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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bail Bond Bill Filed in Senate

A bail bond and insurance regulation bill has been pre-filed by Senator Engler in the Senate (SB153). This year’s bill includes language from the licensing bill submitted by the Department of Insurance last year, as well as the bail bond bill promoted by the Missouri Professional Bail Bonding Association. A summary of the provisions of the bail bond section of the bill are as follows, my comments in blue:

1) Increases the general agent's assigned CD from $10,000 to $20,000 and allows by regulation, the Department to increase the CD to $100,000.
2) “Each general bail bond agent shall file with the director and the state courts administrator, no later than December first of each year, a sworn affidavit in a form and manner prescribed by the state courts administrator attesting that the general agent has net assets with a value in excess of any personal exemptions from execution, at least equal to the aggregate amount of bonds that are subject to execution in this state. The state courts administrator may establish and assess a filing fee. This filing shall be satisfactory proof of compliance with the financial qualification under supreme court rule and no municipal and circuit court in this state may place additional financial requirements upon a general bail bond agent duly qualified with the state courts administrator.”
This provision by-passes filing with the local courts and establishes a system to report to the Office of State Courts Administrator. The language states that each general agent (but not insurance companies) file an affidavit saying that his/her total net assets exceed the aggregate (total) amount of bonds written. This provision creates a “dollar for dollar” system and assumes that 100% of your bonds will result in judgment. Insurance companies are exempt from this provision and only have to prove “solvency” to the local court. Additionally, a fee is associated with this process and that fee has not been disclosed in the bill.
3) "For any new appointment of a bail bond agent, the bail bond agent shall file an affidavit with the department and the appointing general bail bond agent stating that there are no outstanding premiums owed. If outstanding premiums are owed and the bail bond agent does not satisfy such premium obligations, the former general bail bond agent shall file notice, along with supporting documents with the department, and provide such notice to the bail bond agent and the newly appointing general bail bond agent, stating under oath the fact that the bail bond agent has failed to satisfy their obligations. Upon receipt of such notification and supporting documents, the appointing general bail bond agent shall immediately cancel the newly appointed bail bond authority. Such authority shall remain cancelled until all premiums are paid."
This provision was borrowed from the Florida statutes, with two important differences. First, the Florida statute includes a due-process provision which stays the cancellation of authority until the Department investigates the allegations of the former general agent. Without this provision, a former general agent can deprive an agent of the right to earn a living without due process of law. Secondly, Florida does not allow credit bonds, so any outstanding premiums would have been collected but unreported to the company. However, since Missouri allows agents to extend credit to clients, this provision could be applied to uncollected or uncollectible premiums owed both the agent and the company.
4) Upon notice by the court, the Department must notify general agents of a bail bond forfeiture within 48 hours.
I assume the drafters of this bill meant to say upon notice of an unsatisfied judgment, the Department must notify general agents. Courts do not routinely notice the Department of a “notice of forfeiture” and there is no provision requiring the courts to notice the department for every forfeiture. Since most forfeitures are set aside and do not result in judgment, surely the Department is not tasked with notifying companies of every forfeiture in the state.
5) The Department is required to issue a photographic license.
The bill does not specify how the picture will be obtained or what the cost might be.
6) An agent must notify the department of the name, address, and phone number for each general agent/insurance company for whom the agent writes. This information must be continually updated.
7) Requires the Missouri Highway Patrol to conduct a finger-printing and criminal background check on applications for licensure.
8) Allows the 15 year felony clause, but adds that a license MAY be refused, revoked, etc. if an applicant has been convicted of: any dangerous felony defined by section 556.061, RSMo, any felony crime of assault, any felony crime that results in the serious physical injury or death of another person, any felony crime against the administration of justice, or any felony of which deceit or fraud is an element of the offense.
9) Requires the agent to disclose the legal name his/her general agent to the defendant and on every bond written.
10) Requires every licensee to report any felony arrest to the department within 10 days.
Does not instruct the Department on what they are to do with this information.

If you would like to contact your senator about this bill, here is a link to
find your senator and contact information. The best ways to communicate with your elected officials are by fax, letter, or phone call. Senators get many emails, and constituent emails sometimes go unread.

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Although Missouri Bondsman encourages debate on topics of interest to the bail industry, please be aware that comments are moderated. Please observe the posting rules. No comments will be printed that contain spam, profanity, or libelous comments. Please post comments in a civil, professional manner.