A new report from the Maryland judiciary says the operation of the bail bond system represents a “potential threat to public safety.” The Baltimore Sun says the study cites a “general disrespect for laws and rules governing bail bonds.” Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert Bell ordered a task force to recommend ways to improve the system, which the judiciary said had become “inadequate and antiquated.” The audit ordered by the court concluded, “We have identified lack of controls and procedures at each control point within the system.”
Bail is a way to ensure that an arrested person will show up for a trial date. Many defendants pay a company 10 percent of the bail to post the money. If the defendant doesn’t show up, the company owes the court the remainder of the bail, unless it can track down the defendant. “The state has depended on the honesty and good faith of bail bondsmen in the acceptance of bail bonds,” the report says, “and has relied on inadequate and antiquated information systems for monitoring the bail bond process.”
University of Baltimore law professor Byron L. Warnken, a consultant for bondsmen, said the audit casts a stereotypical image of the industry. “We have spent a long time getting rid of the perception of the bail bondsman with the stogie and the pinkie ring,” he said.
Court procedure calls for a bondsman to be suspended if the court’s computer system shows he or she owes money to the court because of an uncollected bond, but suspensions are a rarity. One bondsman had 113 uncollected bonds and had not been suspended. The report said there is little recordkeeping and virtually no control over bonds posted with property.