Criminal Justice

Bail Bonds Market Competition, Discount Deals Freaking Out Authorities, Other Bail Bonds Agencies in New Jersey

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The Star-Ledger uncovers what it says is a new trend in New Jersey' bail bonds business, discount offers that include low monthly payments for criminal defendants needing bond posted to avoid pre-trial detention. The Ledger explains:

Before bail bond companies started offering payment plans, a defendant would usually pay the full premium, longtime bail bond agents said. Thus a $100,000 bond with a 10 percent cash option would have required a $10,000 premium payment to the bail bondsman. That money paid to the bail bondsman was not refundable even when the defendant was found not guilty.

But under the new deals being offered, some defendants are paying as little as 3 percent to a bail bondsman and putting the rest on a payment plan. The lower upfront cost has made it easier for more defendants to get out, officials say. However, when a defendant fails to make the payments, friends and family who have co-signed for the bond end up on the hook for the premium, a review of court records shows.

The Ledger characterized the offers as "shadow deals," noting that the practice "though not illegal, has attracted the attention of the state Commission of Investigation," which has started a "broad-based investigation into the bail bonds industry. No fans of competition, the Ledger reports that:

Prosecutors say the payment plan phenomenon has grown unchecked in recent years, upending a multimillion dollar bail industry responsible for ensuring defendants show up in court when they're supposed to.

Intense competition among bail bond companies across the state is pushing down the percentage amounts of a bond that companies take from defendants to levels never seen before, prosecutors say.

"We're concerned that the percentages are getting smaller and smaller and smaller, to 3 percent or less," said Gene Rubino, the acting chief of staff for the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office. "It still remains such an unregulated industry."

Some bail bonds agencies don't appreciate the competition either:

Veteran bail agents say bail bond companies that rely on a high volume of clients have fueled the shift, aggressively courting clients with low down payment offers as they try to corner the market on the state's bail industry.

"How is it possible to survive on a 1 percent down payment?" asked Scott Berlin, the owner of Berlin Bail Bonds in Newark. "I've got to put gas in my car. How do you do it? They've destroyed an honorable business."

The discount deals are arrangements between the defendant and the bail bonds agency offering the deal, and rely on a co-signer or co-signers who are responsible for the entire premium (the 10 percent) if the defendant doesn't show up. Authorities complain the deals are making it harder to ensure defendants return for trial, and in addition to mulling more regulations for the bail bonds industry, state officials may also be considering expanding pre-trial supervision to replace the functions of bail bonds agents.

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  1. Veteran bail agents say bail bond companies that rely on a high volume of clients have fueled the shift, aggressively courting clients with low down payment offers as they try to corner the market on the state’s bail industry.

    Have they started putting ads inside jail cells? Recruited guards as salesmen? Or better yet – had people deliberately get arrested on minor charges so they could tout the benefits from the inside?

    1. No, but I think one of them sponsored a little league team once, but that was back in the ’70s.

  2. However, when a defendant fails to make the payments, friends and family who have co-signed for the bond end up on the hook for the premium, a review of court records shows.

    Hasn’t this always been the case?

    1. Moral of the story…

      Don’t cosign on the bail bond for your friend/relative unless you are damn sure they aren’t going to skip bail and leave you hanging with the bill

    2. However, when a defendant fails to make the payments, friends and family who have co-signed for the bond end up on the hook for the premium

      Co-signatures are a mystery yet to be unraveled

  3. state officials may also be considering expanding pre-trial supervision to replace the functions of bail bonds agents.

    Right, we’ll just expand the size and scope of government and that will fix everything, like usual.

  4. Have they started putting ads inside jail cells?

    I have been in several cities where the bus benches in the vicinity of the jail were all “sponsored” by bail bondsmen. Also, billboards.

    1. Oh, definitely. But I don’t really see that as aggressive advertising, unless maybe they’re making a big deal of their 1% offers.

      Related: I got a job in Clearwater, FL, and was concerned about the neighborhood it was in, since I kept noticing a lot of bail bondsmen in the area (which in other areas I’ve been, is usually not a good sign). Then, one day, I drove down a nearby street and noticed the massive county jail.

      1. Let me guess. Your new employer is near eastbay road (dr)?. I’ve been it to pay a parking ticket. It is a pretty massive and arrogant display of wealth.

        1. They are just off Ulmerton, near 19. I work from home now, but when I did work there, at least it had easy access to the nudie bars.

    2. In the small town where I work, there is little business downtown other than bail-bondsmen, lawyers, and of course the courts/jail that keep the money flowing.

  5. “We’re concerned that the percentages are getting smaller and smaller and smaller, to 3 percent or less,” said Gene Rubino, the acting chief of staff for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. “It still remains such an unregulated industry.”

    How in the fuck is this his “concern” at all? Has there been a sudden epidemic of “failure to appear” incidents?

    1. Oh, no, the concern is that poorer people might afford bail.

  6. “Though not illegal…” Just as everything that is illegal is necessarily immoral, shouldn’t we be treating anything that is not illegal as not immoral?

  7. “It still remains such an unregulated industry.”

    “OH NOEZ! NOT AN UNREGULATED INDUSTRY! THAT MEANS EVUL PROFITS WITHOUT FIRST ASKING PERMISSION FIRST! QUICK, SOMEONE HELP ME TO MY FAINTING COUCH!!!!!1111!!!!” /prog-derp

    1. Yes, I hear it is the Underwear Gnome Bond agency behind all of this.

      I think their business plan went something like

      1) pass out nearly free bail bonds to people known to be untrustworthty
      2)???
      3)Profit!!!!!

  8. “It still remains such an unregulated industry.”

    “Unregulated bailbonds, killing, maiming, and poisoning thousands of Americans annually. More on this unregulated industry when we return.”

  9. The bondsman is liable for the full value of the bond should the defendant fail to appear. I’d imagine that a company working on that thin a margin would be even more motivated to ensure that there were no FTA’s.

  10. Here’s the way a holding cell works at LA central. There is one phone in every cell and 20 to 30 men to a holding cell. The alpha gang members decide who gets to use the phone to call 888-BOND-NOW, or whatever number you can come up with. Based on my understanding of the libertarian demographics, you are not going to use the phone.

    1. I was arrested once in Charlotte, NC. The holding cell I. The Mecklenberg County Jail had 4 pay phones that you got access to immediately after appearing before the Magistrate. You had unlimited local calls, and they even had phone books.

  11. And people say there’s no lending going on.

  12. In Atlanta, Georgia (and throughout the state), there is a standard 15% bonding fee. Most bail bondsman companies around here ask for collateral up front if the person can’t come up with the money. I don’t think any of us are in the business of payment plans when it comes to collecting from someone accused of a crime. The notion that some companies are doing this will be their downfall. We’re in a cash is king business. Payment plans are increasing unneeded risk in an already risky business.

  13. When a loved one is in jail in Novelli and in need of bail, locate your Novelli Bail Bondsman right here after a bail bond has been set by the court. Our Novelli Bail professionals are available 24/7 to post your Bail Bonds anywhere in Essex County. Novelli Bail Bondsmen cover all Napa and CA courts and jails. Most US County criminal defense lawyers offer free consultation and many are members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). For other bail bonds agents and defense lawyers throughout the United States, see Novelli Bail Bonds

  14. When a loved one is in jail in Novelli and in need of bail, locate your Novelli Bail Bondsman right here after a bail bond has been set by the court. Our Novelli Bail professionals are available 24/7 to post your Bail Bonds anywhere in CA State. Novelli Bail Bondsmen cover all Napa and CA courts and jails. Most US County criminal defense lawyers offer free consultation and many are members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). For other bail bonds agents and defense lawyers throughout the United States, see Novelli Bail Bonds

  15. Interesting article, I work with bail bondsman across the United States but I have never heard such a strong opposition to the low rates. It is a competitive market; you have to have SOMETHING that sets your bail bonds agency apart. For most of my clients, it’s our digital marketing strategy that drives hundreds of phone calls to their bail bonds agency every month. That way they don’t have to compete with 1% rates, they can stick to their 10% and still have their phone ringing off the hook. Feel free to reach out to us at Bail Bonds Advertising, if you have any questions or need help competing! Here is our website link: bailbondsadvertising.com

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