December 15, 2009 2009-R-0454
BACKGROUNDER: PROFESSIONAL BAIL BONDSMEN AND
SURETY BAIL BOND AGENTS
By: Janet Kaminski Leduc, Senior Legislative Attorney
Under Connecticut law, there are two types of bondsmen: professional bail bondsmen and surety bail bond agents.
Connecticut law requires professional bail bondsmen to be licensed by the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The law deems a professional bail bondsman as one who furnishes bail in five or more criminal cases in any one year, whether or not for compensation. An applicant must be a resident elector and morally and financially sound (CGS § 29-144). He or she puts up personal assets as bond security, and has complete personal liability for forfeited bonds.
A surety bail bond agent is an independent agent under contract with an insurance company who has authority to execute or countersign bail bonds in criminal cases and has limited personal liability for forfeited bonds. By law, a surety bail bond agent must be licensed by the Connecticut Insurance Department (CID) and appointed by an insurer to act on its behalf (CGS § 38a-660).
PROFESSIONAL BAIL BONDSMEN
An applicant for a bail bondsman license must (1) complete a DPS form with his or her name, age, residence, and occupation; (2) identify anyone with whom he or she intends to engage in business; and (3) state, under oath, his or her assets and liabilities and any criminal charges and convictions. The DPS commissioner must investigate the applicant's character and financial responsibility and may ask for additional information, including fingerprints and photographs. The applicant must also submit to national and state criminal history records checks. Convicted felons and law enforcement officers or other people vested with police powers are not eligible for licensure (CGS § 29-145).
A bail bondsman license is valid for up to one year, as the commissioner determines, costs $200, and is renewable on the same terms as the original. The commissioner may suspend or revoke it if the licensee fails to pay a forfeited bond or if it appears that (1) the licensee's financial responsibility has been substantially impaired, (2) he or she has been convicted of a felony, or (3) he or she is engaged in any unlawful activity affecting his fitness to continue in the business (CGS §§ 29-146 to 147a).
Licensees must inform the commissioner in writing of any material change in their assets or liabilities affecting their responsibilities as bondsmen. They must, upon the commissioner's request, furnish a statement under oath of their assets and liabilities, including all bonds on which they are obligated (CGS § 29-148).
The commissioner must provide the names of all licensed bondsmen to all the courts, towns, cities, and borough departments in the state that have authority to accept bail. He must notify them without delay of any change in a bondsman's status or license suspension or revocation (CGS § 29-149).
When furnishing surety for recognizance of anyone charged with crime, the bondsman must take an oath to the sufficiency of his security upon a uniform Superior Court form approved by the commissioner (CGS § 29-150).
Bondsmen may charge the following commission or fees for bail that they furnish: up to $50 for amounts up to $500; 10% of amounts of $500 to $5,000; and 7% of amounts above $5,000. They must report to the commissioner every January, on DPS forms, the names of the people for whom they became surety in the past year with the dates, bond amounts, and fees charged and paid (CGS § 29-151).
Violators of the bail bondsmen laws are subject to a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to two years, or both (CGS § 29-152).
SURETY BAIL BOND AGENT
An applicant for a surety bail bond agent license must:
1. complete and sign a CID application form;
2. provide evidence that he or she is at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen;
3. provide any supporting documentation the insurance commissioner requires;
4. pay a nonrefundable filing fee determined by the commissioner;
5. send a complete copy of the application and supporting documentation to the Chief State's Attorney's bond forfeiture unit;
6. submit photographs and fingerprints certified by an authorized law enforcement officer;
7. submit to a background investigation, including national and state criminal history records checks;
8. take a written examination testing his or her competency and qualifications to act as a surety bail bond agent, including knowledge of relevant Connecticut laws and regulations, and pay an examination fee (CGS §§ 38a-660(e), (g), and (h)).
An applicant must file with the commissioner a “notice of appointment” from an insurer authorizing the person to execute bail and to solicit and negotiate bail on its behalf. Each appointment must be effective until the agent's license terminates or the insurer or agent files a notice of appointment termination (CGS § 38a-660(f)).
Applicants must also provide evidence that they have not been convicted of any felony or any of the following misdemeanors:
1. illegal drug possession;
2. criminally negligent homicide;
3. third-degree assault;
4. third-degree assault of an elderly, blind, or disabled person;
5. second-degree threatening;
6. first-degree reckless endangerment;
7. second-degree unlawful restraint;
8. second-degree failure to appear;
9. first- or second-degree rioting or inciting others to riot; or
10. second-degree stalking (CGS § 38a-660(h)).
If the commissioner is satisfied that the applicant meets the licensing requirements and is properly qualified and trustworthy, and that granting a license is not against the public interest, he may issue the applicant a surety bail bond agent license (CGS § 38a-660(i)). The commissioner may renew a license upon payment of a fee he determines (CGS § 38a-660(l)).
Licensees may appeal fines and license suspensions and revocations to the judicial district of Hartford (CGS § 38a-660(n)).
The commissioner must provide the names of all licensees to all courts and organized police departments in the state. He must notify them without delay of any change in an agent's status or license suspension or revocation (CGS 38a-660a).
Anyone who executes or delivers bail in Connecticut on behalf of an insurer without being licensed by the CID is guilty of a class D felony (subject to fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment of one to five years, or both) (CGS § 38a-660(b) to (d)).