Introduction to Bail Recovery Investigations
- Since I don’t know anything about you or your experience, I am
going to assume that you are starting from scratch... no experience
with the bail bond industry, skip tracing, taking people into
custody, or finding work.
With that in mind I am going to give you the best advice you will
get in our industry:
- Commit right now to becoming a lifelong student of the bail
recovery tradecraft, which means finding a mentor, taking courses,
reading books, research, and networking!
This is not just for the short-term…but also for as long as
you intend to chase fugitives for business or for pleasure.
I commit at least 5 hours a week to learning more about some
aspect of this business; improving my marketing skills, staying
abreast of the changing climate of our industry, studying new
methods of skiptracing, etc, are all valuable topics to pursue.
- Competency is developed from the study and practice of these skills.
- When will you be deemed competent?
That’s hard to say. Everyone
has a different learning curve.
My best guess is that you are proficient when bail bondsmen
and other investigators begin to use you as a trusted and valuable
resource for information and advice.
You cannot find a better judge than your peers.
- I would submit to you that bail enforcement is more than getting a
client, finding the defendant, turning him into the local jail and
getting paid, even though it will often seem that simple. There are so many ideas, concepts and pitfalls in this
business, that I do not believe that any one person will ever
understand them all. Certainly
this “short-course” is not meant to even try and cover them all
and remember: laws vary from state to state and it is your
responsibility to research and comply with each and every one.
- A new breed of investigator is rapidly replacing the ol’ cowboys and
bounty hunters; he or she has an exceptional level of knowledge in
all aspects of the bail bond business and can advise clients in
everything from making better bonding decisions to legal collection
methods. The enforcer will understand how Civil Law applies to his
undertakings and that reducing the exposure of liability to a
bondsman is not only an ethical obligation but good customer service
- Yes, I mentioned ethics and customer service! This is where the bail recovery industry is headed.
- Get comfortable with research and learn to identify the multitude
of sources of information for not only the laws in your state
affecting bail action, but everything that concerns the bondsman
Your goal should be to become able to counsel your clients on more
than just how to put a defendant in jail, even though that will be
the most important aspect of your services for them. I've
gotten more of my competition's clients by just being able to teach
them how to make better bond writing decisions and to show them
where their current investigator is jeopardizing the bonding company
(back to legal liabilities) than my ability to find a defendant in a
higher percentage of cases than he can.
- The bottom line is that the bail
enforcement profession has no more room for Bounty Hunters. If
your goal is to become a professional within this industry and are
prepared to make the effort, please read on! I
may use the term bounty hunter in this article, however it is for
clarification purposes only; it is the term with which most people
readily identify this occupation.
- The history of Bounty
Hunting, which later evolved into what we refer today as Bail
Enforcement, is fascinating to say the least.
I would be lying to you if I didn't tell you that I find
myself daydreaming at times about the days of Pat Garrett, Bat
Masterson, and one of the most famous bounty hunters, Texas Ranger
Jack Duncan, but I am also practical enough to know that that is a
bygone era and very little applies to our profession today.
So I intend to spend very little time recounting the days of
the Wild Wild West.
- Today's bail enforcement agent can
make in excess of $60,000 a year, some well over $100,000
(absolutely possible- I know of at least 4 pros who did it last
year). Collectively we
account for more than 80% of all apprehensions made where defendants
were bond-secured and failed to appear for court; through
constructive partnerships between law enforcement and bail
enforcement we have increased the efficiency of the criminal justice
system while decreasing the cost to the public.
- Historically speaking, it is important
to understand from where bail law comes. Contemporary bail law evolved from Old-English common law,
when a person posting bail for a defendant meant that he could
eventually be hanged or otherwise punished if the accused did not
return for trial. Today
a bail bondsman is not in any danger of losing his head, just a
large sum of money promised to the courts to insure the
defendant’s appearance. This
promised money is called a bail bond.
- For the purposes of surrendering the
defendant, in general, any person who has deposited money to secure
the release of the defendant (paid bail) may at any time prior to
such person being discharged from his offense, and at any place
within the state, himself arrest the defendant or commission any
person of suitable age to do so.
- Increasingly, however, states are
beginning to legislate this concept and have begun to enact their
own sets of laws restricting exactly who can and cannot contract
with a surety on a bond. I
am not talking about a bonafide employee of a bail bond company; I
am speaking about anyone he empowers as an agent to act on his
behalf or contracts out his recovery assignments.
- Please understand… you can be
convicted of a serious crime if your state requires you to be
licensed or registered and you fail to do so.
- The most common question I answer
every day is, “I want to be a Bounty Hunter.
How do I get started?”
- My short answer is:
- Get licensed, if required.
- If you are unsure if licensing is required, look it up.
- Get professional and commercial liability insurance.
- If you are going to transport fugitives, get an automobile
insurance policy that will cover you for business usage AND
handcuffed or otherwise restrained passengers.
- Get the essential gear and support systems in place.
- Market your services.
- If successful, find and arrest the fugitive, then take him to
- Invoice and collect for services from client.
- Repeat steps 6 through 8 as often as necessary.
- Is it really this simple?
Not really, but many hundreds of professionals have broken
into the bail recovery industry in the last few decades.
- If your question was simply, "How do I get into bail
my answer would sound something like, "Get your license, if
required, and call yourself a bail enforcement agent.
If you need more validation than that, buy some clothing
proclaiming that you are an enforcement agent and walk around the
mall." However, if you'd like to be a working bail enforcement
agent, and eventually a successful one, you'll have to start with
marketing, which also answers the question, “How do I get my first
- The golden rule in business has always
been, "If they don't know you are in business, they won't
call." I can tell
you that the outcome of not marketing is very basic; nothing
- As I alluded to earlier, word-of-mouth
marketing in the bail bond industry is the most valuable advertising
you cannot write on your own. You
can, however, take control and ignite the fire that is created when
bail bondsman are bragging about you and we will talk about that
later. First things
first, you have to get your first assignment and bring it to a
successful conclusion. And
getting that first bondsman to give you a shot is where it all
- Successful marketing is really a
Identify your market.
Understand the pain that keeps them up at night.
Determine how much the market will pay to get rid of the
Offer to alleviate that pain.
- I hope that you have already
identified the obvious potential client, bail bond companies, and
understand that their pain is the forfeiture of a bail bond. To alleviate the pain you have to get the bondsman exonerated
of his responsibility of the bond and there are more ways to
accomplish this than to surrender the defendant.
We’ll discuss them later.
- Developing a prospect list is plainly easy; pick up the yellow
pages and look up “Bail” and you will likely find both bail bond
companies and attorneys. This
method is great for cold calling, but I personally hate cold calls,
either by phone or in person, because I think that it is a misuse of
daylight and my billable time though you may find it a necessary
evil. The problem with
the yellow pages for me is that I very rarely find a bondsman’s
mailing address in the yellow pages and a new bail bond company may
not be included for up to an entire year depending on when they went
into business and when the latest edition was put together.
- But there are many types of clients
other than bail bondsman and there are much more effective ways to
get contact information than from the phone book!
- Next, you have to understand
client’s pain; send me $10,000 today and you would begin to
understand the ache. Now
imagine that you may have to send me $5,000 tomorrow, $2,500 next
Monday, $15,000 the following week, and, God forbid, $100,000
sometime next month! This
type of scenario is what a bail bond company owner lives with
everyday. “How many
forfeitures am I going to have and how much money is it going to
cost me?” Heap on top
of that a measure of chronic indigestion from the daily anxiety of
trying to keep up with hundreds of people, who largely comprise the
dregs of society, and you begin to get my point.
- How much is this pain worth?
- We all want to get to the bottom-line,
“How much am I going to get paid?” The reality is that the answer to this question has already
been determined for you. It
is usual and customary in our profession to accept every case on a
contingency fee basis; that is to say that your payment is
contingent upon successfully completing the assignment.
An old bounty hunter phrase is, “No body, no bounty.”
There are some exceptions to this and in all business
situations an entrepreneur must charge what the market will bear.
- Our industry standard fee is 10% of
the face value of the bail bond, which means that if the bond is
$10,000, you should expect to be paid $1,000.
- There are notable exceptions to this,
and in my Apprehending Bail Fugitives book I discuss 4 ways I
effectively increased the amount of my service fees by over 22%.
- Making successful offers is the
essence of marketing.
- Persuading a new client that you are
there to allay their fears, especially when starting from scratch,
can be the most challenging undertaking in your entire career, even
more so than finding a majority of the fugitives to whom you will be
assigned. There are
several marketing methods, however, you can use to stack the deck in
- Agitation and Relief
- Testimonial and Success
- The golden rule of advertising is
have shown that it takes a message an average of seven times to
either convince a consumer to take action or to make the link
between your name and a product or service.
But putting the same message out to your prospects seven
times isn’t going to cut it, unless you craft that message very
- Good copywriting can stir emotion and
that is the beauty of my next point; a powerful sales letter will
cause the reader to recall some pain and then offer a solution to
the consumer to alleviate the discomfort… if they take a
recommended call to action. “Agitate
and then relieve” in my book equals “sell and cash the
- One of the other methods of
advertising that I indicated we would discuss, is the use of
testimonials and demonstrating success.
Actually, the goal is to create the idea that “past
performance is indicative of future results” and announce your
success in a way with which they can identify.
- Testimonial marketing is extremely
powerful, but you must follow a couple of hard and fast rules when
using them. Never make
up a testimonial or the person that it came from; leave fiction for
ALWAYS get the testimonial in writing or the client’s permission
before including it in your advertising.
- “How do I get a testimonial if I am
just starting out?” There are many ways to get testimonials, even
if you’ve never worked in this industry!
There simply is not enough room in this introductory course
to tell you all things you must know to take advantage of the power
of testimonial and success marketing.
- There are two other tools,
professionalism and communication, that are not necessarily functions
of advertising but are nevertheless integral to successfully
marketing yourself. Professionalism
encompasses communication but I am not going to address them
separately in this conversation.
- Professionalism is the positive image
you project. This
image, whether positive or negative, is conveyed by your conduct,
manner of dress, appearance, and in every interaction you have with
the public, including your clients.
Bail Bondsmen are, out of necessity, mostly good judges of
character. They will
size you up before you have the chance to start speaking.
Give yourself a chance and show them some respect by
maintaining you own sense of professionalism at all times.
- There is so much more to marketing
bail recovery services; networking, positioning and simplifying your
own business practices will produce stunning results. Give yourself a chance in this business… marketing is a
powerful weapon in your quest for success, but you don’t have to
spend time chasing this hard won knowledge, save it for energy for
- What happens when you do get an
- It’s time to break out the
magnifying glass Mr. Or Mrs. Holmes and to do some serious
investigative work! Your
eventual success or failure in this industry will rest on your
ability to find the lost defendant!
- The Bail Investigation
- I always ask myself why a perfectly sane person would want to do
this job, but the answer is painfully obvious… it is the thrill of
the hunt. In fact,
Ernest Hemmingway once penned, “There is no hunting like the
hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and
liked it, never care for anything else there after.”
- The hunt begins with the bail investigation.
- Locating a fugitive can be challenging at times but it is by no
means impossible; the art of skiptracing does not involve a crystal
ball either. Skiptracing
is the practice of finding people who are lost, hiding, or otherwise
“indisposed” at the time. You
must have skills, a logical investigative approach, creativity, and
sometimes, good old fashioned luck.
There are tricks of the trade though that can tip the scales
in your favor and we will endeavor to discuss just a few of them
here; in the limited amount of space we have here, I can only give
you a taste. For the
“full throttle” heart stopping information, you’ll have to
find my book or course Apprehending Bail Fugitives.
- The centerpiece of the fugitive investigation is the bail
application, which is similar to an elaborate credit application
that the bondsman has the defendant fill out at the time he bails
him out; thus the method that bail enforcement agents employ is
similar to the one a skip tracer uses while working for a collection
- There is a logical approach to every assignment and it follows the
investigative method. Ultimately, the end-game is about trying to
locate the fugitive or the person who will give him up.
There will be allies to your cause and there will be those
trying to trip you up; it is paramount that you be able to tell the
- From the bail application and other forms you will either find the
defendant or will develop leads that will eventually take you to
understanding various bail forms and contracts is the foundation
upon which we will build your success.
- In my experience, I have documented that in 83% of all cases that
resulted in the arrest of the defendant, he was at his last known
address or place of employment.
This seems to be a well-kept secret in this trade for various
reasons; investigators either want to have some “bragging
rights” or don’t want to let their clients know that our job is
simply academic in more than 4 out of 5 cases.
- Skip tracing bail fugitives typically involves the following approach:
Verify that the information is correct (real name, DOB, SSN,
Follow up on all information provided by the defendant
Develop updates for factual outdated information (new
address, phone, etc.)
If updates are not found using databases, then call numbers
on bail application
Pretext or Interview as often as necessary
Contact the Indemnitor (skip trace if necessary)
Use non-traditional public information sources
Develop and follow up on all new leads
Organize and save all information for re-review
Repeat steps 1 through 9 as many time as required
- This is my own step-by-step approach but be flexible, this is not
to say there are many other possibilities. Undoubtedly you will develop your own way of conducting a
bail investigation as you gain more experience.
In order to have an understanding of this method, you must
become familiar with several databases that most investigators use;
eventually you must learn the art of pretexting as well.
- A pretext is lie in which you provide
a believable story in exchange for information; an excuse to cloak
the real purpose of your inquiry.
Investigators use pretexts on individuals that we have reason
to believe have information pertinent to our investigation because
they would not knowingly or willingly reveal it for our purposes.
Friends, Relatives, the Indemnitor, Neighbors, etc. all make
excellent candidates for using a pretext from whom to gain
information regarding the whereabouts of the fugitive.
- The greatest advancement in skip tracing is the advent of the
on-line database; information we can instantly access on the
Internet. They are
certainly not all equal and price-per-search is not a good indicator
of the quality of the information you will receive!
- I hate to admit it; telephone “information” is the most basic,
the least expensive, and oftentimes the only “database” search I
ever need; I overlook it regularly when beginning my investigation
and I kick myself in the rear every time I miss it!
- The most powerful databases used for locating your fugitive are
the ones associated with Consumer Credit Reports and in our pursuit
we have several FCRA permissible purposes to obtain them.
Using these tools often make an assignment as easy as running
the search, driving out to the last reported address, and picking up
the defendant. Did you
know that you can tap into an underground network of professional
skiptracers and access this information for free? You’ll have to
take my word for it in this email course… you can; this secret
weapon has allowed me to close more cases than my competition.
- There are so many other sources for information out there as well:
Motor Vehicle Registrations, Court Records, Historical
Telephone Databases, the Pizza Guy (Huh? The pizza guy?).
Not to mention trap lines, blind lines, “Trojan Horse”
calling cards; the list goes on and on.
- If you prefer the straightforward approach over pretexting, then
you will most likely be conducting field interviews in your quest
for clues that will eventually lead you to the whereabouts of the
defendant. The three
most important things to do during a field interview are to ask
open-ended questions that require an answer beyond “yes” or
“no,” ask some questions in a variety of ways several times, and
finally make notes on an interview card afterward for review later.
- Perhaps the most important skill you can develop as a bail
enforcement agent will be the ability to tell when someone is lying
to you. Before conducting an interview, the interviewer must
understand the fundamentals of behavior as it relates to the act of
lying. During the
interview, the interviewer must be concerned with whether or not the
interviewee is telling the truth and accurately describing his or
her story. A person may
be able to lie successfully because the interviewer is not in tune
with the interviewee’s non-verbal clues that indicate deception.
Becoming aware of the manifestations of dishonesty is a vital skill
in becoming a great investigator.
- The most time-consuming activity of
the bail enforcement agent will be spent on surveillance.
- All surveillance activity should be well planned.
- There are two general types of
surveillance: mobile and fixed. A mobile surveillance is commonly
known as tailing or shadowing. A mobile surveillance can be
conducted by foot or vehicle and can be a combination of the two.
The choice depends on the subject's movements.
- A fixed surveillance is known as a
stakeout. A stakeout is used when the subject is stationary or when
all the important information can be learned at one place. But even
for a stakeout, a surveillant may remain mobile, moving from one
vantage point to another. He or she may want to move around for
closer observation of the area or the subject. If there is more than
one exit, a surveillant may have to move about quite a bit just to
keep the exits watched.
- Most surveillance is covert, but overt
efforts are sometimes used. An overt surveillance is used when it is
useful to let the subject know he or she is being observed.
For example, a nervous indemnitor or cosigner, made aware
that he is being followed, may become anxious and do something
beneficial to your assignment while being followed or watched (like
calling the bondsman with the fugitive’s location to get you to
- In many instances, I find that tailing someone I know to be
associated with the defendant to his location is an effective
approach to developing his whereabouts.
For example, last week I had an assignment in which I knew
where the defendant’s husband worked.
I developed his vehicle information through Motor Vehicle
Records, found his car at his place of employment, and followed him
home. Sure enough, he
led me straight to her! Previously,
I had an assignment where an ex-wife dropped her children off to see
their father (who happened to be the fugitive I was assigned to
find) every other weekend and on Father’s day, per a court order.
Father’s day was the logical choice for a day of
surveillance at that time and proved to be the only opportunity I
needed to locate the defendant.
- There are many tricks associates with the tradecraft of
surveillance, all in which you should endeavor to become adept.
- You should recall that successfully
locating the defendant happens as a result of your systematic and
organized approach using all legal methods available to you.
These tools will include:
All information provided to the client by the defendant
Public records and “inside information” developed from
Intuition and sometimes luck!
- Once you have developed enough
information, followed all of your leads, or just plain lucked out
and found the defendant, it is time for the grand finale.
It’s time to effect the apprehension of this fugitive and
- Your investigation has finally paid off and you have the defendant
in sight… for the adrenaline junkies it is time to get high; for
everyone else- this is where the terror of our profession starts.
The bottom line is that any apprehension, even for the
most minor of circumstances, can become deadly.
- You will need several
pieces of documentation to affect the legal arrest and apprehension
of the defendant, but exactly which ones may vary from state to
state. For safety’s
sake I will say that you require the following information at a
authorization from the surety on the bail bond authorizing the
arrest of the principal and empowering you to act as his agent
Agreement for Surety Services
of the bail bond
of the warrant indicating “a failure to appear” or bond
Surrender by Bondsman or “Body Receipt” (while not required for
the arrest, it will be required to get paid)
- Perhaps the most important
document you will need is the “Authorization to Arrest
Defendant.” No matter
what else you have heard or have been told, this form is where all
bail enforcement agents derive their authority to do this job.
Without the surety’s authorization you are “dead in the
- In the business of bail
enforcement you will be required to equip yourself in the field with
several items in order to safely and successfully complete your
assignments. At a bare
minimum you will need:
Handcuffs, double-locking; Name-brand Model (Peerless,
Smith and Wesson)
Handcuff Keys, oversize; with extras
Non-lethal Self Defense Measure; pepper spray, air-tazer,
stun-gun, baton, etc.
Cellular Phone (programmed with law enforcement and client
Street Maps and Books
Flashlight (also doubles as a club in an emergency)
- However, I personally recommend the
Bulletproof Vest, concealable; NIJ Type IIA, III, IIIA
Handgun, concealed (where legal)
Radios, FRS; Voice Operated (when working with partners)
Belly or Waist Chain; with Shackles
ID Jacket or Shirt
Magnetic Signs for Vehicle; ID and Pretext Use
Business Cards: ID and Pretext Use
Portable Laptop; with mobile internet connection (luxury
XXL Orange Overalls; Printed with “Prisoner” (long
- One thing that I can say about this
industry (that will never change) is that there are widely divergent
views held by the people that work in it.
Everyone has a singular opinion and each agent seems to
interpret our rights within the legal system differently.
- However, I can assure you of one
singular truth about bail enforcement agents:
Absent a commission as a peace officer, we are all private
citizens and no different from anyone else!
What this means is that you are subject to the laws of the
land and are offered no special protection under an umbrella of
“state authority and action.”
- The question I am most often asked
after, “How do I become a Bounty Hunter?” is, “Can I carry a
- The answer is at first simple; since
you are only a citizen empowered by a bail bondsman to apprehend his
- To complicate matters you can throw in
your own state’s firearm laws.
Most states no longer have an “Open Carry” option,
meaning that you can carry a gun as long as it is clearly visible,
but have provisions for its citizens to carry concealed handguns.
If you are eligible to carry a concealed firearm in your
state, then you MAY have the option to get properly licensed and do
so. To add another
point of confusion to the mix, some states require you to obtain
additional training and certification if you are going to carry a
concealed handgun during the course and scope of your employment.
Pennsylvania immediately comes to mind.
There, citizens may obtain a concealed carry permit; easy
enough, except that PA Act 235 restricts the possession of any
weapon while “on the job” and requires another set of training
standards. SO… you
will have to research your own state’s laws, but please, do not
assume that because you have a copy of the undertaking, a permission
slip and perhaps a copy of the warrant, that you can carry a
firearm; you will probably go to jail sooner rather than later.
- Ultimately the decision to
carry a firearm while working is up you. The decision to carry comes with several risks but adequate
training and understanding all of the applicable laws will mitigate
the liabilities involved.
- Recently in several of the
online newsgroups I take part in, there has been much debate about
how investigators should dress, what we should call ourselves, and
whether or not we should carry a badge.
I am sorry to say that there is no single correct answer,
however, I will endeavor to put my own spin on this subject. Personally, I have always been apprehensive that a police
officer will arrive at my location while I am scuffling with a
defendant and not be able to differentiate between the fugitive and
me. God forbid this is one of those rare instances requiring a
- I have always been against
wearing SWAT-style raid clothing, the black BDUs, tactical vests,
etc., but it might be appropriate if you are handling a high risk
arrest in a area known to be hostile to law enforcement action.
In my own opinion, I believe that this image does more harm
than good for our profession for a variety of reasons.
I prefer “business casual” dress consisting of slacks and
a golf shirt, concealing both my firearm and handcuffs.
I also like jeans, black utility-type shoes, and a shirt worn
open over a t-shirt when I need to remain incognito.
The defendants usually never know who I am until I already
have control of the situation.
Occasionally, we will wear a black windbreaker screen printed
with my company logo and “Bail Surety Investigator” across the
back when we feel the need to create the “appearance of
- Ultimately, you need not
look like a common criminal; you will come into contact with a great
deal of people in your hunt for the fugitive- from Law Enforcement
to witnesses and eventually the defendant, so you must dress as
“neutrally” as possible.
- The easiest and safest
method of apprehending any defendant is to enlist the help of local
law enforcement agencies. Not
only will you be able to save an extraordinary amount of time wasted
sitting at the jail with your defendant while waiting for the
booking officer to confirm warrants and finding a jailer to come
take him into custody, but you may stay out of harm’s way in many
instances. Going home
in one piece is a good thing, and some of my wildest war-stories
actually involve law enforcement officers!
- Some agencies will refuse
to help; perhaps because they have had poor experiences with
investigators or bondsmen in the past, this is a fact of life.
However, your ability to present a competent, professional
image may turn the tide in these cases.
- However you choose to make contact,
the most important aspect of the arrest is safety!
Control of the defendant and awareness of your surroundings
may give you the edge you need; both come with practice and
- During the approach and resulting
Use the defendant’s name
Identify yourself in a clear voice
Tell them you have a warrant
Take control of the defendant’s movement and place him in
Explain the charges
Search the defendant thoroughly for weapons and contraband.
- Your approach can be as
hard or as soft as the situation requires, but use the absolute
minimum amount of force necessary to control the defendant and
protect yourself and others. A
defendant who is not resisting must be treated with courtesy and
- In more than 19 out of every 20 arrests, I find that I can very
calmly explain the situation to the defendant, even empathize with
them (“I know it is never a very convenient time to have to take
care of this.”) and they will cooperate fully.
I approach every situation like it is a negotiation and treat
every defendant like a human being.
They appreciate it and will respond positively to the
respect. I am as
straightforward as I can be; the only thing that is not up to
negotiation is their return to jail and I am very firm on that.
- A topic often overlooked by even the most experienced surety
investigators working in the field is the potential legal
percussions related to the use of restraints.
The use of handcuffs is of course a decision you must make
for yourself; I take it on a case-by-case basis, but very rarely
will I transport someone who is not restrained.
I know the risks and I have had adequate training on their
use and application and am always mindful that by handcuffing an
individual I am accepting complete responsibility for their
welfare. We do not
work beneath the umbrella of legal protection afforded to those
serving in traditional law enforcement roles; therefore CIVIL
LIABILITY should always be at the forefront of our minds, but just
- The bottom line is training… period.
- At some point in your
career in this business you will find that the defendant has gone to
another state. Don’t
think that you can snatch him and run for home; if the defendant is
savvy or hires a competent attorney they could be serving you with a
subpoena for violating the defendant’s civil rights!
Does this practice occur regularly?
Admittedly, yes, and you may not get caught the first time…
but it could happen.
- The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act
(UCEA) applies to the recovery of fugitives across state lines and
includes the arrest and transportation of defendants by private
citizens (bail enforcement agents) as well.
All states, but two, Missouri and South Carolina, have
adopted the UCEA. Many
court cases have set precedent affirming the defendants right to
magistration prior to being extradited for whatever reason, ours
included. Some bail
bondsmen and their agents have learned the hard way.
- In the beginning of this
article I alluded to the fact that our job was not necessarily to
put a defendant in jail, but to get the surety upon the bail
exonerated from his responsibility; putting a defendant in jail is
only one, albeit most common, method of exoneration.
- Generally speaking, there are other
instances that will either preclude you from apprehending the
defendant or provide an affirmative defense in a bond forfeiture
proceeding, such as:
The defendant is incarcerated in another jurisdiction
The defendant is dead
The defendant is in a grave medical condition
The defendant is in a resident treatment facility
The defendant has been deported out of the country
A Judge determines the bond insufficient or improperly
- In our next, and last, section of An
Introduction to Bail Recovery we will discuss the legal and
ethical aspects of this profession that will include material that
you won’t want to miss!
- The Legal and Ethical Aspects of Bail Recovery
- What I have attempted to include in this section is an overview of
some interesting concepts and ideas that most private investigators
and bail enforcement agents don’t really think about day to day.
- I personally cannot think of another
occupation where the practicing professional is in as much danger of
accidentally, or intentionally, committing a criminal offense or
setting himself up for a potential lawsuit.
Perhaps this is because in our pursuit of justice, or a
paycheck, we get tunnel vision and are tempted to cut corners or
“cross over the line,” if not just a little bit.
It is easy to justify our own actions as committed in the
name of good versus evil, but we must remember that we are only
private citizens hired to do a job, not to break the law or to act
- There are simply way too many laws in
too many states to include in this article. Instead, I am going to give you the basics and then rely on
you to do your own research.
- We will start our discussion with those unethical choices that have the
direst of consequences; decisions that can create civil or criminal
liability for the private investigator.
Choosing to ignore the laws or rules of your jurisdiction is
never an ethical decision.
- Realizing this, we sat down with
several retired law enforcement officers-turned-bail investigators
and asked them which state laws were most likely to be broken by
persons in our industry.
I suggest that you look up the following types of crimes in
your state’s penal code not only to understand what your fugitives
are being charged with, but also to determine your own risk of
running into problems of your own.
The phrases or wording used will differ from state to state:
All Firearms and Weapons Violations
Impersonating a Public Official
Coercion and Extortion
Breach of Peace
Kidnapping or Unlawful Detention
and Use of Wire or Electronic Communications
False Alarm or Report
Interference with U.S. Postal Service, Property, or Mail
- For our purposes, it's important to
understand that ethics is acting
with an awareness of the need for complying with rules, such as the
laws of the land, the customs and expectations of the community, the
principles of morality, the policies of the organization and such
general concerns as the needs of others and fairness.
Ethics examines human conduct, analyzes the foundations of
such conduct, assesses such conduct in terms of certain rules or
standards of behavior, and recommends certain behaviors as
appropriate and condemns others as inappropriate.
- Why study ethics?
- Moral concerns are unavoidable in life
and ethical standards provide us a yardstick with which to gauge our
own decisions. Ethics
also gives us a method to evaluate other people’s behavior as
well. It is this concept of judging others that ethics becomes the
foundation for professional conduct.
Perhaps, this is no truer than in a profession such as ours,
which often involves the perception of secrecy and clandestine
methods of gathering information.
The general public doesn't often understand what we do;
therefore, a great deal of room for speculation exists. Any
bail enforcement agent that has been in this business for even a
moderate period of time understands the multitude of myths and
misconceptions that most people have about our business.
Historically, this opportunity for speculation has cast bail
investigators in a negative light more often than not.
Professional conduct, the way others will judge us while we
are at work, is the only tool we have to correct the public's
perspective and maintain the environment in which we work.
- As bail investigators, we have a framework by which we can
evaluate our choices. Primarily,
we have various federal and state regulations and rules that
restrict our choices. In
the absence of these laws, we should then apply “common sense”
by asking ourselves a few simple questions in an effort to arrive at
the best answer:
are the options?
are the issues?
- What are the consequences?
- Every decision we make has its own set of consequences.
When we make ethical decisions we can expect the results are
typically good, but when we make poor errors in judgment we should
expect to make them at some negative expense.
Remember that when we chose to become bail enforcement agents
we accepted the responsibility to bear very specific obligations,
which include the precepts of truth, justice and above all else,
- How does the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
(with felony consequences) affect Bail Enforcement?
- How does the Fair Credit Reporting Act
affect the Bail Recovery profession? How can we use it to our advantage?
- Did you know that the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act also applies to bail investigations and
that several agents and their clients have already been sued using
this Federal law?
- These are just a fraction of the
often-ignored questions we should be asking ourselves.
- This concludes An Introduction to
Bail Recovery Investigations; I hope that you have enjoyed the
article and that is has wetted your appetite to discover more about
this exciting profession, or at least given you some food for
- I urge each of you to continue your
quest for information and your own pursuit of success!
I would be honored to share my book Apprehending
Bail Fugitives with you, but only if you are ready to take
the next step.
- I can tell you that it won’t be
easy, but knowing that hundreds of people have successfully joined
this profession in the past should give you the encouragement to
take action today; my commitment to you as always will be the
“relentless pursuit for your success!”
- Good Luck!
- L. Scott Harrell
- CompassPoint Investigations
2007 CompassPoint Investigations and L. Scott Harrell
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