See the original post here: http://www.custodiecautelari.net/an-in-depth-look-at-the-future-of-jail-kiosk-bail-bonds
For awhile now,
there has been a huge shift toward bail bonds companies offering not
only payment plans, but little to no upfront down payments and interest. Much
like other industries, such as law firms, doctor offices, etc, it is not
difficult to have clients simply not afford their service unless the business is
willing to take additional financial risks and offer flexible payment options.
Smarter credit card users may realize once they factor in how much they would
pay in residual interest, even credit card bonds have their downsides. While
also becoming subject to credit card late fees, the payment options bail bonds
companies offer start to look rather enticing.
Although in-house kiosk
fees are only 7%, a decent amount less than the 10% to 15% bail agents must
charge, it’s a fee needed to be paid in full; often an amount more than a
defendant can afford. For small non-felony bonds this might not apply, but would
the bail industry really prefer someone remain detained in jail for hours,
sometimes overnight, so they can charge a $100 minimum fee? The answer is
Disguised Online Threat.
these kiosks might affect small mom and pop businesses, but there is still
plenty of time before this option is made available to all jails. A larger
threat for small businesses is the relatively recent developments of bail bonds
companies hiring aggressive search engine and social media marketing services.
Driving into any city, one is not hard pressed to find a bail bonds company
especially near jails and court buildings, so the industry appears to be doing
rather well. For example, if just a handful of businesses within a city closed,
largely it would go unnoticed and bail kiosks could hardly be described as a
punishing blow to the industry.
With search engine trends showing an
increase in bail bond related searches, we can expect throughout these next 5
years smaller businesses being driven out due to increasing online competition
rather than to bail kiosks.
There is no shortage of literature describing
how the recession has impacted the bail bonds industry negatively. This can be
seen by the competitive payment plans offered, but the market itself is growing.
The leaders of the industry routinely make 7 figures annually. The amount of
individuals with a bail license writing bonds alone, vastly outweigh the number
of companies with legitimate store-front offices, employees, website, etc. This
is analogous to realtors; you can’t expect that everyone with a real estate
license to compete with large realty companies much like every bail agent can’t
expect to survive the economic and legislative fluctuations all businesses
The bail bonds
industry was rooted and remains to be built on responsibility. Bail agents are
paid a fee to make sure defendants appear to court so that they do not have to
stay in jail meanwhile. Bail bonds companies cannot be successful without
adhering to this responsibility and maintaining very low forfeiture (also
failure to appear) rates. If courts allow this responsibility to become lifted
with these credit card bonds, then there will not only be a higher failure to
appear rate, but State costs will rise with having to contract people to
apprehend fugitives. In Nevada for example, there are over 100 Las Vegas bail
bonds companies. Imagine the total addition of responsibility and overhead for
each County to bear if kiosks became widely used.
One way or another,
there will always be a need for a group to take responsibility. For this reason,
credit card kiosks will more than likely plateau in use and serve only
defendants that have very minor crimes (also misdemeanors). Potentially in the
future what could happen is that bail kiosks are sold to bail bond companies to
manage within jails. This would be analogous to how people are able to readily
purchase DVD kiosks from OEMs and offer the movie rental service as a private
business. The kiosk manufacturer would profit from the sale of hardware vs. the
management of equipment. Of course with bail kiosks provided by jails, there
will always be concern of whether the defendant will appear in court, even for
unintentional reasons. Operationally, this is something the kiosk manufactures
cannot provide and fundamentally law enforcement apprehends fugitives and
suspects on a completely unrelated basis.
Bail Schedule Increase.
For defendants recognized as being a “flight” risk, judges may
impose a higher bail to either (1) indirectly prevent bail being posted because
it becomes unaffordable or (2) make indemnitors so invested into the bond, that
there becomes extra pressure from family or friends to appear in court. If
credit card bail kiosks become widely accepted, the State might impose higher
bail amounts for crimes in the event there was an increase in fugitives. Any
changes like this would most certainly help the bail bonds industry by creating
on average larger bonds to write.
Those who have not needed bail bonds
service may be unaware the fee (also premium) required for some defendants can
be equivalent and sometimes higher than the monthly salaries of your average
doctor or attorney. Not a bad day’s work right? If the State increased the bail
amount for common, smaller crimes, the bail industry could look forward to a
measurable increase in revenue. In addition, the appearance of a crime problem
within a city can be created by the misconduct of even one individual or group.
If the number of fugitives increased due to bail kiosks, surely the potential
for changing the bail schedule for certain offenses would also increase.
However, the County may reduce the number of kiosks or tighten restrictions of
its use to offset a problem before increasing bail amounts. There’s a common
saying, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix
All in all, the advent of new
kiosks providing credit card bail bonds will not significantly change the
business side of the industry as a whole. People with the ability to bail out
quickly should be able to do so because jails are unarguably over crowded with
non-violent offenders. Although the image of the bail bonds industry could use
improvement, it has remained throughout all these years virtually complaint free
as far any failure to provide a valuable, around the clock service with
incredible payment flexibility. Occasionally you read or hear stories of
bondsman soliciting service illegally, but not at such a high frequency as to
raise wide-spread national recognition, such as the mortgage loan modification
scams of 2009, which made headlines weekly. As for now, what the future holds is
only speculation, but those in the bail bonds industry should not fear things
changing overnight. For the most part, County credit card bail bonds will not
change the industry as a whole and with some outcomes potentially being helpful,
concerns should settle as time passes.