Monday, June 13, 2016

Bail bondsmen aggressively fight forfeitures

One of the dirty little secrets about the Texas bail bond industry is that loopholes exist by which they routinely get out of paying bond money they owe when defendants skip town. Though you'll hear bail industry folks say the system works well because it privatizes the costs of pretrial monitoring, that's not entirely accurate. Really it privatizes revenue, but quite often it socializes costs. As a practical matter, by far most defendants who skip and are later recaptured are arrested by law enforcement, not bounty hunters. If the cops don't catch bail skips, generally nobody does. Take, for example, this case out of Edinburg, reported by the McAllen Monitor (June 7):
It has been more than three years since Omar Guerrero failed to appear in District Judge Aida Salinas Flores’ courtroom for his scheduled arraignment in connection with a second-degree felony drug charge.

Since then, flawed paperwork and other court delays caused the subsequent bond forfeiture tied to Guerrero’s criminal case to go uncollected and led to the state, who discovered the flawed paperwork just last month despite having held the case for three years, to ask Salinas Flores at the last hearing to restart the process all over again.
Finally, three years after the defendant's initial flight, a judge ordered the $1 million bond forfeited earlier this month. But an attorney for the bail companies will seek to secure a "reduced bond amount," the paper reported. They plan to appeal the bond amount and the article offered a rare window into the process by which bail firms wriggle out of bonds:
Guerra believes ultimately his clients, and Corpus, will be exonerated from the bond.

“While the state has obtained a new judgment NISI today, we are still aggressively fighting the initial bond forfeiture case and any future requests by the state,” Guerra said. “Our position is still that the state should not collect on either the initial judgment NISI or the new judgment NISI they obtained today.”

Judgment Nisi is a judgment that is not final or absolute. A judgment nisi is an intermediate judgment which will become final unless a party appeals or formally requests the court to set it aside.
Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney Isaac Sulemana after the hearing said the next hearing will officially begin the forfeiture portion of the underlying criminal case.

“We’re going to be filing the written documents of the judgment NISI at which point we will begin the discovery process and the judge will set it for an actual forfeiture setting,” Sulemana said.
Salinas Flores did not set a date for the next hearing but it is expected to be held in the next 30 days.
These companies were happy to take money/security up front to issue the bond. But when asked to pay up, there's a phalanx of attorneys ready to challenge the debt. And often they win.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Normally your blog is crap, but you have this dead on.

Anonymous said...

Those defendants do skip town, oh yeah. They run because they innocent, right?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If that's the case, 10:50, why would you read? What does that say about you that you keep coming back?

@7:32, grow up. Of course some skip town; most do not. The question is, should defendants be released based on an assessment of the flight risk they pose (or societal risk, ftm), or simply whether they have money? Right now, if folks make bail, they can run. And as seen here, the bondsmen don't always think they should have to pay up.

Anonymous said...

If a bondsman fails to do his job to ensure that the defendant appear in court and did not file appropriate paperwork prior to the bond forfeiture then the NISI process should continue. As with all court cases whether civil or criminal there is a method of engaging in negotiations to appease both parties. Our judicial system ensures that and it should be practiced. If corruptive behavior is occurring between parties then they should be penalized to the fullest extent

On the other hand if a defendant is released through the pre-trial and fails to appear in court there are no repercussions to that tax-payer entity. In other words as taxpayers we pay to release defendants and they fail to show up and the pretrial offices are not penalized - doesn't make sense. More spending less accountability from a government entity is not what is needed.

Eliseo Weinstein said...

I was not aware of the loop holes that exist in the Texas Bail Bond Industry. I did know that pople often skip town but that they got out of it completely is a sad thing. This should really be monitored better especially because we have computers and databases that can capture this information much better than simple paper work.

Anonymous said...

I agree this is negative for the industry, but there are laws for a reason. Nobody pays forfeiture when pre-trial release is on the bond

Jason
Buckhead Bail Bonding of Gwinnett County- A Gwinnett County Bail Bondsman