Bail bond companies can advertise their services to new jail inmates, their main source of business. They can approach an arrestee's family, friends or lawyer to try to arrange bail. In California, they can't make an in-person sales pitch to an inmate who hasn't requested it, and a state appeals court says the restriction, which carries criminal penalties, doesn't violate freedom of speech, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
The ban, enacted by in 1977, protects arrestees from “harassment, intimidation, fraud or other forms of overreaching common to direct solicitation of bail,” the Second District Court of Appeal said Tuesday. The case involves a bail bond company's approach to a woman who was arrested for domestic violence. The court said soliciting bail is “commercial speech” that is subject to government regulation. For someone who has just been arrested, the court said, a jail is a stressful setting in which the inmate may lack the information needed to assess a sales pitch and may be vulnerable to pressure to make an immediate decision.