A new antitrust case in California pits bail bond companies against consumers.
In the United States, people have a constitutional right to bail. The purpose of bail is to help preserve the presumption of innocence and ensure that the accused returns to court. Unless a judge determines that a person poses a serious flight risk, a serious risk to himself or others, or has been accused of a “capital” or “infamous” crime, a judge must set a bail amount.
California is considering changes to the state’s cash bail system. Although legislators passed a law that scraps system, that law is currently on hold. Instead, voters will decide in November 2020 whether to revive or ditch cash bail. Until then, judges may continue to require bail from suspects awaiting trial.
In many cases, individuals do not have the money on hand to post the required bail. In those cases, the judge may allow someone to post 10% of the required bail to a bail bond company. With the 10% in hand, the bail bond company will then post the bond on the person’s behalf. The bail bond is like an insurance policy that guarantees a person’s appearance. It can also guarantee the payment of fines and fees. The arrested person (or a family member) guarantees the remaining 90% of the bond with collateral – usually valuable property. If a person does not appear in court, the bond company sells the collateral to pay off the bond. If the person appears, the court may dissolve the bond. The person gets the collateral released and the bond company keeps the 10% as a fee.
In 1998, California voters approved a law that allowed bail companies to reduce the 10% premium. In 2004, the court upheld this practice of “rebating” premiums as legal. Bail companies in the state however have not lowered the premiums on bonds. In fact, they’re accused of misleading the public into believing that 10% is a required minimum. Bail bondsmen that have attempted to lower the premium have felt the ire of other bond companies. As a result, a new antitrust lawsuit alleges that consumers have suffered. Unlike overpayment consequences of other antitrust suits for price-fixing, the result here is that some people lose their freedom.
Although the state’s cash bail system may evaporate in November 2020, attorneys argue that consumers have been harmed. A standing agreement among bond companies means that consumers have paid higher bond premiums than necessary. The practice has also eliminated competition among bond providers.
California Antitrust Attorney
Although this case is an example of civil antitrust, it affects the treatment of criminal defendants. When you face charges of criminal anticompetitive activities, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney like Robert Helfend. Mr. Helfend has practiced criminal defense exclusively for nearly 35 years. In that time, he has defended thousands of Californians in both federal and state courtrooms.
Don’t rely on inexperience when your freedom is at stake. Contact Robert Helfend or call toll-free at (800) 834-6434, (310) 456-3317, (818) 591-2809 or (805) 273-5611 for an immediate consultation on your Los Angeles County antitrust case.
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