bail bond are discharged and liability on the bond is released, it is called exoneration.  Simply speaking, exoneration means the bail bond is no longer in effect.

In the vast majority of cases, exoneration occurs when the case is disposed of by the court.  Case dispositions take the following forms:

  • Sentencing
  • Finding of not guilty
  • Enrollment into a diversion program
  • Dismissal of all charges

There may instances of a bail bond being exonerated prior to disposition because the defendant has become a flight risk or violated conditions of release.  Per Indiana Code here are the steps a bail bondsman must take to return a defendant to custody and request the court for exoneration:

IC 27-10-2-6
Surrender of defendants; detention; exoneration of sureties
Sec. 6. (a) The person desiring to make a surrender of the defendant shall be provided a certified copy of the undertakings and a certified copy of the arrest warrant forthwith by the clerk of the court having jurisdiction and shall deliver them together with the defendant to the official in whose custody the defendant was at the time bail was taken or to the official into whose custody the defendant would have been given if committed, who shall detain the defendant in the official’s custody thereon, as upon a commitment, and shall acknowledge the surrender in a written certificate.
(b) The court having jurisdiction of the offense shall order that a surety be exonerated from liability for an undertaking and that any money or bonds deposited as bail be refunded when the person surrendering the defendant has:
(1) presented to the court both of the documents described in subsection (a); and
(2) given to the prosecuting attorney:
(A) three (3) days notice; and
(B) copies of both of the documents described in subsection (a).
As added by P.L.261-1985, SEC.1. Amended by P.L.348-1995, SEC.2.

Bear in mind that exoneration is not the same thing as a bail bond expiring after certain period of time.  In situations where cases are slow moving, a bond set to expire can be renewed and the defendant allowed to remain free.  Find here an explanation of bail bond expiration.

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Posted in Bail, Bail Bonds, Law. Tagged with .

Cautionary Tale About Following Conditions of Bail

Jeff Downer  When a judge determines the amount of a bail bond they often impose other conditions of release.  Such conditions can, among many things, include:

  • Electronic monitoring
  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Curfews
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • No contact orders

Violating these conditions can and will result in the the revocation of bond and awaiting trial in jail.

Consider this incident reported in the American Bar Association Journal during a bond hearing in suburban Chicago.  It seems the defendant had violated the court ordered curfew by 22 minutes.  The judge increased the defendant’s bond from $2,000 to $75,000.  While protesting the judge’s decision the defense attorney was found to be in contempt, eventually being held in custody and fined $1,000.

Many judges don’t play around and in this instance a seemingly innocuous case of poor time management snowballed into some major courtroom drama.   The moral of this story?  If you want the the judge to like you (or you want the judge to like your lawyer), read and follow directions.

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Posted in Bail, Bail Bonds, Legal. Tagged with , .

Heartthrob Arrested for Missed Court Date

Jeff Downer

Rick Springfield Arrested for Missed Court Date

-Rolling Stone

There is no truth to the rumor that Mr. Springfield was apprehended in a shopping mall after being cornered by a mob of screaming and fainting women of a certain age.

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Posted in Bail, Fugitive, Smiles.

How to Become a Bounty Hunter (First Hint: The Correct Term is Recovery Agent)

Jeff Downer  There seems to be a great deal of interest from people about becoming a bounty hunter.  It is not as simple a process as some may believe and the nature of the job is often misunderstood.  What follows is a description of the process here in Indiana and some thoughts about pursuing this type of work.

Perhaps the the first thing to understand is that within the commercial bail industry the term “Bounty Hunter” is discouraged.  The use of “Recovery Agent” is preferred and recognized as the professional designation for those who locate and apprehend fugitives for bail bond companies.

It should not be surprising that recovery agents and their activities are strictly regulated.  The work can at times be dangerous for the agent, the fugitive as well as the public. Almost every state mandates recovery agents to be licensed and the licensing requirements can vary greatly from state to state.  Below are the  licensing requirements per the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI):

All applications must include:

  1. A recent digital full face photograph and your signature on the specimen sheet to be included on your license.  If you prefer, pictures can be taken in our office by appointment only.
  2. Certified fingerprint card from local law enforcement, or a receipt from L-1 Identify Solutions showing that you have been fingerprinted.
  3. Recent Credit Bureau Report (Free): http://www.annualcreditreport.com/
  4. Criminal History Check completed by Indiana State Police.
  5. Photo copies of other Professional Licenses that you hold.
  6. Application fee of $650 (check or money order).
  7. Completion Certificate for 12 credit hours of Pre-Licensing Education.
  8. Passing test results.

In addition there is a $100 testing fee.

After meeting all of the requirements and assuming no disqualifying conditions exist, a license will be awarded.  For application forms and further information on recovery agent licensing, here is the link to the IDOI Recovery Agent licensing web page.  The Indiana recovery agent license must be renewed every two years by completing continuing education requirements and paying a $300 renewal fee.

Acquiring the license is just the first step.  Getting work comes next.  Any and all fugitives are not fair game for every recovery agent.  Agreements need to be made with the bonding companies seeking any particular fugitive.  Competition for these agreements can be fierce.  An aspiring agent needs to understand what the bonding companies are looking for in a recovery agent in order to develop working relationships with them.

Recovery is all about locating and apprehending fugitives, not confrontation and intimidation.  Bonding companies want recovery agents who understand concepts like:

  •   The importance of qualities like interpersonal skills and diligence instead of kicking in doors.
  •   High tech skills mean effective online skip tracing and not utilizing the latest in laser gun sights.
  •   Weapons and personal protection gear are intended to provide agent safety and are not a green light for aggressive high risk behavior.

Bottom line is bonding companies want agents who can work with law enforcement instead of being arrested by them.  Avoiding lawsuits is a best practice as well.

There is one final item bonding companies value and it is the most important: experience.  Gaining experience may not as difficult as it sounds.  Recovery work is often a team activity, allowing newly minted agents opportunities to find and work with proven recovery agents out in the field.

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Posted in Bail, Bounty Hunter, Fugitive, Recovery Agent. Tagged with .

How to Become a Bail Bondsman

Jeff Downer   As a licensed Indiana bail agent I have received so many inquiries from people curious about the process of becoming a bail bondsman that I decided to provide a primer on how to go about it.

The first thing to know is that bail bondsmen in almost every state are regulated (usually by that state’s department of insurance) and exact requirements for securing a bail bondsman’s license will vary from state to state.  In this instance we are dealing only with Indiana’s licensing requirements.

Per the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI), obtaining an Indiana bail agent license requires a completed application form and the following

All applications must include:

  1. A recent digital full face photograph and your signature on the specimen sheet to be included on your license.  If you prefer, pictures can be taken in our office by appointment only.
  2. Certified fingerprint card from local law enforcement, or a receipt from L-1 Identify Solutions showing that you have been fingerprinted.
  3. Recent Credit Bureau Report (Free): http://www.annualcreditreport.com/
  4. Criminal History Check completed by Indiana State Police.
  5. Photo copies of other Professional Licenses that you hold.
  6. Application fee of $650 (check or money order).
  7. Completion Certificate for 12 credit hours of Pre-Licensing Education.
  8. Passing test results.

In addition there is is a testing fee.

After these requirements are met (assuming no disqualifying conditions exist) and a contract with a licensed surety insurance provider is secured, the bail agent license will be issued.

Once a licensed is awarded it must be renewed every two years by completing continuing education requirements and paying a $650 renewal fee.

Here is the link to contact the IDOI for application forms and further information.

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Posted in Bail, Bondsman, Indiana. Tagged with , , , .

International Bail Bond Scams

Jeff Downer  There has been a widespread scam involving the posting of bail bonds overseas that I would like to alert folks about, particularly grandparents.  This scam is not new but it doesn’t seem to be going away so I thought it is worth making sure folks were aware of it.

The premise of the scam is straightforward:

  • A grandparent receives a call from someone pretending to be a grandchild and/or a person acting on their behalf.
  • A false story is spun about the grandchild traveling to another country (usually Latin America), being arrested and needing bail money wired overseas.
  • That time is of the essence is emphasized to create a sense of frenzied urgency.
  • The grandparents are also urged not to contact the grandchild’s parents to avoid further family drama.

The steps to defeat the scammers are just common sense and easy to implement:

  • Don’t get flustered.  Take some time to think the situation over.
  • Ask specific questions when contacted to verify that it is indeed the grandchild in question
  • Try to call or contact the grandchild directly as well as other family members to determine what the true situation is.
  • Ask law enforcement to verify the story.

Here two news media accounts of how international bail scammers were thwarted in Massachusetts and Maine.  In one case it was simple as as calling the grandchild at home.

Finally, the FBI has issued a bulletin describing the scam and outlining what to do when contacted by potential scammers and what actions to take if you are already a victim.

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Posted in Bail, Bail Bonds, International, Jail, Law Enforcement. Tagged with , .