Category Archives: Bail

Bounty Hunters & Bondsmen

Image result for bounty hunters

In Applegate v. Lucky Bail Bonds, the WA Court of Appeals held a bail bondsman may forcibly enter another party’s land and/or house if he has reasonably believes the fugitive is there.

The appeal arises from a civil case brought by appellant Ron Applegate against respondent Lucky Bail Bonds Inc. and its agents. Lucky posted bail for Applegate’s daughter, Elizabeth, on her shoplifting charges. Elizabeth failed to appear for court dates. Lucky’s agents went to Applegate’s rural property at night in search of Elizabeth. They found her in Applegate’s residence, but only after getting into a shoving match with Applegate and allegedly entering his  residence without permission. During the struggle, bail bonds agents broke several of Applegate’s ribs. He filed suit alleging assault, trespass, and other causes of action.

Applegate’s civil cause of action went to a jury trial in superior court. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Lucky Bail Bonds.

On appeal, Applegate argued that under the Restatement of Torts (Second), bondsmen do not have a privilege to enter the private dwelling of a third party, and that the court’s admission of certain jury instructions was error.

The court reviewed RCW 18.185, which pertains to “Bail Bond Agents.” The statute defines a bail bond recovery agent as “a person who is under contract with a bail bond agent to receive compensation. . . for locating, apprehending, and surrendering a fugitive criminal defendant for whom a bail bond has been posted.” The statute requires recovery agents to be trained, tested, and licensed.

The court also reviewed RCW 18.185.270(1), which states that bail bond recovery agent on a recapture mission must carry a copy of the contract pertaining to the individual fugitive and, if requested, must present the copy to “the fugitive criminal defendant, the owner or manager of the property in which the agent entered in order to locate or apprehend the fugitive, other residents, if any, of the residence in which the agent entered in order to locate or apprehend the fugitive, and to the local law enforcement agency or officer.”

Applegate argued that the statute does not specifically authorize a bondsman’s encounters with third parties on their property and in their dwellings, and that the trial court’s jury instructions submitted at trial misstated the law and endorsed the actions of “rogue bounty hunters.”

Contrary to his argument, the Court of Appeals ruled that the jury instructions did not allow the jury to condone lawless behavior by rogue bounty hunters. If the jurors had believed the agents unreasonably attacked Applegate or broke into his home without reason to believe Elizabeth was there, the instructions required them to find that the agents exceeded the privilege and were acting unlawfully.” With that the Court of Appeals concluded the jury instructions did not misstate the law.

Finally, the Court ruled that the jury instructions for criminal trespass under RCW 4.24.630 were lawful and not erroneous. it reasoned that under the criminal trespass statute, the plaintiff must prove wrongful injury to property. An injury that is wrongful can be committed only by a person who “lacks authorization” so to act. Here, the bail bondsmen had a privilege to enter Applegate’s property. Therefore, they did not “lack authorization” under the statute.

My opinion? Getting bailed out of jail is a luxury, however, it carries obligations that many defendants should be aware of. Worst-case scenario, bail bond companies can deploy bounty hunters to seek defendants who abscond their responsibilities. Period. Therefore, defendants should expect a knock on their front doors – and the front doors of their loved ones – if bounty hunters get involved.

Is Cash Bail Effective?

Three research studies released this month further confirm the ineffective, discriminatory, and unsafe influence of money bail in U.S. criminal justice systems.

In The Heavy Costs of High Bail: Evidence from Judge Randomization, a Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper by Arpit Gupta, Christopher Hansman, and Ethan Frenchman, describes how assigning money bail to people accused of crime in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh increases the likelihood of conviction by 12% and increases recidivism by 4%. Ultimately, the authors found that the use of money bail is not effective – it “does not seem to increase the probability that a defendant appears at trial,” and actually makes us all less safe.

In her University of Pennsylvania Law School Working Paper, Distortion of Justice: How the Inability to Pay Bail Affects Case Outcomes, Megan Stevenson reports that people arrested for crimes in Philadelphia and detained due to their inability to pay money bail face up to a 30% increase in convictions—driven by increased guilty pleas—and an additional 18 months of incarceration compared to those who are able to afford bail.

Finally, the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) released an analysis of national data that gives context to the Columbia and University of Pennsylvania papers. In Detaining the Poor: How money bail perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and jail time, PPI found that “most of the people who are unable to meet bail fall into the poorest third of society.” Their median income – only $15,109 prior to incarceration – was less than half of the income of non-incarcerated people, and yet the median bail amount nationally is almost a full year’s income for the typical person unable to post a bail bond. Money bail, PPI concludes, results in the unnecessary and excessive detention of poor people, essentially jailing people for their poverty.

This research highlights what legislators, practitioners, and taxpayers are increasingly recognizing: money bail doesn’t work, is discriminatory, and makes communities less safe.

Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute released this statement about the research:

“With these recent research findings, there should no longer be any doubt, anywhere, that money bail unfairly punishes the poor while also making everyone less safe. Our 3DaysCount campaign calls for replacing the broken money bail system with commonsense and proven solutions to support people being successful on pretrial release.”

Congressman Ted Lieu, sponsor of the No Money Bail Act of 2016, said the following:

“Our nation must stop criminalizing poverty, and these new studies provide crucial data proving that being poor increases your chance of jail time and conviction.  This kind of research is crucial to supporting the No Money Bail Act of 2016, which would eliminate the use of money bail at the federal level and incentivize states to end the use of bail through the withholding of federal grants. We can no longer stand by in good conscience while Americans, presumed innocent, are deprived of their liberty because they can’t afford bail. Justice in America should not be bought and paid for.”

Additionally, judicial leaders across the nation joined together to call attention to these findings.Chief Justice W. Scott Bales, Arizona Supreme Court; Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge, Missouri Supreme Court; Chief Justice E. James Burke, Wyoming Supreme Court; Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye California Supreme Court;  Justice Charles W. Daniels, New Mexico Supreme Court; Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant,Utah Supreme Court; Chief Judge Nan G. Nash, Second Judicial District, New Mexico;Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, Supreme Court of Hawaii; and Chief Justice Robert J. Torres, Jr., Supreme Court of Guam issued the following statement:

“People should not be held in jail pending the disposition of charges merely because they are poor and cannot afford bail.  Recent research suggests that we can identify better ways to make release decisions that will treat people fairly, protect the public, and ensure court appearances.”

My opinion? This national effort is gratifying. Few people understand how incarceration negatively affects job opportunities, families and ability mental/emotional wellness. In my Legal Guide titled, “Making Bail,” I discuss how one of the greatest services a competent defense attorney can do for their clients is assist in getting them released from jail as soon as possible on either a reduced bail amount which is lower than the Prosecutor’s recommendations or that the defendant be released without bail altogether.

One opportunity to lower/rescind bail is at the defendant’s first appearance or arraignment. Another opportunity exists through a Bail Review Hearing.

Under CrR 3.2, judges must review the nature of the pending criminal charges, a defendant’s prior criminal history, their history of failing to appear at past court hearings, and their ties to the community (property ownership, employment, family, school, etc). Factoring all of this, the judge decides whether to lower bail or release the defendant altogether.

Also, CrR 3.2 allows release of defendants to the care of willing and responsible members of the community, including family members. Also, judges may be persuaded to impose other pretrial release conditions such as mandatory curfews, staying away from businesses serving alcohol. Almost everything is negotiable.

My opinion? Hire a competent defense attorney to assist this endeavor. Getting out of jail as soon as possible saves people’s careers, maintains stability in the family and allows your defense attorney more time to either resolve the case or prepare for trial. Good luck!