Bail bond agents have significant authority (and duty) in California to ensure the law takes its course. They act as intermediaries between you (the defendant) and the courts.
Bail bond enforcers are essential for many reasons. This post explains their role and the specific authority they have, including bail bond arrest powers.
The Role of a Bail Bond Agents
Bail bond agents have several roles in ensuring the rule of law. The most straightforward way to think about them is as bounty hunters that bail bond companies employ. Bounty hunters aim to track down defendants who fail to attend court. These professionals find defendants before their court dates and ensure their trial proceeds or re-arrest them after bail condition violations.
Bail bond agents are not the same as regular police officers and don’t have the same powers. However, they can make arrests, as we discuss below.
Authority of Bail Bond Agents
So, what authority do bail bond agents have?
Bail bond agents can carry firearms (like regular citizens) and make arrests in California. However, they do not have the same power as police officers to investigate crimes, enforce traffic laws, or cordon off specific areas.
The authority of bail bond agents is more circumstance-dependent. Bounty hunters can only use their powers if a defendant fails to abide by their bail conditions and judges issue a warrant.
Requirements for Bail Bond Powers
What do I need to get bail bond powers? That’s the question many budding bail agents ask themselves before becoming professionals.
California regulates who can become a bail bond agent. The law requires individuals to meet various requirements to ensure safety and protect the public.
Bail bond agents must be 18 years or older. Candidates must pass a background check and complete at least 20 hours of pre-licensing training. Eventually, they must pass a written exam and post a $1,000 surety bond (to protect the public).
Bail bond enforcers must receive licensing from the California Department of Insurance (CDI). It lists specific requirements for becoming an enforcer and carrying out the law.
Understanding Bail Bond Arrest Power
Bail bond arrest power only applies in specific situations. Enforcers cannot use it whenever they want.
Bail agents can use powers of arrest when they have a warrant for the suspect’s arrest. For instance, judges may issue an arrest warrant if courts believe you are violating your bail terms. The list of bail conditions can be long, so many defendants find themselves in breach of them once released from jail. For instance, judges can require defendants to avoid going to specific areas or staying out too late (after curfew).
Once this happens, bail agents have more power to enforce the law. Agencies send teams to arrest individuals and return them to court or jail.
However, California limits bail bond arrest powers. For instance, bail agents cannot use excessive force to arrest you. Bounty hunters must apply “reasonable force” instead, which means it should be proportionate. If the suspect resists arrest, agents can physically apprehend the individual, but they cannot deliberately inflict unnecessary pain and injury.
Furthermore, it is illegal for bail bond enforcers to harass, threaten or intimidate defendants. Their sole role is the safe apprehension of the suspect and ensuring they return to court for the proper conveyance of the law.
Contrary to popular belief, bail bond enforcers can enter private residences to perform arrests if they have a warrant from a judge. Otherwise, agents must respect the boundaries of the defendant’s property. (Stepping onto it without permission is trespassing).
Steps Bail Bond Agents Must Follow During An Arrest
Bail bond agents must follow various steps during an arrest to ensure they follow the law. Agents must act carefully to balance the need to arrest the defendant against public safety.
Bail bond agents must first identify themselves. Usually, the defendant will recognize them, but not always (if they purchased their bail bond over the phone or online).
Bail bond agents carry identification cards with them. Defendants can search for their credentials online via the CDI or call the bail bond company to confirm identification.
2. Explain Reasons For Arrest
Bail bond agents must then explain the reason for the arrest and present a warrant signed by a judge. Violations of bail conditions that can cause arrest include:
- Removing a tracking tag
- Failing to attend a mandatory court hearing
- Failing to go to court on the date of the trial
- Staying out too late in the evening and breaching a curfew
- Traveling out of state without the express permission of the judge or court
- Violating a restraining order or harassing witnesses
- Being charged with further crimes
Bail bond agents must also read the rights of the defendant if arresting them based on the suspicion they committed another crime. Those who find themselves in this position should seek the assistance of legal professionals immediately.
Finally, bail agents must deliver the defendant to the relevant officials. Then, law enforcement will decide what to do with the individual in question.
What rights do bail bond agents have when the arrestee believes their arrest was unlawful? California provides arrestees with several forms of recourse to fight arrest and detention by bail bond officers. In some cases where the arrest itself was legal, they can challenge the warrant. This process often involves going to court.
However, defendants can also challenge the conduct of the arrest. For instance, the arrest is unlawful if bail bond enforcers use excessive force. It is also against the law if the bail agent didn’t follow the above process or engaged in other illegal conduct (such as stealing items from a private residence.
Now You Understand Bail Bond Agent’s Authority
This post answered the question, “What is a bail bond agent?” and showed you the authority they have. Therefore, you should now understand what to expect if arrested.
If you are a defendant, always work closely with your bail agent. If you have any questions about bail terms, contact our team.