Connecticuts New Law

In the past decade the commercial bail industry has come under attack from a variety of sources including pre-trial release, and state regulatory agencies for various reasons. During this time many remedies for both perceived and real issues have been proposed, but few have passed.  During the past legislative session Connecticut made a series of comprehensive changes to bail insurance statutes that will have a major impact on the bail industry in Connecticut and perhaps across the nation.  As an owner of BailCo LLC , DOI approved instructor for pre licensing and Vice President of the Bail Association of Connecticut I had the privilege and obligation to play role in the creation and ultimately the passing of 38a-660. 

While I do not generally advocate the implementation of legislation to solve problems, in this case it was clear to almost everyone involved that a legislative solution was the only solution that would have the necessary impact on the industry. Our state has had many serious problems related to the bail industry for several reasons, lack of oversight, weak statues, economy and the inability of the industry to regulate itself to state a few. The state was faced with either eliminating the industry or passing legislation that would give the DOI tools needed to “clean up the industry”. Fortunately due to the overwhelming fiscal issues revolving around eliminating commercial bail and the overwhelming statistics that show viability of a when well regulated our industry was given another a chance and assisted in the passing of much needed legislation.

So what does 38a-660 consist of and more importantly what affect will it have on the industry? The new law impacts our industry in a number of ways, including, how and where we solicit business, what records must be kept, requiring monthly reports, creating penalties for failure to pay forfeitures, regulation of payment plans and creation of audits. While many of these elements existed prior to the passage of this law, they were vague and difficult to enforce. Even when the regulations where enforced the consequences for a violation where minimal for most.  Put simply, it was a good business decision in the eyes of many to flout the prior regulations. Individually the new regulations seem innocuous enough, but when viewed as a whole they have the ability to change the landscape of commercial bail in Connecticut.

Solicitation is no longer allowed in courts or jails and advertising in those facilities is limited to a directory listing only. The goal of this section is to eliminate the unprofessional conduct of many bondsmen in these environments. This will be a particularly difficult section for the DOI to enforce based number of facilities that need to be monitored, unless they have the help of other state agencies. The bondsman is allowed to where shirts with logos so I’m sure we will see some embarrassing marketing attempts. I believe that this section is one of the weakest aspects of the law and will not have nearly as much impact as the remaining sections it’s more the tip of the spear. The bondsman conduction “business” in court and jails are a unique breed and I doubt many of them will let a law impede their methods.

Connecticut’s bondsmen have not typically been very good at record keeping, because until now there were no required documents.  While some in the industry lack the business sense to maintain records properly others professed to have “lost” records when an issue arose. For many years unscrupulous bondsmen who came under scrutiny would claim not to keep records, and the Department of Insurance did little to incentivize those bondsmen to change their ways. Fortunately this had begun to change over the last few years because the Commissioner of the DOI decided to clean up the industry and appointed a very capable and willing investigator which began to use existing policy and law to force compliance.  

While this increased aggressiveness had begun to have an impact, it also became clear that more specific records were needed, and this law does that very well. Requiring bondsman to maintain records will mean they need to be for more organized, professional and most importantly will begin the evidence trail for auditors and investigators. Simply not keeping them will result in significant enforcement actions.

Monthly and annual reports are now required by the bondsman and the sureties alike. These forms require attestations, signing under oath binding the bondsman or surety to its validity. If they are not submitted or the information is later determined to be fraudulent there will be significant consequence for both parties. These reports will make it very difficult to not charge the state mandated premium rates resulting in a significant decline in rebating over time while boxing in those who will attempt beat the system. These reports are one of many aspects of 38a-660 which force the surety to be accountable for those that that they appoint, a very significant change for Connecticut. Insurance Companies will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to bondsmen that produce “volume” without taking a significant risk themselves.

For years many bondsmen have failed to pay their forfeitures. Either because they don’t have the money, or think that they are entitled not to pay for some other misguided reasons and fight payment through frivolous litigation while still conducting business. Under the new regulations if the bondsman or surety does not pay of the forfeiture in the allotted time frame the surety and every agent writing for that surety will be barred from writing until the forfeiture is paid off. This provision makes the surety accountable for their appointee’s actions while  providing a financial incentive to make sure that their appointees are following industry best practice in both underwriting and forfeiture management. Bondsmen who are insolvent or reckless with their underwriting will be an intolerable liability, and I predict that most sureties will inevitability come to the conclusion that they no longer want to be associated with these individuals.

Payment plans or credit bail have become common in the Connecticut’s bail industry and are often the method in which rebating occurs.  I’m not a fan of payment plans but credit has become something our society seems to demand so they can’t be eliminated. The section regarding payment plans requires a specific deposit but most importantly it requires you to collect the entire premium and have the records to prove it. If the payments fall behind the bondsmen must take civil action. The record keeping and civil litigation will be a significant cost to the bondsmen and again ties the surety to actions of the bondsmen they appoint through reports. Once the industry digests the compliance issues regarding payment plans I believe you will see much less credit bail. Perhaps, relegating payment plans to larger bonds only. At the very least it has set the bar for the lowest amount to be deposited which will have an interesting effect with clients that attempt to negotiate a better deal.

Finally the new regulations call for audits of licensees by both their insurance company and a firm chosen by the state to audit select licensees. While the DOI has always had the authority to conduct audits, the combination of recorded keeping requirements, reports and introduction of a firm that specializes in finding money create a huge compliance issue for much of Connecticut’s bail industry. Many of the more experienced individuals within the industry feel that the audits will be insignificant and the DOI will not be able to fund them but I strongly disagree. Every license is required to provide a annual fee to fund the audits. Certainly there will not be enough money to audit every license every year but there is plenty of money for a significant number of audits depending on the scope of the audits. There are far too many records and reports to allow many of the methods of the past to keep the many of the companies operating on the fringe compliant. A bondsman or company that attempts to “cook the books” will be facing an auditor that’s trained to audit much more complicated industries then ours and the result of any serious violations being found will have huge financial and professional consequences for both the individual and surety.

38a-660 is not without flaw much like all statues they could be better but it is the law our industry must now contend with. This law will change the way the bail industry conducts business in Connecticut significantly over time and I believe for the better. January 31 is when the first of the new fees will become due many will probably not renew their licenses.  Audits will most likely begin around the same time frame so the companies or bondsmen which think them don’t need to comply will begin to feel the weight of this law. As the rest of us attempt to comply many will realize that being accountable for “independent contractors” , as  many of the bondsman are now employed, will become an unsavory arrangement fraught with peril. Independent contractors will find that being in compliance with this new law as an individual is not an easy or cheap proposition and will leave the business or become part of a larger company. Companies will be forced to have real employees along with the accountability and costs that come with them. The insurance companies will drop problem bondsmen and most likely attempt to replace them with new blood that doesn’t know the old ways and garner more premiums in the process. In all likelihood the numbers of licensees in the state will drop, perhaps by 50% or more.

New Law Targets Rogue Bail Bondsmen

I thought this was a good article to share. Not completely accurate but it good news for the industry and hopefully very bad news for the guys that have ruined the industry.

The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD ——

A new law targets rogue bail bondsmen who were springing criminal defendants without collecting any money upfront, a practice known as undercutting.

Established state laws require that bondsmen collect a percentage before writing a surety bond, but unscrupulous agents were entering into payment plans instead — and no proof was required that the full payment was ever collected. Several defendants who were released without paying a penny went on to commit serious assaults and homicides, including the murder last year of a West Haven woman by her husband, immediately following his second domestic-violence arrest in four months.

The legislature on Thursday passed a law requiring that bail agents collect a percentage of the fee upfront. Payment plans over 15 months are still allowed, but bondsmen now will have to prove to the state Insurance Department that they ultimately collected the full payment. The law requires for the first time that bail agents create and retain records of payments, and gives the Insurance Department the authority to audit the bondsmen and inspect all records of transactions with criminal defendant.

“These reforms — long overdue — put the safety of the victims first,” said state Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Danielson. “The current system did not adequately protect the victims of domestic violence. Defendants were let out of jail for less money than the judge ordered — meaning bail could be set at $1 million, but they could be released without paying a cent if a bondsman was willing to post the bond for free.”

These bondsmen depend on a high volume of business to make money — a lot of defendants who are paying a little bit over time.

William Biestek, a veteran bondsman based in Meriden who has pressed for reforms for years, said it’s a mistake to continue to allow 15-month payment plans.

“If the case is over in four months, what’s the incentive to pay?” said Biestek. “It will turn us into collection agents.”

Flexer countered that the reforms “are pretty sweeping.”

“The idea is to get defendants to actually pay something, and until now, the Insurance Department had no ability to examine payment records,” she said.

The law also prohibits bail bondsmen from soliciting business inside courthouses, police stations, correctional institutions, community correctional centers and detention facilitie

http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-bail-bond-reform-0528-20110527,0,7291661.story

Excellent Article about Pretrial Release

Pretrial release: Good for defendants, taxpayers

By Robert Zack

As a retired County Court judge, having served 17 of my 21 years on the criminal bench, I would like to commend Sen.Ellyn Bogdanoff for her attempt to rein in a growing problem within our state’s criminal justice system.  Bogdanoff has introduced a simple measure that seeks to restrict eligibility of criminal defendants into what is known as “Pretrial Release Services.”

Pretrial release is a government program where defendants can be released into a supervised program until they have their first formal appearance before a judge. These programs were established across America in the 1970s and were originally designed to assist poor and indigent defendants who could not otherwise afford to pay for their own release through a bail bond.

Pretrial release can be a good thing for poor defendants whose lives could be ruined by an extended jail stay before a resolution of the matter pending before the court. It can also be good for taxpayers who don’t have to foot the bill for the cost of room and board in a local jail during the pretrial period.

But what about those defendants who are not poor and can afford to pay for their own release? Why are taxpayers financing their release?

That’s where Bogdanoff’s good idea comes in.

Florida pretrial release programs no longer just serve indigent defendants, as was their original purpose. They have grown to also offer taxpayer-financed release to those who could otherwise foot their own bill.

A report released by the state Office of Program and Policy Analysis & Government Accountability found that such programs cost taxpayers about $1,400 per defendant.

If we are talking about indigent defendants who would otherwise languish in a jail cell, that’s a good deal for taxpayers because housing an inmate in jail can cost far more.  But if we are talking about spending $1,400 per defendant for those individuals with the ability to pay their own way out, then it seems that taxpayers are being ripped off.

As proof positive of the unnecessary growth in these programs, Florida has seen a growth of more than 12 percent in just one year (20008 to 2009) even while crime in our state dropped by more than 6 percent.

To be clear, a decrease in crime should mean a decrease – not an increase – in costs related to serving defendants. Instead of spending fewer tax dollars on these programs, we saw a one-year growth of more than $4 million.

The additional good news about Bogdanoff’s bill is that it would have no impact on jail populations, as some fear.

Two recent studies, also released by OPPAGA, found there is no correlation between counties’ occupancy rate and whether or not they have a government-funded pretrial release program.

OPPAGA also studied Pasco County, which eliminated its pretrial release program, and found that it did not appear to affect its jail population.

To clarify, Bogdanoff’s bill does not seek to eliminate pretrial release but merely to exclude those who can pay their own way.

At a time when all levels of government are dealing with shrinking budgets, it is incumbent upon lawmakers to find ways to cut spending without harming vital public services. After reading Bogdanoff’s bill – and ignoring the hyperbole and heightened rhetoric of those who seek to protect the status quo – I am convinced her measure will achieve the goal of reducing spending while keeping needed services intact.

Good for her and good for us.

Registration for November Connecticut Surety Bondsman Course is Now Open.

As many of you know The Surety Bail Industry in Connecticut can be a great way to make some extra money during this tough economic times. Tell your friends and family to sign up for this Novembers Connecticut Surety Bondman Pre-license Course.
Course Overview

Bail 102 is a 24 hour pre-license course approved by the CT State Department of Insurance for those wishing to become licensed as surety bail bond agents. The course covers a number of topics including history of bail, insurance regulations, criminal procedure, rights of the accused, underwriting, forfeiture management, and ethics.

Sign up by following this link: http://www.connecticutbailacademy.com/courses/surety-bondsman-pre-license

**BAIL ASSOCIATION OF CONNECTICUT MEMBERS RECEIVE A 20% DISCOUNT!**

Does the State of Connecticut need the Surety Bail Industry?

The short answer is a resounding YES!

Although, it would certainly be hard for most citizens to understand why there is a need for commercial bail due to the fact that little information highlighting the positive aspects of the industry are made known. In addition to the plethora of biased, or at the very least poorly researched articles, that the media has produced over the years has created a very negative perception of the industry. Sadly the media has been very quick to point out the bail industries shortcomings. No one will argue that there aren’t issues within the industry but it’s important that people are aware that these issues are slowly being resolved both from within the industry itself and with the help of the Connecticut Insurance Department.

For those of you pondering why as a state we could possibly need a private bail industry, you first must understand that all citizens are provided with the opportunity to be released from incarceration while their case is pending. This right is such an important part of our judicial system it’s mentioned in more than one of our Constitutional Amendments. The release of the accused is called pre trial release.

Pre trial release comes in many forms only one of which involves the Surety Bail Industry. All of the other forms of pre trial release are State funded and in fact share many of the same short comings as commercial bail. The major difference between the Surety Bail Industry and a State sponsored form is who pays the bill. Like all government programs and agencies the State forms of pre trial release are very expensive and inefficient.   To make matters worse State bonds have a much higher rate of forfeiture in which the cost again falls on Connecticut tax payers. The Surety Bail Industry does NOT cost the citizens of Connecticut anything while providing precious jobs and salaries to many, which provide much needed tax dollars. Perhaps an even more important aspect is when forfeitures occur on a privately posted surety bond, the company has the burden to return the defendant to the court, NOT the state. If recovering the defendant is somehow not possible for the company’s bail enforcement agents, the surety company pays the bond to the State which in turn is the revenue for the general fund.

The bottom line is that the commercial bail industry provides jobs and revenue to the state. All state funded forms of pre trail release come at a horrific expense to the State of Connecticut and are much less effective at insuring the defendant makes it to all of their scheduled court hearings.

The private Bail Industry does need help cleaning up some components of the industry but overall is an asset to Connecticut and could be a much larger one if the state allowed it to be. What our law makers should be looking at is how ineffective and costly the state funded forms of pretrial release are and how they can be eliminated. Not to mention some of the redundant offices in the judicial system are costing the tax payer tens of millions. Elimination of these programs and offices would grow the bail industry, creating private sector jobs, while SAVING tax dollars for state agencies and programs that really need the funding.

Andrew Marocchini

Out of jail and into the Courtroom

A bail bondsman’s job is to release the defendant from custody and ensure that they appear in court. On the other hand an Attorneys job is to navigate the defendant those the complicated legal system ensure that they have the best possible legal outcome. The prospect of hiring a professional that will play a significant role in your fate can be daunting. However do not get discouraged because there are many qualified attorneys out there. Here are some suggestions and tips to follow when considering a criminal defense attorney.

 

Referrals are a great way to find a successful criminal attorney, especially if the referral is coming from someone you trust.  For example, if you regularly work with a lawyer or law firm, that lawyer may be able to suggest a competent criminal defense lawyer in your area.

 

Courtroom Observation may also be a good way to scope out an attorney. Observing attorneys while criminal cases are being argued in a courtroom provides the public a firsthand opportunity to see how some attorneys perform.

 

There are also a number of online directories, for example; Lawyers.com and FindLaw, which you can use as a good resource for obtaining information on criminal defense lawyers in your area. Additionally, on January 1, 2011 an online database will be available to you on the Connecticut Judicial Website where you will be able to locate by attorney name any and all grievances filed against that specific person. Here http://www.jud.ct.gov/sgc/ you will find answers to many unanswered questions you may or may not have, such as Rules of Professional Conduct, What happens after a complaint is filed against an attorney?, Information on how to obtain information regarding complaints against a specific attorney.

After you have found a few attorneys whom you consider to be good candidates for your specific case, call them to schedule appointments. It’s important to find out while making the appointment over the phone, if they offer a free initial consultation. This may make the first meeting you have with your prospective attorney less stressful and leaves the pressure that money sometimes can inflict when making an important decision. Trust your instincts – if you aren’t comfortable with an attorney you confer with, try a different office. You do not have any obligation to hire a lawyer merely because you consulted with that lawyer.   There are many different methods in which an attorney may approach the defense of your case. Some things to take into consideration.   Take into consideration the evidence against you? Do you need an attorney to simply negotiate the best “deal” for you or do you need to go to trial?   If there is significant evidence then have a attorney which is well know in the court may be a great asset.   However if you feel you have a case that can win in trail and have the resources to go to trial you’ll need an attorney with a strong trial background.  Surprising few attorneys have trial experience and the ones that do tend to be the most expensive. So be sure to do your homework before hiring.

Registration for November Connecticut Surety Bondsman Course is Now Open.

Surety

As many of you know The Surety Bail Industry in Connecticut can be a great way to make some extra money during this tough economic times. Tell you friends and family to sign up for this Novembers Connecticut Surety Bondman Pre-license Course.

Course Overview

Bail 102 is a 24 hour pre-license course approved by the CT State Department of Insurance for those wishing to become licensed as surety bail bond agents. The course covers a number of topics including history of bail, insurance regulations, criminal procedure, rights of the accused, underwriting, forfeiture management, and ethics.

Sign up by following this link: http://www.connecticutbailacademy.com/courses/surety-bondsman-pre-license

How did I become a bondsman?

I can’t begin to tell you how many times a day I am asked this question. Normally, this question can be answered quite simply and quickly. For example if you were to ask a teacher, why they became a teacher? that would be easy; “I went to college, received my masters, and BAM! I became a teacher.”

However this is an extremely loaded question for me considering I am 5’6”, blonde, 24 year oldfemale bondsman with a bachelor’s degree in English. Go figure. I was hired by Andrew Marocchini, owner of BAILCO as a “part-time” office assistant back in 2007 graduated college in 2008 and my career path with BAILCO moved fast. I played a part in creating Connecticut Bail Academy; (www.ctbailacademy.com) the first state approved surety bail bond pre-licensing course. Three years later I’m STILL here; but for good reason, so check out the company I work for here;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdGzvC_zYmo and keep reading.

I remember meeting one guy at Manchester Police Department at 1:00 in the morning to post bond for his girlfriend, and he asked me while filling out his paperwork; “so how long you’ve been doing this?” and my response was, “close to three years” and he replied with “oh so you must enjoy it then.” At that moment I thought to myself “ya know what, he’s right”. Who in their right mind would be in a profession where you could work or be on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week without enjoying it?

The thing that makes being a bondsman so enjoyable, for me at least, is the unpredictability that it offers. Every morning when I wake up I NEVER know what my day is going to entail at work. I could spend it all day in the office pushing paperwork, or I could be out all over the state bonding people out. Don’t get me wrong, at times the days can be long and tiring, but I wouldn’t change my job for a “9-5 office cubicle” position any day. Not to mention, the collection of crazy yet quite intriguing stories that I have heard over the past three years from the defendants themselves, the cosigners, and other bondsman/bail enforcement agents are enough to write a book never mind a blog post.

Most of all I love the expressions on the faces of my family and friends when they ask what I do for work. I recently moved and when I met my new neighbor and after a some small talk, he asked what I did for work, and after I told him I was a bondsman he responded with “WOW I’ve never met one of those before!!”. I didn’t really know how to interpret that response, but thought well he can check that off his list J.

It’s an interesting job to stay the LEAST but it’s exciting, it keeps me moving, and it’s obviously a great conversation starter. I now have my pistol permit and a license to carry, all of which I never would have had, had I been in a different occupation. I’ll leave you with a video staring the man I bought my first gun from; Mr. Douglas White, who is currently a bondsman and bail enforcement agent in Florida.http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Hunt?i=shlk …more stories from the bail bond world to come. Stay tuned.   

Bail Association of Connecticut Meeting!

The BAC is going on its second year since its inception! Time passes so fast, having the fortune of being one of the founders of the association I have first hand knowledge of the challenges we had to overcome and the accomplishments we have made with very little resources.

Unfortunately our industry in Connecticut has many issues the economy, state agencies, and ourselves. Most of you know this all to well. The BAC is a forum for all of you to be heard and gives you the ability to fight for the greater good of our industry.

We will be holding our elections and discussing topics of concern at the November 16th meeting. One of the topics will be about to the Insurance Departments Bulletin IC-25.

http://www.ct.gov/cid/lib/cid/Bulletin_IC_25_Data_Breach_Notification.pdf

This Bulletin is in regard to the safe keeping of our clients information and significant fines that can be imposed on you and your company if the information is mismanaged, lost or stolen.

I would love to see all 500 licensed Connecticut Surety Bondsman participate in the meeting, join the association become part of the solution so our industry in Connecticut may prosper once again.

Date of Meeting:

November 16, 2010

Location:

Comfort Inn and Suites
900 East Main Street
Meriden CT

Highlights
• 6:30pm to 7:00pm * Registration
• 6:30pm to 7:15pm Nominations for office accepted
• 7:15pm Election to be held
• 7:45pm Regular meeting

Bail Association of Connecticut
E-mail:
abloom@snet.net
amarocchini@msn.com
kagoulart@yahoo.com
hlavaty4@comcast.net

Contact person: Drew Bloom Andrew Marocchini
860-883-6819 860-604-9545

Members Needed

Bail Association of Connecticut is looking for members and nominees for the board. Some of the licensed Connecticut Surety Bondsman have shown skepticism in regard to the necessity of an association.  Quite simply, “United we Stand, Divided we Fall.”- The Three Musketeers. If not for any other reason and there is many, the BAC is needed for our self preservation. It is necessary for bail agents across the state of Connecticut to come together in mutual support. There are too many groups, both private and public, who seek to limit and/or destroy us and ending the services we provide. So in order to not aide them in their efforts we must ban together in self defense. We must join together to protect our profession. Those of you that are interested in joining please email me;amarocchini@msn.com To learn more about what an effective bail association can do follow this link;www.bailtruth.com