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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Open Letter-Joining Together as an Industry

The following is guest commentary submitted by General Agent Ben Hilton of Lebanon, MO.

This letter is my thoughts and beliefs alone; I do not speak for any bond association.

I am writing this to further the warning to the Bail Industry that the opponents to the bail system are increasing their agenda. I truly hope to get the General Agents attention and encourage each and every one of them to get involved in an effort to protect their lively hoods. Personally, I tend to get a little aggravated with the weaknesses of the bail bondsman industry in Missouri.

The Professional Surety Industry as a whole cannot support itself with the bonds that are available currently. The Courts are basically taking advantage of us. They need us and yet do not want us! They are abusing the Bail System; the Surety Bonds presently written today are the cases that have caused problems to the Courts in the past.

We are writing only an estimated one third of the bonds that we were posting a few years ago and our agent numbers have doubled. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to do the math.

Part of the reasoning for the intentional abuse is due to the 2004 law, it upset the Judges, but they have some guilt in this. It was due to their own inconsistency in court procedures concerning bondsman, and they failed to listen to the Bondsman’s pleas. A very small group, based out of St. Louis, supported and helped pass the 2004 legislation, in the long run, it hurt us all.

Because of that law, the Courts will not give us the support that we need to survive….. maybe it is time to contact them and call a truce of some kind. Let’s show them more respect than we gave them in 2004.

Fewer Professional Surety Bonds are posted today, they were replaced with “Release of their own Recognizance”, “cash only”, “10% to the court Bonds”. These methods of pretrial release experience an extremely high rate of failing to appear in Court.

The Courts are aware of their own statistics, and they are knowingly allowing a large percentage of defendants free without proper assurances to guarantee their reappearance in Court. When a Judge sets a 10% to the court bond, they are deceiving the public. The public falsely believes the defendant is posting a bond ten times larger than the actual amount reported to the community.

It is generally understood that professional bondsman maintain a success rate for their clients appearing in court of at least 98%, and a past study by the F.B.I. reported that Bail Agents apprehended over 70% of all fugitives in the U.S.A.

The Courts in effect, are allowing thousands of open cases to remain in “failure to appear” status, some for years. Needless to say, the Prosecution is postponed while the cases are allowed to deteriorate. Worse, the victims are forced to wait for their own personal closure, and the public is again misled, this time, as to the amount of open cases the court truly has.

Why does it appear that the Courts are seemingly protecting the defendants of a criminal case, over society’s wishes? Using their own numbers, when the Court accepts bail bonds other than a Professional Surety bond, they are already aware that a strong percentage will not come back to court on their own accord.

The Courts should be required to return to utilizing the Professional Surety Pre-Trial release system; it enables the industry to be self supporting, saving the taxpayers millions of dollars. The small misdemeanor bonds had provided a major part of the funding needed to sustain this system, now the public is getting hit with unnecessary expenses. Missouri Law Enforcement Agencies cannot afford Warrant and Fugitive Bureaus to combat this problem.

When the Court accepts a 10% of a bond, they accept the bond from any person who wants to pay the fee and assume the role as surety. They can be a convicted felon, a government employee, a law enforcement officer, an elected official or a bankrupt individual. They can be the defendant’s attorney, who in turn files an assignment on the cash posted for their benefit. (Note this interesting statue: Nothing in sections 374.695 to 374.775 shall be construed to prohibit any person from posting or otherwise providing a bail bond in connection with any legal proceeding, provided that such person receives no fee, remuneration or consideration therefor.) Does this law prevent attorneys from filing an assignment on monies deposited with the court?

Are these bonds ever set to judgment? If so, who is responsible to pay the School System the forfeited funds?

The question is “who and what is the Surety”?
· The defendant?
· Is it the person paying the money and signing the paperwork to indemnify the full amount to the Court?
· Should the Court itself assume the responsibility, for ignoring State Law and accepting bonds from unqualified and unlicensed bondsman?

By what standards do the Courts use to qualify individuals to be able to post 10% to the Court Bonds, by State Statue, there are restrictions being ignored by the Courts. For example;
· 374.702. No person shall engage in the bail bond business as a bail bond agent or a general bail bond agent without being licensed as provided in sections 374.695 to 374.775.
· No judge, attorney, court official, law enforcement officer, state, county, or municipal employee who is either elected or appointed shall be licensed as a bail bond agent or a general bail bond agent.
· Any person who is convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. For any subsequent convictions, a person who is convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a class D felony.
· 374.710. 1. Except as otherwise provided in sections 374.695 to 374.775, no person or other entity shall practice as a bail bond agent or general bail bond agent, as defined in section 374.700, in Missouri unless and until the department has issued to him or her a license, to be renewed every two years as hereinafter provided, to practice as a bail bond agent or general bail bond agent.

Just how long will these types of bonds continue? Maybe, the Industry should attempt to get an official Opinion from the Missouri Attorney General!

My personal request to the Department of Insurance’s appointed Committee is the same as I recently wrote, please don’t try to make cleaning up the Bail Industry the priority, please help put surety bonds back on our plate, then together we can fix the problems. The precedence should be;
1. Pass a law allowing Surety Bonds posted will act the same a Cash Bond.
2. Slow down or stop 10% to the Court Bonds.
3. All General Agents should qualify their assets to the Courts, stop the Ten Thousand dollar General, then a lot of the Bail Agents who are causing problems will follow them.

Everyone should agree that General Agents are totally responsible for the professional bail industry in Missouri therefore they should be answerable for the defense of the bail bond profession in Missouri.

Bail agents are an intricate and necessary element of the bail industry, but because of the wasted efforts and great expense in the past to organize them into a unified voice, via a professional bondsman organization, I personally have concluded that the following;

A single Bondsman Association in Missouri is the only answer to save the Industry. We must unify the agents together and become a recognized voice for the industry. The General Agents need to form an Association of General Bail Agents with the bail agents as a sub-group.

If we do not join together now, the professional bail industry in Missouri is over as we know it.

Ben Hilton, GBA
P.O. Box 1857
291 N. Adams Street
Lebanon, MO 65536


  1. I think you have stated your case perfectly. I am amazed at wha the courts and the other proponents of tax payer supported pre-trial release try to get a way with. It is imperative for ALL bail agents to stand united. If you like feeding your kids and having a roof over your heasd you are gonna have to step, unite and fight for your rights.

    Great post

  2. Phil Borthacyre12/06/2009 10:35 AM

    I think this perfectly states the current state of affairs in our industry. Until we unite together and put some pressure on those in power to enforce the rules ALREADY in place, sleaze-ball judges and bail agents will continue to infect this industry with their underhanded and unethical methods of doing business. Last time I checked, my license said "State of Missouri"....what gives some judge the right to deny me the right to write bail in their jurisdiction other than the fact that they are drinking buddies with certain individuals? Let's get united and put these unethical business practices to bed.

  3. It sounds great in theory. I have thought this would be good for several years. However, too many type A personalities and too many generals that will try to run the organization for self gratification and tilt things in their favor. Its been tried over and over and wont happen.

    As much as I would like it, it just wont work.

  4. I agree. The 10% to the courts, etc. needs to be done away with. In KC the girls at the front desk tell everyone not to call a bonding agent because the courts will give them a signature bond in the morning.

    Bonding Agent

    Our business is suffering extensively. Who will stand up if we don't.

  5. Dustin Davis12/26/2009 6:29 PM

    I couldn't agree more, but the question is, when do we start? I have been a bondsman for only 9 months and already I am constantly getting ran over. I have had threatening phone calls and told to go home by police officers because their "buddy" is a bondsman and they want THEM to write the bond on a defendant that had called ME seeking my profession. When can we unite and stop people like this? Or how about the judges that tell us to apprehend our skip within 30 days. Most of the time I only need 30 days, but sometimes I need a little extra time. Some of these skips are not easy to catch. When I ask for 60 days the judge acts like i'm asking for blood. I thought they could give us up to 180 days? Is 60 days really too much to ask for? I have one other agent in the area that works for the same company I do (Cox Bail Bonds). He is a good friend, but he has another job and can't always give me a hand. Sometimes I could use a little more help and when I turn to another bondsman that is with another company and ask for a little advise they ignore me and talk behind my back. Will we ever stop acting like children and unite? I have no problem lending a hand to a bondsman in need. Why can't all of us be the same way? We will never be able to unite and get anything from the court or the state if we keep acting like this toward each other.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Ben, your preaching to the choir.
    I`d like to hear your ideas in specific on how
    to rectify our current circumstances.
    For that matter I`d like to hear everyones Ideas
    on the same question. I can assure you that whatever that answer is, alot of people will have to be weeded out of this buisiness.
    I started in 1998, Things turned for the worst in
    Dec. 2007 Going down hill ever since. I guess the judges have shown us......

  8. Wow, Mr. Hilton that was good. I understood what you were saying throughout your whole letter. I was with you 100%, until I seen who wrote it. Do you realize it's hard for us little people, to follow the problem of the industry. How many agents do you actually need. I see your lists locally and your starving your own agents. This should be gross negligence on your part. Why do you hire so many, in such a small area. Wouldn't 1 agent per every 3 or 4 county's do the same. I think if it were that way they would be able to support themselves. Then Cox made a statement, and he is in the same boat. There are generals out there hire as many agents as they can. So they don't miss anyone's bonds. Yet they turn out to be starving each other out. There are enough bondsmen in this state. They are drowning in their own pity. The Judges are frustrated, I get that. Heck I am frustrated by the GB's that hire 20 people to cover the same areas? In big cities I can understand having a couple good agents with their own client base. But when you go out and hire 40 or 50 people to do the same job,this isn't production work. You are bonding out all the criminals with no money down, and I see how the judges are getting fed up. Some of the criminals need a time out. We have the same issues throughout the state, too many bondsman not enough money. We were fine when there were only so many bondsman, and here lately the multitude has doubled. And the newbies have attitudes, like they are at war with the seasoned bonding agents. They are hostile, and prissy or at least they are here.They are like vultures hanging out in the parking lots, and chasing the scanners. In the old days you answered the phone, you got the information, and you worked up the bond. Now a days you have to lock it in prior to working it up, and that isn't normal or the right thing to do. Here in the SW side of the state, the old game of race the bondsman has changed, into cash only bonds. The judges were tired of hearing the bonding companies complain among each other. The changes that were made to help the bonding companies in general, more education, better training, and networking skills, were tossed out the window, some time ago. Some people skills need to be part of our training. There are bondsmen racing each other for the bonds, arguing in front of customers, and being jerks in general, towards each other, causing scenes in public places, flipping off each other, at the jails, like little kids? Because one of the two bonding agents actually have paperwork to do, and the other vulture is just waiting in the parking lot, to see if anyone might need their services? What happened to professionalism? in this business? Seems that is in the past, all it took was a few calls to get a posse together to get a hunt going and everyone had a good time, now a days no one has the money to toss out to drive up and help the guys when you are needed. And that just goes to show you that regardless if you have 3 agents or 100 you need to be considerate of what they need to pay their bills, and keep that in mind when hiring so many agents. You want it to go back the way it was, get rid of a few bad apples, and perhaps, there will be bonds to be written. You can't expect the agents to go hungry, and not be able to feed their kids. If they cant afford to put gas in their cars to go write the bonds, perhaps they are in the wrong profession. If they have to hang out in the parking lots of the jails, and the stoops of the court houses to find bonds, if they solicit bonds in these to areas they are guilty of breaking the law, just like the criminals that we bond out..

  9. Mr. Anonymous, do you see that everyone that works for Ben has a b.b. licence? They went to class took a test and had to find a general. They will find someone to put them on! Ben or not. So whats it matter to you? We have a choice to be in this business or not. If you are "starving" its time to find another job. Take care of your family. Bail bonds have changed. I will out work you on every bond because you are setting there waiting on your phone to ring. Don't worry about me or Ben or anyone other than yourself. I can tell you this Mr. Anonymous it's Bondsmen like YOU that only complain. You complain to jailors, judges, lawyers, and anyone else to run down a good man in a competitive business. And what do you complain about????? "Mr. judge I'm getting out worked by other bondsmen. Can you make it where I can stay home and wait on my phone to ring? I really don't want to work for my money can someone just hand it over?" Oh wait someone thats out working hard for money just got it. I guess I'll type a letter to the bondsman blog and blame Ben.

  10. Angela I sent you a message well over a week ago defending Ben. Your not the type of person that will post someone bashing ben but not someone defending him are you?


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.