How to Start a Bail Bonds Business
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Opinion Editorial by a Bail Mentor


Bail bond referrals from criminal defense attorneys (hereafter called, “CDA” or “CDAs” or “CDA’s”) who represent persons charged (hereafter called “Defendant” or “Defendants”) by the People of State of California (hereafter called, “DA” or “DA’s”), or “attorney referrals” in bailspeak, represent a curiously growing trend whereby people new to bail and even veteran bail agents actively seek out and labor to secure attorney referrals with, arguably, no working knowledge of the relationship between the CDAs and their Defendant clients.


CDAs play a significant role in the American Justice System by protecting the Constitutional Rights of the accused to be sure, but CDAs are also bound to advocate for their clients to include putting the best interests of their clients well before the interests, financial or otherwise, of bail agents who post bonds for Defendants and guarantee their appearances.


The relationship between a CDA and bail agent can very quickly grow murky when a CDA is tasked with both protecting the best interests of his or her client versus maintaining a positive business relationship with a bail agent—there are plenty of bail agents to replace a burned bail agent.  In my personal experience, the former always carries greater weight from the CDA’s perspective and is deemed controlling over the interests of the bail agent—always, and rightfully so.


To further expound on the premise of this opinion editorial, it is necessary to go back in time to my own real-life experiences not just as a bail agency owner but as an active bounty hunter in the early 90s and up to this very moment.


Some of the most difficult bail fugitive recovery cases I have worked include so-called attorney referrals whereby contacting the applicable CDAs has never, in my personal experience, yielded any actionable intelligence as to the whereabouts of a bail jumping Defendant.


Moreover, I have personally, under the direction of a court, notified a CDA that I intended to surrender a Defendant appearing in court followed by CDAs stepping outside the court to confer with their client and re-entering the courtroom befuddled as to where their client had gone resulting in a bounty hunt.  This scenario is real, repeatable, and expected as the state of normalcy when dealing with CDAs and their Defendant clients.


The role of a CDA is purely and simply to get the best possible outcome for their Defendant clients, and if this means driving a bail agency into bankruptcy—so be it, in my personal opinion.


I have been bounty hunting since 1992, and I can attest to my personal experience that I have never, ever encountered a CDA who informed to either bail agency owners or bounty hunters the true background of the cases the DA has on their Defendant, all the facts concerning bail collateral, the truth about anticipated court outcomes, and, with great emphasis, any information that would go to apprehending a bail jumper.


Fast forward to today and I remain befuddled that CDAs routinely request “discounted bail,” large bonds posted with unverified collateral, and new and veteran bail agents scurry to appease the desires and whims of CDAs without question and some bizarre notion that the bail agencies in the equations somehow take priority over the CDA’s Defendants—these are serious miscalculations and horrendous mistakes by new and veteran bail agents speaking from a veteran bounty hunter and bail agency owner’s point of view.


My strong suggestions are these: treat all bails equal and irrespective of the lead’s origins, attorney referrals deserve greater underwriting scrutiny, never assume that a CDA is going to help you recover a bail jumper, do assume that a CDA will “throw you under the bus” without hesitation if it serves his or hers Defendant’s best interests.


My interests are to protect the California Bail Industry and not the trial attorneys, so here we are today speaking truths with no rainbows, unicorns, candy, or smoke and mirrors; I am speaking the hard, cold truths from long experience and can attach no wisdom to holding back on my personal opinions as a California Department of Insurance Approved Bail Education Provider Instructor who has personally instructed nearly 2,000 bail education students now Alumni.


Rules of Professional Conduct

Reprinted from the State Bar of California website


Rule 1-320 Financial Arrangements with Non-Lawyers


(A) Neither a member nor a law firm shall directly or indirectly share legal fees with a person who is not a lawyer, except that:


(1) An agreement between a member and a law firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money after the member's death to the member's estate or to one or more specified persons over a reasonable period of time; or


(2) A member or law firm undertaking to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased member may pay to the estate of the deceased member or other person legally entitled thereto that proportion of the total compensation which fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased member; or


(3) A member or law firm may include non-member employees in a compensation, profit-sharing, or retirement plan even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement, if such plan does not circumvent these rules or Business and Professions Code Section 6000 et seq.; or


(4) A member may pay a prescribed registration, referral, or participation fee to a lawyer referral service established, sponsored, and operated in accordance with the State Bar of California's Minimum Standards for a Lawyer Referral Service in California.


(B) A member shall not compensate, give, or promise anything of value to any person or entity for the purpose of recommending or securing employment of the member or the member's law firm by a client, or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in employment of the member or the member's law firm by a client. A member's offering of or giving a gift or gratuity to any person or entity having made a recommendation resulting in the employment of the member or the member's law firm shall not of itself violate this rule, provided that the gift or gratuity was not offered or given in consideration of any promise, agreement, or understanding that such a gift or gratuity would be forthcoming or that referrals would be made or encouraged in the future.

(C) A member shall not compensate, give, or promise anything of value to any representative of the press, radio, television, or other communication medium in anticipation of or in return for publicity of the member, the law firm, or any other member as such in a news item, but the incidental provision of food or beverage shall not of itself violate this rule.




Some questions that routinely come up include the following:


·         Can bail bondsmen or his or her representatives refer bail clients to an attorney?

·         Can bail offices display numerous business cards of criminal defense attorneys?


While it is illegal for a California licensed bail agent “bail agent” to refer a client to “any” attorney, it is legal for an attorney to refer his or her client to a bail agent; however, here we arrive at the potentiality of temptation whereby a bail agent and attorney strike up and engage in illegal activity.


C.C.R. § 2071 Suggesting or Recommending Attorney; Prohibited.


“No bail licensee shall in any manner, directly or indirectly, suggest the name of or recommend any attorney to any arrestee or person purporting to act for or represent an arrestee.”


Former Santa Ana Bail Agent Ronald Lee Brockway reportedly pled guilty to two misdemeanors, originally filed as felony counts, in relation to violating bail license regulations and was convicted in relation to illegally soliciting attorney referrals and inmate referrals.


According to news reports, Brockway reportedly sent out emails to attorneys in order to “increase both of our earnings substantially.”


Brockway testified in an Orange County Grand Jury hearing that he had received cash payments from Attorney Joseph Cavallo in exchange for referring arrestees to Cavallo’s law practice.


In a separate example of the risks bail agents and attorneys assume when forming “understandings” is illustrated by reports of former bail agents Jorge Andres Castro and Alejandro de Jesus Cruz, of Xtreme Bail Bonds (no DBA records found) who reportedly engaged in 39 “overt acts” to include making “recommendations by the bail bondsmen that criminal defendants hire Cavallo, promises of reduced fees, and in one instance, representations that a defendant would receive probation instead of jail time if he hired Cavallo. The bail bondsmen sometimes drove people to Cavallo’s office.


Two owners of Xtreme, Jorge Andres Castro and Alejandro de Jesus Cruz, were charged with the same (see below list of charges) crimes.” 


It is worth mentioning that the list of wrongdoings included $300.00 to $500.00 payments made to Xtreme Bail Bonds for 10 to 20 referrals from Xtreme Bail Bonds over a 26-month period, according to California Bar Journal reports.


Meanwhile and according to the California Bar Journal, JOSEPH GERARD CAVALLO [#108210], 54, of Irvine was suspended for five years, stayed, placed on five years of probation with an actual three-year suspension and until he proves his rehabilitation, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. Credit is given for the period of interim suspension that began Dec. 17, 2007. The order took effect Nov. 19, 2009.


Cavallo was convicted of three felonies in 2007, including capping and accepting clients through a recommendation by a licensed bail bondsman. A random check by the district attorney revealed that Cavallo was hired by a higher number of arrested individuals than would have been expected by chance.


Cavallo’s business cards were displayed in the bail bondsmen’s offices, he paid a fee for referrals and he offered discounts to clients referred by the bondsmen. He admitted he paid between $300-$500 each for 10-20 referrals.


Cavallo pled guilty and was sentenced to six months of house arrest and three years of probation, and he was fined $18,336.63. The bar court determined that the crimes involved moral turpitude.


In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation and he presented witnesses who testified to his good character.


It has been reported that since no one in a bail bond office is actually referring any specific attorney and therefore hanging a wall load of attorney business cards is not illegal, it is strongly suggested not to cross into that gray area when taking into consideration that the statute does not indicate illegality concerning the referral of “an” or “a” attorney by a bail agent or any person purportedly working for a bail agent but, rather, it is illegal to refer “any”attorney if one is a licensed bail agent or working for or purportedly representing a bail agent; therefore, one has to wonder if an argument can be made that by hanging multiple attorney business cards in a common area of a bail bonds office that doing so meets the statutory edge to move forward with further investigation due to the, arguably, appearance of impropriety.


In an opinion editorial, Chuck Lanehart warned, “Never Get in Bed with a Bail Bondsman,”and this same warning can easily be flipped to read, “Never Get in Bed with an Attorney.”



Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved


Questions at Issue:


  • Can a bail bondsman or his or her representatives refer bail clients to an attorney?
  • Can bail offices display numerous business cards of criminal defense attorneys?