In Sanchez v. County of El Paso, 2012 WL 3553350 (5th Cir. August 17, 2012) a Texas Bail Bond Board renewed a license applied for by the surety for the plaintiff’s bail bond agent business. The agent, however, owed approximately $105,000 in fines. The Board rescinded the license renewal unless the fines were paid. The surety elected to forfeit the license rather than pay the fines. The agent sued the County, the County Attorney and others objecting to the fines and to the license rescission. The district court dismissed the suit, and the agent appealed. The Court found that the complaint’s allegation that the fines were illegal was a legal conclusion not supported by any factual allegations, and held that the district court properly dismissed the claims related to the fines. The Court also noted that the surety, not the agent, held the license and concluded, “Without alleging a property interest of his own that could be impaired, Sanchez’s complaint fails to state a denial of a property right under federal law or a conspiracy claim under state law.” The Court affirmed dismissal of the suit for failure to state a claim.
InUnited States v. Parrett, Case No. 10-4550 (6th Cir. June 29, 2012) the defendant was arrested in Arizona on charges pending in Ohio. The surety provided a bond which guaranteed the defendant’s appearance and stated that it “is a continuing bond (including any proceeding on appeal or review) . . .” No electronic monitoring was ordered, and the defendant could travel between Arizona, Ohio and California. After trial and conviction, the court released the defendant pending sentencing, but imposed electronic monitoring and house arrest. The defendant did not report to the pretrial services office and was not fitted with the electronic monitoring device. Over nine months later, the court forfeited the bond. The surety was notified only after the forfeiture. Over two years later, the U.S. Marshal’s service recovered the defendant. The surety argued that release of the defendant after her conviction increased the surety’s risk, but the Court held that the bond itself was continuing and included post conviction release, so the surety had assumed that increased risk. The modification to the bond conditions (house arrest and electronic monitoring) decreased the surety’s risk. The delay in notifying the surety of the defendant’s flight did not prejudice the surety because there was no evidence the surety did anything to assist in recovery of the defendant. The Court affirmed the district court’s holdings denying relief to the surety.
In Gregg v. Ham, 2012 WL 1495410 (4th Cir. April 30, 2012) affirmed a judgment against a bail bondsman for §1983 civil rights violations and assault. The bondsman, accompanied by a deputy sheriff, went to a private home to search for the defaulting bond principal. The bondsman, who was armed with a shotgun, demanded entry to the house and searched unsuccessfully for the defendant. The plaintiff sued, settled with the County and the deputy sheriff, and recovered a jury verdict for actual and punitive damages against the bondsman. On the bondsman’s appeal the Court noted that §1983 applied because the presence of the deputy sheriff made the bondsman a state actor and held that he was not entitled to qualified immunity. The Court stated, “In sum, neither history nor policy support extending the qualified immunity defense to bail bondsmen.” The Court found sufficient evidence to support the jury’s conclusions that the plaintiff did not voluntarily consent to the search of her home and that she was in reasonable fear of bodily harm.
Zweifel v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Case Nos. 15226-10 and 15227-10 (U.S. Tax Ct. March 28, 2012) held that the bail agent’s deposits into a Build Up Fund were not deductable business expenses. The court recognized that if payments were made from the BUF to the surety company, they would be deductible at that point. The agent argued that they should be deductible when deposited and recognized as income if returned to the agent. The court cited a 1998 Ninth Circuit decision characterizing that argument as an attempt to turn the BUF into a tax shelter