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An Introduction to Bail Recovery Investigations
by
L. Scott Harrell
CompassPoint Investigations
 
 
Introduction
 
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 as well.
 
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 too. 

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:
 
  1.  
    Get licensed, if required.
  2.  
    If you are unsure if licensing is required, look it up.
  3.  
    Get professional and commercial liability insurance.
  4.  
    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.
  5.  
    Get the essential gear and support systems in place.
  6.  
    Market your services.
  7.  
    If successful, find and arrest the fugitive, then take him to jail.
  8.  
    Invoice and collect for services from client.
  9.  
    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 enforcement?"  Then 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 client?”
 
 
Marketing
 
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 will happen.
 
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 begins.
 
Successful marketing is really a straightforward equation:
 
1.      Identify your market.
2.      Understand the pain that keeps them up at night.
3.      Determine how much the market will pay to get rid of the pain.
4.      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 your favor.
 
  1.  
    Repetition
  2.  
    Agitation and Relief
  3.  
    Testimonial and Success
 
The golden rule of advertising is repetition!  Studies 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 carefully.
 
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 checks!”
 
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 fairytales.  Secondly, 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 chasing fugitives.
 
What happens when you do get an assignment?
 
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 agency.
 
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 difference. 
 
From the bail application and other forms you will either find the defendant or will develop leads that will eventually take you to him.  Therefore, 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:
 
1.      Verify that the information is correct (real name, DOB, SSN, etc.)
2.      Follow up on all information provided by the defendant
3.      Develop updates for factual outdated information (new address, phone, etc.)
4.      If updates are not found using databases, then call numbers on bail application
5.      Pretext or Interview as often as necessary
6.      Contact the Indemnitor (skip trace if necessary)
7.      Use non-traditional public information sources
8.      Develop and follow up on all new leads
9.      Organize and save all information for re-review
10.  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 back off).
 
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:
 
1.      All information provided to the client by the defendant
2.      Computer databases
3.      The cosigner
4.      Public records and “inside information” developed from contacts
5.      Pretexting
6.      Interviewing
7.      Surveillance
8.      Informants
9.      Wanted Posters
10.  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 get paid!
 
 
Apprehending Bail Fugitives
 
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 minimum:
 
1.      Written authorization from the surety on the bail bond authorizing the arrest of the principal and empowering you to act as his agent
2.      Contract Agreement for Surety Services
3.      Certified copy of the bail bond
4.      Certified copy of the warrant indicating “a failure to appear” or bond forfeiture
5.      Certificate of 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 water.”
 
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:
 
1.      Handcuffs, double-locking; Name-brand Model (Peerless, Smith and Wesson)
2.      Handcuff Keys, oversize; with extras
3.      Non-lethal Self Defense Measure; pepper spray, air-tazer, stun-gun, baton, etc.
4.      Cellular Phone (programmed with law enforcement and client numbers)
5.      Street Maps and Books
6.      Flashlight (also doubles as a club in an emergency)
 
However, I personally recommend the following equipment:
 
7.      Bulletproof Vest, concealable; NIJ Type IIA, III, IIIA or better
8.      Handgun, concealed (where legal)
9.      Extra Handcuffs
10.  Radios, FRS; Voice Operated (when working with partners)
11.  Leg Irons
12.  Belly or Waist Chain; with Shackles
13.  ID Badge
14.  ID Jacket or Shirt
15.  Magnetic Signs for Vehicle; ID and Pretext Use
16.  Business Cards: ID and Pretext Use
17.  Portable Laptop; with mobile internet connection (luxury item)
18.  XXL Orange Overalls; Printed with “Prisoner” (long extradition trips)
 
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 gun?”
 
The answer is at first simple; since you are only a citizen empowered by a bail bondsman to apprehend his client, NO.
 
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 firearm!
 
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 authority.” 
 
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 training.
 
During the approach and resulting contact:
 
1.      Use the defendant’s name
2.      Identify yourself in a clear voice
3.      Tell them you have a warrant
4.      Take control of the defendant’s movement and place him in handcuffs
5.      Explain the charges
6.      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 aplomb.
 
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 behind safety!
 
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:
 
1.      The defendant is incarcerated in another jurisdiction
2.      The defendant is dead
3.      The defendant is in a grave medical condition
4.      The defendant is in a resident treatment facility
5.      The defendant has been deported out of the country
6.      A Judge determines the bond insufficient or improperly executed
 
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 unethically. 
 
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:
 
1.      Trespassing
2.      Assault
3.      Forcible Entry
4.      All Firearms and Weapons Violations
5.      Impersonating a Public Official
6.      Harassment
7.      Coercion and Extortion
8.      Breach of Peace
9.      Kidnapping or Unlawful Detention
10.  Unlawful Interception and Use of Wire or Electronic Communications
11.  False Alarm or Report
12.  Interference with U.S. Postal Service, Property, or Mail
13.  Access Fraud
 
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:
 
What are the options?
What 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, integrity.    
 
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 thought.
 
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
www.BondForfeitures.com
www.BeABountyHunter.com
Mailto: BondForfeitures@bellsouth.net  
 
Ó 2007 CompassPoint Investigations and L. Scott Harrell
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