When most people think of bounty hunters, they think of images like these. There are a series of violent takedowns which, purely by coincidence, a film crew is always there to capture flawlessly. But in reality, the day in the life of a bounty hunter is more like this. Bounty hunters rarely, if ever, confront bail-skippers. Instead, they run skip traces. They use bits of information, like credit reports and utility bill payments, to track a defendant’s movements and ascertain his/her whereabouts.
Regardless of what they do, the state closely regulates bounty hunters. After all, these individuals are very close to law enforcement officers, yet they do not have nearly the same level of training or commitment. SB 804 makes some significant changes to the regulatory system which could affect not only bounty hunter behavior but also the cost of a bail bond in Tennessee.
At Fizer Bonding Company, we are in favor of regulations which apply to Montgomery and Robertson County bail bond companies. These rules assure uniformity and professionalism in an industry that, in the past, has been known to occasionally lack both these things. However, like most other business owners, we are wary of new rules which could increase our costs, make services harder for clients to receive, and drive up the price of bail bonds. So, when this proposal came across our desk, we wanted to give it a closer look.
Basically, bail bonds companies are like insurance agencies. Insurance agents usually deal with things like auto insurance and fire insurance. Fizer Bonding Company (bail bond near me) deals with appearing-for-trial insurance, if that’s a word. Property insurance companies assume the financial risk if your house burns down, and a bonding company assumes the financial risk if a defendant, who is out on bail, does not appear at trial.
What is this financial risk, you say? We’re so glad you asked. Typically, when the county sheriff initially processes inmates, the sheriff sets a presumptive amount of money for jail release. This bond is like a rental security deposit. If you pay the deposit and fulfill all lease terms, you get most of the money back. A cash bond works essentially the same way.
The problem is that, in many cases, the cash bond amount could be several thousand dollars. Many families do not have large amounts of cash on hand and can find it even hard to pay a $400 emergency expense. Therefore, having to pay a few thousand dollars is an amount that most arrested individuals and their families will roll their eyes at.
So, for about a 10-15 % premium, a bonding company puts up the bond money. That means the defendant gets out of jail quickly, and for only pennies on the dollar.
What does all this have to do with a loophole closure, you say? Once again, we’re glad you asked. Since bonding companies are partly insurance agencies, there has usually been some uncertainty in Tennessee as to what government agency regulates these companies. Generally, insurance agency regulations are much laxer than bonding company rules. SB 804 closes this loophole and places bonding companies squarely under bail bonds laws. We’re okay with this…it just means that those who do their job well, like Fizer Bonding Company, will be able to keep doing their business.
Currently, the courts in Montgomery and Robertson County oversee our bail bond offices. That arrangement works pretty well. Local judges are familiar with both bail bond company and bonding client local needs and conditions. Furthermore, different criminal judges have different rules regarding the defendant’s appearance at pretrial procedural hearings. So, this regulatory arrangement helps us keep tabs on these changing rules.
SB 804 would give the Department of Insurance and Commerce these powers. SB 804 is adding one more layer of required agency cooperation and oversight to bail bond agencies. Cooperation and transparency is beneficial for all agencies involved so as long as we all cooperate, all is going to be very positive for everyone.
Disciplinary and Grievance Process Changes
Right now, if a bounty hunter steps out of line or the county denies a license to a wannabe bail bond company owner, the matter goes directly to a civil court. Anyone who has ever been a party to a civil case before knows that this process is often long and frustrating.
The new law would require challenging parties to present their cases in an administrative hearing. Under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, an administrative hearing is basically a private trial. There is a judge, or actually, there is an Administrative Law Judge who acts like a judge. But there is no jury. The post-DUI drivers’ license suspension process is a similar administrative procedure. But a DUI ALJ’s decision is usually final, and a bail bond ALJ’s decision could be appealed through the courts.
We’re in favor of this change as well. Since there is no court reporter and no jury, private ALJ hearings are not always the best way to resolve disputes. But they are almost always the fastest way, and SB 804 includes an appeal process.
Expedited Insolvency Proceedings
Bail bonds companies assume financial responsibility for millions of dollars in cash bonds. Not all of them go bad at once, but a significant number of them could possibly go bad. Therefore, Tennessee law has very high capital requirements for bond companies.
Currently, the courts resolve any issues about financial solvency, or rather the lack thereof. SB 804 transfers this responsibility to the state. That’s probably a good thing, since most solvency disputes are pretty technical. Historically there’s usually very little reason why these matters should end up in court in the first place.
Modified Ownership Requirements
SB 804 deletes the rather silly requirement that a bonding company owner has at least two years’ experience in Tennessee. Sam could have fifty years’ experience in Hopkinsville, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Clarksville. But since Christian County is across the state line, Sam couldn’t open a shop in Tennessee. That’s seems pretty ridiculous and fortunately
SB 804 now removes this requirement.
Section 6 requires bonding company owners to put up a $10,000 bond and have clean criminal records. Going into business is an expensive venture so this seems to be par for course for business owners.
Additional Educational Requirements
This bill would double the annual continuing education requirement from eight to sixteen hours. SB 804 also increases the quality of available training courses. It also doubles the out-of-pocket cost maximum. These are good things for our industry. Once again, cream will rise to the top and keep everyone professional and running in tip top shape.
Currently, the bail bond industry is largely self-regulated in Tennessee. Currently bonding companies have to perform their own internal audits as needed. SB 804 would allow regulators to randomly audit items like financial solvency and educational records. It is simply a way for state and federal agencies to inspect what they expect from the bail bond profession. If this legislation helps bonding companies stay in business and keep communities safe through the bail bond process we say, bring it on!
Why do we go to all this trouble to break down a rather obscure legislative proposal, you say? We’re SO glad you asked. We use this same, deliberate approach in every bail bond we write. Our attention to detail means higher efficiency and lower costs. So, if you or a loved one needs a bail bondsman in Clarksville, TN, reach out to Fizer Bonding Company. At Fizer Bail Bonds, we want to help you and your loved ones get out of jail as soon as possible even when your loved one is caught over the limit with drinking and driving laws. Regardless of your situation for arrest for driving while under the influence, contrary to popular belief, you CAN be jailed for your first offense. Here in Springfield, Tennessee, the bond amount for drinking and driving can be steep. We offer DUI bail bonds, as well as free 24/7 consultations or click here. Fizer Bonding Company is a proud member of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents.
“We’ll get your tail outta jail!”
Fizer Bonding Company in Montgomery County Tennessee
Fizer Bonding Company in Robertson County Tennessee
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